The Region

Supply, Demand & Deadlines 2003

Diamonds in the rough: Making a story shine

Kathy Cobb | Contributing Writer

Published September 1, 2003  | September 2003 issue

What makes a jewel sparkle is the multiple facets of the stone—the same holds true for a well-written news story. Nearly every business, political or public policy issue is multifaceted, and it's the job of the journalist to explore and understand all aspects of an issue and the consequences of actions that may be taken.

To learn how to use economics sources, understand and analyze economic data, and think critically about economic issues are among the reasons 28 journalists from across the nation and around the globe met in mid-June in Minneapolis for Supply, Demand & Deadlines. The annual three-day workshop was sponsored jointly by the Minnesota Journalism Center, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, at the University of Minnesota and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and planned and staffed by experienced business writers and economists.

The ongoing goal of the workshop, now in its third year, is to provide reporters, editors and producers from a variety of media with some economic principles and insight to help them analyze the economic impact of business, political and public policy issues in their communities.

Though intended primarily for Upper Midwest journalists, this year's workshop had much broader participation, with media representatives from Uganda and The Gambia, the San Diego Business Journal, the Associated Press, Reuters and PBS's News Hour.

Minneapolis Fed President Gary Stern opened the workshop with a discussion of deflation, which gave participants a relevant issue to ponder overnight, and provided insight into how economists and policymakers analyze economic phenomena.

Participants then heard about the complex issues facing the global economy from Anne Krueger, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, who delivered the keynote address. And Russell Cooper, professor of economics at the University of Texas, followed with a session on the principles of economic thinking.

After listening to economists, participants started to connect theory to practice. Washington Post economics columnist John Berry took Cooper's presentation one step further and offered a journalist's perspective on writing about the economy. His session laid the groundwork for participants' culminating activity. Each journalist wrote a story proposal on rising health care costs, which was then critiqued by workshop journalism and economics faculty—the final step in polishing the jewel.

See one attendee's perspective on the conference, in a column in North-Western Financial Review, in which journalist Justin Dullum reflects on what he learned about economics, journalism and the tough questions that confront economics reporters from other lands. "[Dean] Mulumba [of Uganda] knows his fair share about 'no free lunch,'" writes Dullum. "His job isn't only to ask 'who's paying for lunch?' but also 'did anyone even bring lunch?'"

Learn more about Supply, Demand & Deadlines, from the School of Journalism, University of Minnesota.