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Working On A Dream: 65 Degree Weather in February?

NPR is generally absurdly good when it comes to covering economic and political issues, and this week was no exception with the “stimulus” package in the Senate, and worsening employment numbers throughout the world. I caught a lot of All Things Considered this week, and one story that stood out to me was Nancy Mullane’s story on California’s job-placement offices suddenly being swamped with people desperate for work. Here’s the link to it –

It really struck me as a story with great sound and a lot of very interesting characters. It was timely with 200,000 state employees being “furloughed” from work due to a complete lack of cash within California’s coffers. As I re-listen to this story, her use of background sound is incredibly effective. She introduces the scene with a security guard fumbling with a lock to open the doors of the Downtown Employment Development Department. We also hear workers at the center trying to keep the job-seekers calm – we overhear a man frustratedly say “I’ve been coming here for 4 days!” to which someone responds “I’ll treat you with respect but all these need to be stapled together.” The whole story was very interesting because Mullane gets great quotes out of people, especially those recently laid-off. One woman mentions that she came to the employment office because they have direct lines to unemployment insurance processing companies; when she tried several times from home BEFORE the lines opened at 8AM, the representatives were already too busy to take her call.

She includes some intriguing details, like how some people’s eyes are “sore and red” as if they had been crying. Her final soundbite is with a woman who says “It’s hard to be positive but sometimes that’s all you have.” I felt like this story was incredibly poignant and reflected much of the frustration of people trying to deal with bureaucracy – a pain in the neck for sure, but a necessary move to begin receiving unemployment checks. The story is effective because for all the political rhetoric and garbage being thrown around about “government stimulus”, we can get down to the bottom of what it’s like for “normal” people to suddenly be unemployed – for example, the 32-year old working in formerly a “hot” field, internet marketing, somehow laid off. That was my goal in my American Auto Dealers of Mid Missouri story, and I feel I fell well short of it.

Oh, and the title to this entry stems a combination of Bruce Springsteen’s fantastic new album, “Working on a Dream” and our fine Mid-Missouri weather treating us to three 60+degree days in a row in February!
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My first B2 package has been incredibly difficult to tell visually. I feel I found an intriguing CCC and plenty of facts to wrap around his story, but Mid-Missouri’s auto dealership struggles directly affected me too. Besides John Rettis and the sales manager of Albert Honda, no dealers were willing to talk about either their struggles or the “American Auto Dealers of Mid Missouri” commercial; especially not to a student doing a story for class. I feel sometimes I am so wrapped up in finding a GREAT story outside of Columbia that I miss easy/worthwhile stories happening right around me. For instance, my story proposal about the highway intersection in Marshall – I love the notion of getting outside of Columbia, and usually it’s a worthy pursuit. But it would involve a massive amount of time, travel, and research to fully tell the story. I think that same problem befell me on this story. I would need to take several trips to Fulton or elsewhere, after signing out equipment (an enormous pain in the rear) to get more interesting video. My ideal situation with this story would have involved shadowing John Rettis on a normal business day (not a Saturday, when I interviewed him) to follow his interactions with customers, employees, and his family. His wife called his cell phone as I was finishing up at the dealership, and he agreed to give her a ride home from where ever she was – that led me to believe Rettis definitely is just a normal family man trying to ride out the economic storm. I had wanted to tell that aspect in the story, but I don’t think I succeeded on it. I feel I definitely put in my best effort on this, and I’m very happy with my stand-up, but I’m dissapointed in the final product.

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