Hi Dave and Deidre,
Below are my answers to the three questions.
QUESTION 1: Describe a creative approach you’ve taken to storytelling in the past 12 months. It can be micro (how you used an actuality in a story, e.g.) or macro (e.g., how you explained a complicated idea in a simple way).
QUESTION 2: Listen to these two stories and read their digital treatments. Explain what made them excellent (or maybe not-so-excellent) examples of the Marketplace style. Include at least one criticism of each.
This story explained something complicated and potentially boring in very little time. It's a good Marketplace take on a bigger national story. The train metaphor and sound of it pulling into a station, then chugging along was an excellent use of sound and helped my mind wrap around the concept quickly and clearly. Exactly what you want radio to do.
My criticism is about the host intro, it was too long and covered too much ground. We went from the Pope and the idea to working together for the common good, to the ideas of political realities, cable news countdown clocks, planned parenthood and hiring more heroes. It's a lot. By the time the intro ended, I was still trying to travel the mental space between the Pope and the looming shutdown. I wasn't exactly sure what the story would be about by the end of the intro.
By the time the story was over, I absolutely understood the concept behind bills getting emptied out and filled in with new contents, and that Congress is a little shady. While it was nice that the train metaphor continued into the last line, but it would have been more satisfying if it ended with some concrete information about where the shutdown stands.
This is a story that's uniquely Marketplace. It's hard to imagine a version working as well in print, or sounding appropriate in another program. I loved the use of sound in the story. The transition between the narration and the woman giggling about the bleeped out word was great, and hit just the right tone for the story. The waterfall in the beginning of employee's opinions about their bosses sounded like they were bitching around the water cooler, which is exactly how a hundred conversations like this are happening at any given moment. Even without a scene, the way the voices were arranged created one. The playfulness throughout was excellent, down to the whisper at the very end. This isn't a serious story, and the implications are minimal, it's a shared moment between the show and the listener, no more no less.
Still, if it was all fun, the listener might have been left wondering what the point was. The story was advanced nicely by the insight that narcissists don't know they're narcissists (and that people think narcissists make good bosses, as well as complaining about them). It's always fascinating to listen to a person embody some awful trait, without them knowing that they are doing it. The listener is somehow in on a realization that the character hasn't made yet. My criticism of the piece is that it would have been nice to hear from a boss, either a real one, or an archetypal one from a movie that could have illustrated the lack of self-awareness of narcissistic bosses.
Aside from the sound, the story really resonates with people -- I know I had a particular boss in mind from beginning to end -- and it looked like the broad appeal of the story played out in the number of social media shares.
QUESTION 3: Think about the body of work you’d like to create in your first 12 months at Marketplace. What topic(s) would you cover and how? Be specific, describing treatments and/or an organizing principle. Be sure to include a sense of how you’d take something complex and treat it with the Marketplace style.
The business of climate change.
- Climate change will be about redefining the economy of the future, and this major shift is absolutely in Marketplace's wheelhouse.
- Governments will drive the global response to climate change, but businesses and consumers, contributed a lot to creating this terrible situation to begin with, so a lot of humanity's response to climate change will play out in businesses. Businesses have often deserved to be demonized in the climate narrative (Exxon, to name one). But there's more ambiguity to their role than just the villain. Already, businesses are responding to climate change, either because they want to, or (more interestingly) because they have to.
- I think climate change can be covered with the kind of nuance, detail and fresh angles as globalization was in the 2000s. Characters will emerge. Future projections are always a big part of covering climate change, but there are already many things happening right now that either haven't been covered or can be told through the lens of business and climate change.
- Here are some treatments that I think will work for Marketplace:
- Insurance and actuaries. Climate change is advanced enough that companies are assessing their risks, and getting ready for the effects of climate change. There's a story in actuaries' cold-eyed assessment of what kind of doom is coming, and how much it would cost.
- On a similar vein, the climate change consulting market is estimated as a $9.1 billion industry. It suggests that adapting to climate change is now economically viable, a very interesting shift and there could be a lot of stories about the winners (and losers) of an economy that's shifting to become more climate-aware.
- This is a quick news piece, that illustrates the kind of counter-intuitive stories that might come out as the climate change response (and story) develops: Ikea and other multinationals like Nestlé and Unilever, sent a letter last week to the British prime minister complaining about the UK government slashing green power subsidies just ahead of the Paris conference, calling the cuts "hugely disruptive." The sides the big players have taken is unexpected. (This was reported in the FT.)
- I'd like to do a worker story on climate change scientists. These people have been screaming into the wind for decades, and now there's a website called "Is this how you feel?" that catalogs the handwritten letters of scientists about climate change. The scientists themselves could read their own letters. No science, just feelings. Also nightmares, and tears.
- There are likely many other worker stories that will come out of climate change. Solar power entrepreneurs, engineers who have to plan for buildings and cell towers that can withstand the windspeeds for categories of hurricanes we haven't come up with yet.
- Interviews with economists trying to predict the future of a climate-friendly, and possibly not growth-oriented, economy.
There are two other big shifts in the economy that I'm interested in covering.
- Millennials and jobs. After more than half a decade living the story that was the Great Recession and the post-recession, I'm dying to cover a economy that isn't about depravation. I'd like to do stories about what kind of boom economy the years of hardship has given birth to — the ways it's malnourished, and the areas where it is flourishing. Here are a few ideas:
- Are Millennials more primed to make do with less? People who came up during the Depression are known for doing insanely thrifty things like putting old lettuce into meatloaf. Now that Millennials (and those older than them) are moving to some financial stability, what are the values that carry over from the lean years (besides the sharing economy), and how might those shape the future?
- Now that Millennials are getting real jobs what are the first things they are spending money on? So many stories have been about what people are not spending their money on (houses, marriage, kids), I'd like to find out what young people, once they have some money in the bank, spend it on first. Is it a 401k? A bigger apartment? Or a Rick Owens leather jacket?
- Workers are finally quitting, now that the fear of never finding another job again is no longer so real. It's an indicator of a good job market and it would be fun to talk to several people and get their quitting stories. What were they looking for, and found, to make that decision? That must have felt great.
- Retirement and the end of a working life. I can't imagine how people survive in America without a job. Here are some ideas:
- The migration of America's old, poor and forgotten. Every year, there are lists of the best foreign cities to retire to, and the organizing value seems to be the intersection of affordability and ease. The implication is that it's hard to live a good life in America on a fixed income. I'd like to pick a list and go down it to talk to people who moved to those cities and have decided to live out their final days as a stranger in a strange land.
- There are more serious stories here about poverty and old age, and I'd like to do a character-driven story about how many retired Americans live in poverty, and how many more are projected to retire into poverty.
- A personal finance story looking into my bank account and seeing what my retirement would look like, then projecting that into the retirement prospects of people who only have thirty or forty short years of work left to earn a living for both the present and the future.