Recession 101 is the next course for 22 pubradio journalists

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A new journalism training program offered by NPR News and funded by CPB will train 22 public radio reporters from 19 states to cover business and economics in their communities.

Nearly 100 station-based reporters applied for fellowships offering weeklong workshops and four months of editorial support by Jason DeRose, who edited economics and personal-finance coverage for NPR’s now-discontinued midday show Day to Day until recently. NPR rehired him to supervise the project at NPR West in Culver City, Calif.

CPB provided a one-year $230,000 grant for the NPR News Economic Training Project as part of its economics initiative. NPR News chief Ellen Weiss proposed the training as a way to “do something that would live on and on, as opposed to a series,” she said.

“We recognize ourselves that covering the economy is difficult, the concepts are often hard to explain. It’s a little like math—you want to leave it to the smart kids,” Weiss said. The program is modeled on Impact of War, an NPR editorial project that opened a path for local reporters to file NPR stories on how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had affected life in their communities.

Nearly 100 station-based reporters applied for the fellowships.

Very few station-based reporters have significant experience covering business, DeRose said, and many acknowledged in their applications that they haven’t developed expertise on local companies.

“The focus is economics, finance and banking 101,” said DeRose. Fellows will learn about the bankruptcy system “so that when there’s a filing you know how to read documents and know who to talk to.” They’ll also hear from a business ethicist and tour the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Reserve Bank.

DeRose anticipates that the workshops will include presentations from the NPR’s Planet Money team on how to “tell stories on arcane topics” and visits with producers from Marketplace, American Public Media’s Los-Angeles-based business show . Sessions on craft skills such as broadcast recording, writing for the Web and story development are also planned.

After the training ends, DeRose will continue to work with the fellows as an editor, mentor and trainer. “I really like working with new people and helping them understand how to do what we do,” he said. And he has some experience at it. DeRose was a mentor in NPR’s Next Generation Project for several years and, prior to his arrival at NPR, in Ear to the Ground, a training project offered by Chicago Public Radio.

The seminars at NPR West convene during the weeks of June 22, Oct. 5 and on a yet-to-be-determined date in January, according to an NPR spokesperson.

This summer’s fellows are: Tina Antolini, WFCR in Amherst, Mass.; Elaine Baumgartel, KUNM in Albuquerque, N.M.; LaToya Dennis, Milwaukee Public Radio; Benjamin Markus, Hawaii Public Radio; Emily McCord, WYSO, Yellow Springs, Ohio; Emilie Ritter, Montana Public Radio; and Rachel Ward of WXXI in Rochester, N.Y.

The fall session will train Jenny Brundin, KUER, Salt Lake City; Blake Farmer, WPLN in Nashville, Tenn.; Kelly MacNeil, KUAR, Little Rock, Ark.; Ilya Marritz, WNYC, New York; Charles Michael Ray, South Dakota’s SDPB Radio; Julie Rose, WFAE, Charlotte, N.C.; Kirk Siegler, KUNC, Greeley, Colo.; and Brian Watt, KPCC, Pasadena, Calif.

Fellows for the winter seminar are: Niala Boodhoo, WLRN, Miami; Kristian Foden-Vencil, Oregon Public Broadcasting; Adriene Hill, WBEZ, Chicago; Stephanie Martin, KQED, San Francisco; Curt Nickisch, WBUR, Boston; Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio, Ann Arbor; and Odette Yousef, WABE, Atlanta.

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