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Marketplace Scratch Pad

Doom and gloom earplugs

Scott Jagow Mar 25, 2009

I’ve spent the last hour or so in an all-staff Marketplace editorial meeting. The topic for discussion was — are we striking the proper tone with our coverage of business and the economy?

What prompted the meeting was feedback from some Marketplace listeners and criticism from other people of financial news media in general. It’s all doom and gloom. It’s depressing. I’d rather bathe in crude oil than listen/watch your show. Things like that.

So we’re asking ourselves, should we be doing things differently? Here are some of the responses from the Marketplace staff, and I’m paraphrasing:

  • We’re just reporting the news. The news happens to be bad most of the time.
  • Perhaps we have to be vigilant about our tone of voice or language when the markets are down or the unemployment news is awful. Maybe we’re adding an extra layer of gloom with our voices and words.
  • Maybe we could use more stories from outside New York and Washington. They tend to dominate the coverage, and yes, those stories are generally depressing.
  • Perhaps we can be more thoughtful about the tone of any given show. So if four negative stories are dominating on one day, do we have to cover all of them? Or should we try to find elements that are lighter/more positive in tone to add balance on days like that?
  • People say they like Marketplace because it tends have a more optimistic feel to it. But listeners don’t want us to stop reporting the downer stories because they want the information.

On a daily basis, we do consider our balance of stories and whether we’re too heavy, too light, too Wall Street, too Washington, etc, but there are many ways to consider tone.

One way I look at it is — the “we” stories and the “me” stories. The “we” stories are the big picture Wall Street and Washington elements. It’s the “where we are as a country and as an economy” story. The “me” stories are more micro-economy. How are individuals and small businesses coping with the recession? What opportunities are taking shape because of it? Innovation, entrepreneurship and the like.

For example, I have an idea for creating doom and gloom earplugs. You put them in when you listen to or watch financial shows, and you only hear the news that makes you feel good! I tried out a demo pair during AIG week, but I didn’t hear anything at all. I may have to go back to the drawing board.

While I wait for the patent, I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, feedback on Marketplace’s coverage and tone.

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