Wick Communications

The economics of every story

In Writing on October 18, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Way back in 1991, political tactician and noted bald guy James Carville famously told then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton to focus on the Americans’ bottom line if he wanted to win the White House. Actually, what he said was, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Twenty years later, we have phones in our pockets, we take off our shoes at the airport and a tank of gas costs more than a steak dinner for two. But it’s still the economy, stupid.

Next week, NPR economics correspondent Marilyn Geewax is presenting an afternoon seminar titled, “The Economics of Everything” as part of the Journalism and Women Symposium in Albuquerque, N.M. I wish I could be there.

The advance materials note that the economy rears its head in virtually every news story these days. “It’s still the biggest story going, and no matter what you cover – from City Hall to college sports —  there’s an economic angle,” according to the info on the website.

That’s true, even if we pretend otherwise. Too many of us ignore the elephant in the room whenever we can. We write budget stories from City Hall as if they occur in a vacuum. We dutifully write that the city slashed its budget by 20 percent, but we don’t explain why. Home prices are down, depressing property tax receipts. Sales takes are flat because tourists are still “staycating.” But we don’t include that context. …

So many stories can be made better with a little context from the economic arena. Recently, Half Moon Bay hosted a marathon. Organizers said it would bring in $1 million to the local economy. Well, that’s a conveniently round number, isn’t it? We didn’t print it, but we could have gone much farther with that angle. Where did they get that number? Is there any truth whatsoever to these claims that tourist dollars turn over X number of times? If there is an economic boost, who benefits? Could that be the prime motivation of people who say they just want to put on a competitive race?

Geewax is right. There is an economics of every story. You just have to see it that way.

Clay

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