Thursday, January 27, 2011
CNN iReport roundtable: Economy Tracker project

 

We've got a special topic for today's iReport roundtable: CNN's Economy Tracker project. Throughout 2010, six iReporters – Miriam Cintron, Omekongo Dibinga, Chris Morrow, Mike Stouffer, Barbara Rademacher and Egberto Willies – helped CNN tell the story of America's economy by profiling someone in their community for an entire year.

 

It was a challenge, but all of the iReporters rose to the occasion. Through their monthly video updates, we got to know each of the people profiled and were given a glimpse of how the economy affected them.

 

Today, we're showcasing the culmination of their work on CNN.com and also want to recognize the landmark project here at the roundtable.

 

Some of the Economy Tracker iReporters will be here to answer any questions you may have about being part of the project and, if there's time, we may even dream up future collaborations!

 

Join us back here at 3:00 p.m. ET when we'll begin the conversation. In the meantime, check out the Economy Tracker story on CNN to get familiar with the project.

99 Comments
January 27, 2011
Click to view hootie1fan's profile

After my employer dropped group health coverage and put us on 32 hours for several months, I stopped all prescriptions and testing my blood sugar.

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

Hi @hootie1fan. That's rough. Has your situation improved at all since? In a few minutes, others will join us and talk about what we learned during the Economy Tracker project.

January 27, 2011
Click to view markpel's profile

Hi Everyone! It is 9 pm here in Berlin (Germany).

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

Greetings all and happy new year!

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

Hi @markpel! Thanks for joining us.

January 27, 2011
Click to view EWillies1961's profile

Hellllloooo all

 

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

Hey @omekongo. Glad you could join us. Congrats on finishing Economy Tracker! Did you take a look at the homepage of CNN.com right now? :)

January 27, 2011
Click to view HarryWales's profile

I hope that there are no objections if a self confessed Limey chimes into the debate as well?

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

Hello everyone, Manav here.

January 27, 2011
Click to view dsashin's profile

Hey guys, congrats to @omekongo and @ewillies1961! What a great project.

January 27, 2011
Click to view davidw's profile

Hi everyone, you all did such a great job on your stories. It's tough to stick with a story for that long. Thank you.

January 27, 2011
Click to view EWillies1961's profile

It was fun and enlightning.

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

@HarryWales Of course not! I'm sure you're affected by your country's economy just like us Americans, eh?

January 27, 2011
Click to view nsaidi's profile

Hi there! Congratulations to you, EWillies1961, everyone! Must be awesome to have this accomplished.

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

Thanks Katie! I haven't looked on the main page. I will right now though!

January 27, 2011
Click to view nsaidi's profile

... and you too omekongo! hits refresh

 

Side note: We held an iReport meetup in New York back in October, and it was at the Life Cafe in the East Village. Nice place.

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

@omekongo and @ewillies1961, nice to see you guys here. Thanks for all the work you guys put into this project.

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

Wow! That's incredible! Thanks guys for the congrats and congrats to the other 5 iReporters on this great project!

January 27, 2011
Click to view EWillies1961's profile

You guys did a great job and put a lot of work into that page. Congratulations. I wish you had gotten more exposure on the tube as the diversity of stories is something that America needed to see in these times. The cheesy stories on CNN on right now makes me wonder sometimes:(:(:(

January 27, 2011
Click to view HarryWales's profile

Indeed, Katie. I am sure that iReporters will remember that before the last election in the UK, the UK was running a deficit of close to 89% of GDP (higher even than Greece at the time). Since the coalition entered government they have been making hard choices about what spending to cut

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

Ah, yes -- for any of you new folks, just refresh your browser every so often to follow the conversation and see the latest comments.

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

Manav Katie, thanks fo your wonderful guidance and ideas throughout the whole project!

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

So, I imagine we'll have some others joining us shortly, but I have a question for @omekongo and @EWillies. What did you learn from this project? You met up with someone and recorded updates on their lives once a month -- what were the biggest takeaways?

January 27, 2011
Click to view ChrisMorrow's profile

Hello Hello!

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

The biggest thing I learned was that it's great to be in front of the camera but being BEHIND the camera and helping someone tell their story is actually very rewarding too. It was also really interesting to think of different ways to approach the story each month so as to not get boring.

January 27, 2011
Click to view EWillies1961's profile

I actually learned from all the iReports. I got to see how a friend that shares the same kind of technical skill that I have deal with an economic situation we never felt could afflict us. In working with him I saw a path that would make sense for others to follow that was generally outside of the norm.

 

The same can be said for Omekongo's subject. He did things his way. He tooj the lead.

 

The coffee shop person understood the perseverance of staying in business not just with a hope but taking action. I could go on and on.

 

These stories should be featured as it would give many hope.

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

Hello @ChrisMorrow! Congrats on finishing the project. It's pretty cool to look back on a year's worth of stories, eh? :)

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

Hey there @chrismorrow, glad you could join us.

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

Also, I learned that it also takes some work to draw stories out of a subject because the subject may feel like he or she may not have anything relevant to say as well.

January 27, 2011
Click to view HarryWales's profile

Could I ask (and I say it again as a self confessed Limey), the American economy seems to be gathering pace whilst the UK economy shrank in the last quarter (and yet we both had the same bad winter), does the weather play an important part in the American economy and if so, should we Brits be so dismissive of it?

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

Hey Chris!

January 27, 2011
Click to view KCRep's profile

Hello all and congratulations to Miriam Cintron, Omekongo Dibinga, Chris Morrow, Mike Stouffer, Barbara Rademacher and Egberto Willies for doing such a great job!

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

@omekongo, @EWillies -- That's so cool to hear you learned something (or several things) from this project. I agree, despite all the ups and downs and setbacks that each of your subjects may have had, they remained positive through it all. It was really inspiring to see, and I think we could all take some lessons from their experiences.

January 27, 2011
Click to view zdan's profile

Congrats to @ChrisMorrow @omekongo and @EWillies for all their hard work! It was fascinating to watch these stories unfold over a year.

January 27, 2011
Click to view nsaidi's profile

@ChrisMorrow -- welcome to the roundtable. Congrats to you as well on completion of this mission.

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

@omekongo, Michael Andrews' story was pretty interesting. Did you sense some turning point for him last year? Metaphorically speaking, did some light go off in his head?

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

Thanks! It was also great seeing Mike grow througout the process. He and I are so much alike as artists and academics. Only thing is I have 2 daughters and he has one son. I see/saw a lot of myself in him and I think that made me more passionate about sharing his story.

January 27, 2011
Click to view nsaidi's profile

I guess the biggest question I have for you all, looking in from the outside, is what kept you going/persevering? It's impressive that you stuck with it.

January 27, 2011
Click to view EWillies1961's profile

@HarryWales The Brits economy fell because your government stopped spending into a recession. It will get much worst but you will come out of it just with a lot more poor people. Anyway this not the forum for me to express my frustrations on bad economic policies that hurt folks. Sorry guys, I could not hold it in.

 

BTW, Katie you guys really gave good tips that made me ask questions in the context of the project without going off on too large of a tangent:)

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

@harrywales, it's difficult to say, really, what role or how large a role weather plays in the American economy. There are experts who study that sort of thing who'd have a much more knowledgeable answer than any of us here. But, I can say, through personal experience, that weather probably has somewhat of an impact. Recently, a snowstorm shut down our city here (Atlanta). Atlanta is a major hub for the southeastern region of the U.S. and when the roads were frozen over, nothing moved. That had to have had an impact on the regional economy.

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

@HarryWales Certainly some businesses are really affected by the weather. iReporter Miriam Cintron profiled a cafe owner who was thrilled when spring arrived because it meant business would pick up: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-424609

 

And we've seen some major snowstorms across the U.S. lately that have cost cities a lot with cleanup efforts and businesses having to shut down.

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

@nsaidi, some of what kept me going was mentioned in the last comment. But what I will add to those comments is that some of you know I have REAL issues with the lack of positive portrayals of young black males on television. I wanted to show people a positive guy doing great things and dedicated to his family. We don't see enough of that in the media.

January 27, 2011
Click to view sbeasla's profile

Hello everyone! I'm logging in via the iPhone to test this out :)

January 27, 2011
Click to view ChrisMorrow's profile

Hello Katie. It was such a pleasure to follow Intimacy. There is a lot more to it when building a business!

January 27, 2011
Click to view ChrisMorrow's profile

Thanks everyone for a warm welcome.

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

@ChrisMorrow I asked this question to the others earlier, but would love to hear your take, too: What did you learn from this project? You met up with someone and recorded updates on their lives once a month -- what were the biggest takeaways?

January 27, 2011
Click to view markpel's profile

Hi sbeasla! It works great!

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

@chrismorrow, you followed, essentially, the expansion of a business and you talked to two people who seem very good at speaking positively about their business. How difficult was it for you to get them to talk about any adversity they may have encountered during last year?

January 27, 2011
Click to view EWillies1961's profile

@nsaidi What kept me going with the project is my word. You commit to something you do it unless extenuating circumstances causes otherwise. Whether I was no longer in the mood or not, it was a project I committed to. Maybe we should have a project on promoting that ones word is all one has. Every one of the iReporters in this project proved they had that.

January 27, 2011
Click to view sbeasla's profile

Wow! Congrats everyone on this assignment! :)

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

A question to all those gathered here -- similar to the Economy Tracker, are there any projects/stories that you'd like to see happen?

January 27, 2011
Click to view markpel's profile

I must log out... Have a wonderful day!

January 27, 2011
Click to view nsaidi's profile

@omekongo @EWillies Thoughtful responses. You've certainly impressed us. And it shows that you've taken the project to heart.

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

@yishkish, I would LOVE to see a project like this focused on the positive things our youth are doing across the country from excelling academically, serving the community, making positive music, etc. I think that there are so many negative stories out there nationally about youth from pregnancies in high schools to violence on the streets. Let's show what some positive youth are doing!

January 27, 2011
Click to view ChrisMorrow's profile

@yishkish

 

The hardest part of my job interviewing them was keeping up with their schedules. Closer to the end of the project is was easier for them to reflect on the past.

January 27, 2011
Click to view FiveMikes's profile

Hello Everyone. It's Mike. I'm the subject in @Omekongo 's story. I have to say...that this project was probably one of the best experiences of my career. Recording the sessions were almost therapeutic and led me to act in ways I probably wouldn't if it wasn't for @Omekongo and this opportunity. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity, and am looking forward to any other collaborations w/ @Omekongo and CNN! Thanks again!

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

Hi all, sorry I'm late, long day.

January 27, 2011
Click to view zdan's profile

Congrats @mcintron! And welcome :)

January 27, 2011
Click to view ChrisMorrow's profile

@katie

 

What did I learn from this project?

 

I learned how hard it is to run a business. That creativity and a sound marketing plan is key. Actually, a solid business plan is key too!

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

@FiveMikes Welcome! What a treat to have you join us. Thank you for letting us take a glimpse into your life throughout the year.

 

Did you learn anything about yourself or your career through recording those monthly updates with @omekongo?

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

@fivemikes -- Firstly, welcome. Second, a question. You say the experience "led me to act in ways I probably wouldn't" if it wasn't for the project. I'm curious what exactly you're referring to.

January 27, 2011
Click to view nsaidi's profile

Welcome mcintron, good to see you here as well.

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

@mcintron Hello! Did you see Kathy Kirkpatrick on the homepage of CNN.com right now?

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

Hey there, @mcintron. Nice to have you here.

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

Five stars for @fivemikes!

January 27, 2011
Click to view sbeasla's profile

Another cool year long project would be a change in your community. Each month we could document new businesses, closures, events that helped shape the environment, something the city did to affect the roadways etc. So it would be diary of where you live.

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

Answer to question from nsaidi, what kept me going? -

 

Two things, the story and my committment to it, having given my word, and two, the strength that Kathy showed, having spent 30 years running a really difficult business in NYC, a restaurant and bar.

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

@sbeasla, That's a really interesting thought. How big of a scale do you mean by a community? Is it a neighborhood, a street, a city?

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

Katie, I was running late so I haven't looked yet! But I will..

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

@mcintron, I was struck how frank and direct Kathy was in her responses to your questions. Any thoughts on that?

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

Oooooh, thank you! She will be so pleased. That photograph is the best photo of her ever, according to her husband. He loves it and so does she! LOL

January 27, 2011
Click to view sbeasla's profile

@YishKish - I was thinking city. It would be more dynamic if you covered how a city changed over a year, talked to the people living in, maybe find some historical facts etc

January 27, 2011
Click to view FiveMikes's profile

Thanks everyone. @Katie. I learned so much. I gained a level of confidence during the year that I hadn't felt in my personal or professional career. I probably performed (open mics, performances, presentations, etc) this year than I have in the past 3-4 years. The energy that I felt after each interview literally fueled me to keep going. I wrote more. I was more reflective on what my possibilities could be. I'm generally optimistic, but I felt more drive to produce and more focused on being a "better me." That's cliche, but it's authentically how this year felt for me. Many of the situations that @Omekongo captured was an opportunity that he asked me to do. I can honestly say that last year...I would've said No. I would've "been too busy," or made up some excuse. Working with @Omekongo really allowed me the opportunity to move forward with some things that I probably would've continued to put off.

January 27, 2011
Click to view ChrisMorrow's profile

@mcintron

 

Congrats on the cover image headline on cnn.com!!! :)

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

@sbeasla, I love your ambition. You want to do the work of a newspaper (smile). But, you're right, it would be really, really interesting to see a city change over time.

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

Thank you, Chris. -

 

About what I learned during this long project? That journalism is not as easy as it looks! ;p That you really need to have a committment to your subject and that it can be very rewarding. Telling a story like that is hard.

January 27, 2011
Click to view sbeasla's profile

@YishKish well, isn't that what we're doing here? Working with a newspaper? :) Although you give us a voice and let our creativity flow. I love you guys for that :)

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

@FiveMikes That makes me so happy to hear! I'm really glad this was a good experience for you. Your optimism seems to be pretty contagious!

 

One more question: How did you feel about putting a goal -- hoping to buy a house -- out in the public, and then changing plans? Did that make you uncomfortable or were you at peace with your decision by the year's end?

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

@yishkish Yes, Kathy was very frank in her interviews and I know it was really hard for her as she's a very private person. She seemed to blossom during the process though. If you see her first interview, and compare it to the last few, the difference is amazing. So in a way, I think it was a good experience for her. It helped her find her voice as she told her story. She is an amazingly strong and resourceful woman.

January 27, 2011
Click to view FiveMikes's profile

@Katie My wife was more concerned than I was. LOL. But seriously, I wasn't too uncomfortable. We were aware of the numbers and what real estate was doing in our area...and the writing was on the wall. Hearing what the experts told me on air was rather validating and helped both of us feel at ease w/ our decisions. Overall, even though our house is small, we're still blessed to have a roof over our head...Hey, our townhouse is about 3 times bigger than the apartment I grew up in, and I didn't miss anything growing up. We know that we'll have to move eventually, especially if our family expands, but I think we feel more comfortable making a smart decision rather than rushing out and paying for it more down the line.

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

That was very rewarding for me as well, to see her grow in the process. We also became friends, as although I had known her for years as a regular at Life Cafe, she is as I said, a private person and hard to get to know. This project allowed us to get to know each other and I want to thank CNN for it.

January 27, 2011
Click to view nsaidi's profile

@mcintron glad to know that Life Cafe's story inspired you. It ain't easy keeping on keeping on; that's half the battle.

 

I'm also glad we had the chance to go there!

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

@FiveMikes It sounds like a really smart decision. Kudos!

January 27, 2011
Click to view davidw's profile

Y'all did such a great job on this project that it's got us thinking about what's next. Can you think of other stories that would work well with this sort of year-long treatment?

Also, is this something you'd like to do again, now that done it?

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

I would do it again...but I learned it has to be something I'm pretty passionate about as it's hard work. :p

 

Congratulations to all my fellow iReporters who completed it. I loved following your stories too.

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

@davidw, here is the comment I posted on this earlier: I would LOVE to see a project like this focused on the positive things our youth are doing across the country from excelling academically, serving the community, making positive music, etc. I think that there are so many negative stories out there nationally about youth from pregnancies in high schools to violence on the streets. Let's show what some positive youth are doing!

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

@davidw -- we had two ideas come in already: @omekongo wants to document the positive aspects of students' lives. And @sbeasla wants to take on the very small task of documenting a city's life over a year's span. I think both are quite interesting.

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

@nsaidi - Me too! Glad you got there and hopefully, next time y'all visit NYC, we'll go again!

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

@omekongo That's a great idea! We should think more about that for future projects.

 

@everyone We're wrapping up the conversation, but will check back later in case you have other year-long project ideas.

 

Thank you all for attending the roundtable, especially those of you who were part of Economy Tracker! It's a pleasure working with you.

January 27, 2011
Click to view yishkish's profile

Many thanks, everyone.

January 27, 2011
Click to view davidw's profile

@mcintron -- I saw how much work you all put in with katie on this project. Just doing one iReport is hard, so I know this was a real challenge.

It's a real testament to you all that you'd even consider doing it again

January 27, 2011
Click to view ChrisMorrow's profile

@davidw 

I'd like the opportunity to look back an any iReports I've done on interesting people/companies and do a follow-up on them. Where are they now?

 

Currently, I'm following Fred Karger - The First openly gay republican man running for President of the United States. Look for an update on him soon.

 

 

Thank you CNN iReport! I enjoyed working on the economy project.

 

I hope if anyone has a story they think I should cover to please go to my CNN iReport bio: ChrisMorrow or twitter @morrowchris and reach out to me.

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

Will gladly think about year long projects. Wasn't prepared for that question, but it's good to know you're considering doing another...

 

I want to thank @katie for the hard she put into this project, for keeping us on track, for being so patient and for always being there for us. Job well done, Katie!

January 27, 2011
Click to view EWillies1961's profile

I would like iReporters to document the actual results of effected government policies on real people in the middle class. e.g.)Visit a friend or an acquantance in the hospital, how does current policy materially affect you? Visit an underemployed person or a college student and detail how specific policy affects them.

 

We are very apathetic because the media does not relate to the average person's problem. You get more engaged and watch ratings go up.

 

Your corporate owners though may bawk:)

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

One more thing before I go, I do plan to do follow up with Kathy in the future to see how she's doing. Is that okay?

January 27, 2011
Click to view omekongo's profile

THANKS IREPORT team! You guys rock! I hope you realize how valuable you are not just to CNN, but the planet!

January 27, 2011
Click to view katie's profile

@mcintron Of course! It would be wonderful to check in with Kathy every so often. If you have any questions about doing so, you know how to reach me :)

January 27, 2011
Click to view mcintron's profile

Thank you, Katie! It won't be too soon. This has been a LONG project. I'll definitely get in touch with you. Thanks so much!

February 16, 2011
Click to view Dean1960's profile

Does America know that the Area on aging transit system is taking Americans for a Ride???...They are charging the government $12.00 to take one person whom is not in need of any assistance getting on or off the bus 1.5 miles oneway, that is $24.00 for a 3 mile trip....I called a Taxi service and was charged $4.80 for a oneway trip....Now lets be conservative and say that 1 million people ride the Area on aging transit aday and that they only go 3 miles to and from their appointments...That would add up to 24 million dollars aday or around 8 billion a year!!!!!!!!!!!!..Can i get a "WOW"?....So i ask you Mr President; before you take money from our Students and our poor people,Please Take a look at these Inner gov't programs like this one that our taking advantage of our elderly and disabled while the United States is going deeper into Debt, Now i am no Economist, But if i can come up with and expose an 8 billion dollar a year ' Scam ' then you and your administration can do a better job.

 

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