Home' Local Media Today : August 2011 Contents August 2011 | SUBURBAN PUBLISHER | 13
Symposium story ideas generated by attendees:
• Health issues – what effect is unemployment having on the health of American families
(sources: doctors; heath/fitness experts; unemployed)
• Challenge of displaced middle age workers (sources: local counselors; coroner’s office
for suicide rates; churches)
• Looking at the age/racial statistics of unemployed women from start of recession to
present & compare to men
• Healthcare jobs – why are people having trouble filling these jobs?
• College graduates – are they finding jobs? Do these jobs pay the bills? Are they working
in their field of study? Are they living with their parents? Could also take it further – are
people putting off marriage and/or having children because they can’t afford it?
• Retraining programs in the community & the effects of cuts on these programs
• Fewer teenagers giving birth – is this economy-related?
• The townies – young adults that are 5-8 years out of high school – who stayed in the
town that they grew up in and why.
Milwaukee’s Bill Glauber star of symposium
Endowed by a McCormick Foundation
grant, The SNA Foundation and The
Associated Press Managing Editors con-
vened a two-day symposium in early
spring for twenty local journalists to
study the topic of uncovering local stories
on the impact of the current economic
crisis on the American family.
The group of reporters and editors,
from weekly and small daily news-
papers, were selected from a pool of
seventy-six applicants and were pro-
vided an all expense paid experience
in Chicago, hosted by the Sun-Times
The symposium featured speakers
from the academic world, as well as
journalists who cover highly specialized
aspects of the topic. The scholarship
recipients got the benefit of not only
the training but exposure to the broader
thinking about community journalism
The group of twenty found a kindred
spirit in instructor Bill Glauber, a general
assignment reporter for the Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel. His lengthy journalism
career and expertise in digging the story
out of statistics earned Bill an all-star
rating from the scholarship recipients.
Glauber taught the group that report-
ing on the economy doesn’t have to
consist of stories bogged down by num-
Just one small statistic can be turned
into a much deeper story, he said.
Not a “numbers man” himself, Glauber
said stories about numbers don’t say
much without a focus on real people.
“The best advice I received was to
listen to the people, not just the numbers,
to tell the story,” Amber Krosel, news
editor at Suburban Life Publications in
Downers Grove, Illinois, said.
Of the Chicago training experience,
Glauber says he was blown away by the
passion, creativity and knowledge of his
journalism colleagues in attendance.
“They have covered the meltdown of the
American economy at the grassroots and
have taken great care to report on their
communities,” Glauber said afterwards
adding that he picked up some tips from
his students, especially when dealing
with sources at workforce development
We caught up with Bill to hear some
of his advice for fellow journalists on
how to turn stats into stories, how to
uncover the compelling back stories,
and some tips on available resources
that reporters can tap.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
A number is just a number. But
number, whether it is in a statistic about
unemployment, age or housing. During
my presentation at the symposium, I
spoke of several websites.
For stories about the economy, how
much we make, how many of us have
jobs, the prices we pay for food and shel-
ter, and entertainment, the gold standard
of statistics is provided by the Bureau of
Labor Statistics: www.bls.gov.
For stories about who we are, where
we live and often how we live, the place
to go is the Census Bureau: www.census.
There are also think tanks like
Brookings that crunch the numbers.
Their state of metropolitan America
program portrays the demographic and
social trends shaping the nation's essen-
tial economic and societal units-that
would be metropolitan areas, the cities
and their suburbs.
The regional offices of the Federal
Reserve Bank also provide interesting
commentary and data, often breaking
down the numbers from the Bureau of
Labor Statistics. It can be dense but you
can also get the sliver of a story.
And local universities often have
researchers poring over data to make
sense of the local economy. In Milwaukee,
for instance, we have the UW-Milwaukee
Center for Economic Development.
So, the numbers are out there, nation-
ally, regionally, locally.
GET LOST IN THE NUMBERS
What I suggest for all reporters is to
initially get lost in the numbers. Know
how to work those websites and tease
out numbers. But then you have to put
faces to those numbers. If you're work-
ing on housing stories, say foreclosures,
nose around the courthouse, talk to the
lawyers, they'll know of the sorts of cases
that bring true meaning to the crisis,
the person engulfed by skyrocketing
medical bills or a laid off spouse, that
sort of thing.
I also urge reporters to get in touch
with the 50-plus support groups for
older, unemployed workers. This is a
rich source because these are people
who have great stories to tell about being
engulfed in the Great Recession.
I know that it's tough all over in this
business. As reporters, we're stretched
with too much information and too little
time. We can't even think before we have
to hit the next story. But wherever you
work, you can find a few spare moments
to gather string, to put aside a statistic
or two, to make a call or two. Eventually,
you'll find that perfect person to talk to,
to build a story around. Once you have
the face, the number follows.
Links Archive July 2011 October 2011 Navigation Previous Page Next Page