Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Where We Should Put Our $700 Billion: NPR

(above: Michale Slatoff's disorienting photograph)

I understand so little about this recent financial crisis. In fact, as with most things I know anything about, most of my knowledge comes from reading, listening and asking questions in conversation. But in this case, one source has made these conversations a little easier. That source is NPR.

Earlier this year, approximately May-ish, NPR's "This American Life" did a story called "The Giant Pool of Money." This story explained, in clear, concise, and engaging language, the genesis of the mortgage crisis. When I heard this story, while I didn't become an expert, I was finally able to start thinking about the issue in 3 dimensions, turning it around and pulling it apart, examining even the internal consistency of NPR's account.

And that's what the story meant to do. It didn't mean to explain it all or to make us all understand. It meant to get us thinking about the complex issues, to get us talking about them.

If that wasn't enough, as the global financial crisis developed, "This American Life" followed their first financial story up with another one called "Another Frightening Show About the Economy." This hour-long episode updated the financial story and tackled the substance of the bailout plan that's been floating around. The two minds behind these shows also started their own podcast on money matters, called "Planet Money."

Again, these NPR stories and podcasts don't want to clear the whole thing up or make it sound simpler than it is. All of this careful, enlightening work by the NPR staff merely seeks to make us talk, to make us think. NPR's coverage encourages, above all else, conversation.

As I said, nearly any pseudo-expertise I have comes form conversation. And for my money (bad pun!!), NPR is doing more for that conversation than even economists and politicians right now. You should give it a listen. And if you are a financial expert, you should let me know if NPR got anything really wrong. You know, we'll have a conversation.

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