Marketplace Off Air

Hitting Close to Home

Scott Jagow Oct 2, 2008

We’ve dispatched two reporters to drive cross country and get some street-level reaction to the financial crisis. This morning, I spoke with reporter Amy Scott. She started her trip in Charlotte, NC, where Bank of America and Wachovia are headquartered. I lived there for several years, so I know how much that city depends on the financial industry. There are many smaller financial companies linked to the big banks, and non-financial businesses that also count on the banking business being healthy.

But even closer to home, my father works for Wachovia in Charlotte. He’s in computer programming. There’s talk of layoffs as part of Citigroup’s buyout of Wachovia, and frankly, it’s a scary time for my family. Robert Reich had a commentary this week on “early” Baby Boomers and how they might be the group hurt most by a deep recession. Older workers are often the first to be laid off. They’re close to retirement, and any downturn in the stock market can have serious consequences for their financial security. My father falls squarely in that group. I asked my parents about their situation, and they admitted they’re losing quite a bit of money. I was relieved to hear that last year my father moved some money out of riskier stocks into safer investments. At least he was thinking ahead.

I guess this just points out that we are all feeling this crisis in one way or another. Journalists are taught to detach themselves from the news, but I’ve never believed that’s possible. My job is to give people information, ask questions and get different opinions on the air so listeners can decide for themselves. Personally, I’m very conflicted about the rescue package. There are so many reasons to hate it, but one very good reason to think it might be necessary. The bottom line for me, bailout or no, is what happens to businesses and their employees. I’ll continue to strive for fairness and accuracy with our coverage, but I won’t pretend I have no stake in the outcome. We all do.

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