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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Interview with Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal

From the April 2006 issue of Quill magazine, here is my Q&A with Marketplace host, Kai Ryssdal in town tonight for a sold-out appearance.

TEN: Quill poses 10 questions to people with some of the coolest jobs in journalism
By Wendy A. Hoke

If you’re a regular public radio listener, chances are you’ve heard Kai Ryssdal. He’s the voice of business reporting on American Public Media, delivering business news with a bit a sass, occasional irreverence and a whole lotta punch to the average Jane and Joe. Ryssdal came to journalism later in life after following an unconventional career path. But he leads the team of reporters breathing life into a traditionally staid beat. He’s come a long way from shelving books at his local Border’s. On March 20 [2006], here’s how he opened the show:

“Alright, now don’t get nervous but I’m going to say something that might startle you — record highs on Wall Street. The last time that phrase came up in conversation, well … we all know how things ended. But more than just a couple of people are saying this time it’s different — maybe. From American Public Media, this is Marketplace.”

Q: What’s the origin of your name? It seems unusual for a broadcast name? Did anyone ever suggest you change it?

It’s Norwegian. My dad was born there and no one suggested I change it probably because I was in my mid-30s before I began broadcasting.

Q: You’ve had an interesting career path – U.S. Navy pilot, Pentagon staff officer, U.S. Foreign Service – did you study journalism and if so where?
I was a history and political science major at Emory University. In my junior year I had a fraternity brother in the Navy and thought, “That looks cool.” I took the physical and two weeks after graduation went to Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, Fla. I spent eight years in the Navy, flew for a while and then three years at the Pentagon. I had done everything in the Navy that I wanted to do, but I still wanted to travel overseas on the government dime so I took the Foreign Service test.

I met my future wife in the Foreign Service. In 1997 after a year and a half in Beijing, we both left and my wife enrolled in graduate school at Stanford University. I figured I’d get a job in Silicon Valley because it was the height of the dot-com boom. But I could have cared less about working in that environment.

So I got a job shelving books at Borders for $7 an hour. It makes for a long, grim summer when you are 34 and trying to figure out what to do. My wife suggested I try journalism, claiming I was a weird news junkie anyway. I tried print for a bit, but as you know you can’t get in unless you have clips and you can’t get clips unless you get in.

Q: So how did you wind up in radio?

One day I was shelving books in the career and counseling section (I had gotten a raise and was making $7.25 at this point) when I came across a big fat internship book. I saw the name and number of the KQED news director in San Francisco. I wrote him a letter, said I was interested in the news, gave him a bit about my background and said I would like to learn more about broadcast journalism. He called me a few days later.

I went up in my very best State Department suit and tie and briefcase. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a public radio station, but there are no suits and ties. He said he didn’t have a job, but he had an internship available. So I took it.

I cut back on my hours at the bookstore, learned all the basics that other 19-year-old interns were doing. Eventually they needed someone to help with the morning show and then asked if I could stay all day. After a year or 18 months I was on the air doing some reporting. I wound up being a substitute anchor for the afternoon news and then worked my way up to morning. I was doing the California Report (a statewide program) when someone at Marketplace called me.

Although I said I’d really love to come talk to them, my wife was about to have our second baby and I really couldn’t leave her. My wife said Marketplace only calls once, so I called them back and went to the interview. That was the summer of 2001, my wife was on maternity leave from Yahoo and so we moved the family to Los Angeles. It was absolutely, completely fortuitous. It appears, although it’s not true, that I’ve been suspiciously lucky. But my journalism career has been absolute complete serendipity.

Q: What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned on the job?
That you need to grasp opportunity when it comes. I was on a good path with KQED Marketplace called. Yes, I had to get up in the middle of night to work mornings, and yes, I had to work hard, but it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. KQED gave me training in radio; Marketplace is training me in reporting and hosting

Q: Did your entrée to business news involve a steep learning curve?
Absolutely. It was almost like they left me alone in the wee hours and said you have to report on gross domestic product. It wasn’t quite that bad, but close. You have to sit down and digest the information because really none of us on the show are business people. It’s like learning the education beat or politics. I would call Steven Beard in London or Jocelyn Ford in China if I had questions on specific topics.

Q: Traditional newspaper business reporting is often stuffy. Marketplace has a definite tone to it and it’s somewhat sassy in a good way. How do you keep it engaging?
The charge is very clear, yet not explicit. We all know that we bare the burden of making this entertaining and interesting. We work hard on it every day working with reporters crafting angles. And then I spend two solid hours choreographing the whole show.

Q: Do you write your own copy? What goes into the writing process when you know at least a segment of the listening audience is going to be tuned in on their way home from work?

Yes, I write my own copy. After the morning editorial meeting, I don’t immediately sit down and think how I can craft the show. I let it sit in the back of my brain and bubble around. Around 11:30-12, I get a sandwich and listen to the stories and the commentary that are in and then I start to write. I start with the end of the show and write it backwards. I’m at my most creative under pressure and I find I can’t get it right if I try to work from the top of the show down. So I work my way up so that by 20 to 25 minutes past 1, I’m working on my opening and commentary. I’ll do a table read with the senior producer to make sure it sounds good, but otherwise it goes from my computer to the airwaves.

Q: The east coast hears Marketplace at 6:30 p.m. Describe how you put a typical show together and when you’re taping?

The show is live to tape at 2 p.m. Pacific. If nothing changes during the day, stations will run it as is, which gives it the live feel. If something changes we’ll do an update. The gong goes off to start the show at 2 and then we run straight through. I don’t find I can do bits and pieces because it takes me out of the flow of show.

Q: You previously were on the Marketplace Morning Report. What’s the biggest change you’ve experienced in doing the morning and evening program?
Now I’m sleeping at night. I used to sleep in shifts. I would sleep from noon to 3:30 p.m., then get the kids, eat dinner and help with bedtime and then nap from 10 to midnight. Now I go to bed when I want. When you’re young, hungry and stupid you’ll do whatever it takes.

Q: What other job would you like to pursue?
I do run after my three boys ages 7, 4 and 20 months. But I’ve only been doing Marketplace for six months. I don’t really have any place I want to go right now. Former host David Brancacchio used to say the afternoon Marketplace job is the best job in broadcast today. I completely agree. We have the freedom to take this dense, arcane topic and do almost anything we want. I’m only the point on the end of that spear.

Nobody here is interested in business in and of itself. We don’t care what the trade deficit is, we care about what it means for interest rates and unemployment. We leave digesting the numbers to Bloomberg and Reuters, and prefer instead to think about the stories behind the stories. That’s what makes people listen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jay Rosen asks Romenesko readers...

"If the McCain campaign says the [New York] Times is not a legitimate news source why does the Times have to treat McCain as a legitimate candidate?"
What do you think?

In case you missed it, this question stems from a Times article about McCain campaign adviser Rick Davis's ties to Fannie and Freddie and his and Steve Schmidt's reaction in a conference call with reporters calling the Times an illegitimate news source that's "in the tank" for Sen. Obama.

Watch the YouTube audio of the conference call here.

This campaign is rapidly spinning into never-before-seen levels of ridiculousness that are an insult to the American people. Do we have any hope of seeing a frank, intelligent discussion about issues at Friday's debate? Wake me up when it's over.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Connie on Poynter

Poynter has a great audio interview with PD columnist Connie Schultz. Nice job, Connie! Two of her columns are published in this year's "Best Newspaper Writing 2008-09," by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. She has a gift for sharing her thoughts on writing, whether it's to a group of senior citizens or an addled fearful fellow female journalist.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Straight talk on McCain's presidential ambition

From opinion piece in Politico by Elizabeth Drew, author of complimentary biographer, "Citizen McCain."
In his 2002 memoir, “Worth the Fighting For,” he wrote, revealingly, “I didn’t decide to run for president to start a national crusade for the political reforms I believed in or to run a campaign as if it were some grand act of patriotism. In truth, I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president. . . . In truth, I’d had the ambition for a long time.” (bold is mine)


There’s a certain lack of seriousness in him. And he does not appear to be a reflective man, or very interested in domestic issues. One cannot imagine him ruminating late into the night about, say, how to educate and train Americans for the new global and technological challenges.

McCain’s making a big issue of “earmarks” and citing entertaining examples of ridiculous-sounding ones, circumvents discussion of the larger issues of the allocation of funds in the federal budget: according to the Office of Management and Budget, earmarks represent less than one percent of federal spending.


Campaigns matter. If he means “shaking up the system” … opposing earmarks doesn’t cut it.

McCain’s recent conduct of his campaign – his willingness to lie repeatedly (including in his acceptance speech) and to play Russian roulette with the vice-presidency, in order to fulfill his long-held ambition – has reinforced my earlier, and growing, sense that John McCain is not a principled man.
In fact, it’s not clear who he is."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

UPDATED: KSU Poynter ethics seminar today

Jill is reporting today from the KSU Poynter Media Ethics seminar. Wanted to be there but couldn't swing the $50 price tag just now.

There's also a twitter feed here.

UPDATE #1: Jay Rosen is keynote today at KSU. Hope he shakes things up a bit. Keep hearing words like "timid" and "risk-averse" in describing journalism today. Certainly those are not words I ever would have associated with being a journalist.

So far seems to be a very one-sided conversation with a lot of traditional journalism angst and hand-wringing. Where are the bloggers in this workshop????

Hoping Jay Rosen can shake them out of their collective malaise. Read Jay's PressThink post today for preview/outline of his remarks.

Damn! Wish I was there.

UPDATE #2: Oy! They just don't get this. Blogging is a conversation about transparency, it's not a hierarchical top-down form of communication. It's two-way, interactive. So while traditional journalists fret about objectivity and proper filters, they are missing how transparency and the ethics of linkage perform that function for blogging.

Jay Rosen's keynote is up next. Hoping for a little common sense.

Civics lesson for today—pay attention

We don't call it civics anymore, but maybe we should, as in civic engagement, which is just another way of describing how to get people to think about the decisions made by their leaders and representatives and how those decisions broadly affect all aspects of their lives. One example is welfare reform, which has had the unintended consequence of impacting everything from crime to education. But that's for another post. Today, I'm thinking of banking deregulation and the havoc it has wreaked on housing, credit markets and Wall Street. One word keeps churning in my brain—greed. Not just corporate greed, but also governmental greed and our own greed to own more and have more.

The Washington Post (and The Plain Dealer) has a good analysis on the conditions that led to this storm and what it means for our checkbooks. Essentially it means now we REALLY need to start living within our means. Greed is not good.

Are the lessons of a financial industry run amok going to hold? Not unless citizens engage in learning a bit about the impact of sweeping changes such as deregulation. So I'm reading all of these stories in an effort to better understand how it happened that so many learned men and women could not foresee the long-term impact of unbridled greed. But as a friend said earlier this week in relation to another greed-driven scandal, greed trumps intelligence.

What say we learn something this time around, maybe something that will prevent us from falling into the same Gordon Gecko trap in another 10 years? I'll confess that I'd much rather be reading about immigration or education than the finance world, but this has such an impact on my household that attention must be paid. There's an interconnectedness that is ignored at our peril.

I'll confess that over the past 10 years we borrowed too much against our house and now our mortgage payment is higher than it should be. Sure our home has appraised higher, but both my husband and I doubt we could get that price if we put the house on the market (which we won't). We accept responsibility for our financial position. For the past few years, we've worked hard to bring down our debt and live within our means. It's very difficult and means a lot of sacrifice for us individually, but also as a family. I have to believe that it will pay off in the long term.

Maybe we can do better by our children in understanding those connections than we've done for ourselves. We talk to them often about the cost of things and why putting it on a credit card is not wise. They see us shop at Aldi because of the value not necessarily the quality. They hear us stretch things like buying new shoes, clothes or haircuts over several paydays. But there are other connections to be made, broader more historical connections that these are situations that have been repeated over time when we lose our bearings and get lost in a sea of wants. Attention must be paid lest we forget again the stress of living buried in debt.

I tweeted this morning that my high school sophomore is learning about the 1920s stock market crash and the ensuing Depression in history class, while also discussing the current Wall Street mess in marketing class. Hooray for education that actually connects the dots and makes learning relevant.

Here's a thought for today courtesy of Benjamin Rush, one of the first advocates of public education and a signer of the Declaration of Independence:
"There is but one method of rendering a republican form of government durable and that is by disseminating the seeds of virtue and knowledge through education."
That applies to adults just as surely as it applies to children.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Obama's new ad: serious talk for serious times

How refreshing to find this ad from Sen. Barack Obama on The Moderate Voice today. Yeah, it's dry and it pushes our attention limits by pushing to two minutes in length. But you know what? I think he strikes the right tone and as citizens we owe it to look deeper into the serious issues facing our country. I'm tired of hearing about how strong the fundamentals of our economy are when I know I need to stretch every dime right now.

Read the Obama/Biden plan for the economy and taxes here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sons and daughters of the news media...

... War has been declared on us by a hostile aggressor intent on stealing whatever piddly credibility we may yet hold with the public. Are we to run, then? Or are we to stand and fight? Will Bunch has written the journalistic equivalent of the William Wallace speech.
"Because there is a war for the soul of this nation going right now, and we the media are involved -- not as some would like to think, as some kind of passive UN peacekeeping force -- but as a party that is in the acrid smoke of combat, under attack in a manner that's little different from the way that parts of Georgia were overrun by the Russian Army a few weeks ago. And frankly, American newsrooms face a situation that could be described in similar terms to that former Soviet Republic -- nearly defeated, and demoralized, with few if any allies that are willing to come to our aid. And despite the dire situation, most journalists are cruising along toward Nov. 4 as if it's business as usual, and that is what I personally find most alarming."


Remember, they declared war on us for the same reason that anyone declares war: Because they perceive us as weak. And why wouldn't they? Newspapers have gone from cash cows to an ink-stained version of Lehman Brothers in a couple of short years; there are fewer reporters on the campaign trail and fewer reporters at the conventions (it didn't look that way from afar, but my paper, the Daily News, has gone from four to three to two to one reporter since 1996. There are fewer reporters in Washington and, regarding a major issue in the 2008 race, fewer reporters giving a true picture of what's going on Iraq.

At the same time, consider the run-up to Iraq as the war games where the current tactics were proved so effective -- the time when we showed it was more important to let one side, the White House, set the narrative, and tried feebly to balance it with a response way down in the story, rather than trying to investigate what was the truth about Iraq's ties to al-Qaeda or weapons of mass destruction. They know that we can be crushed with our own antiquated rules -- established in a different era, when the Internet didn't exist and when newspapers had a different, monopoly role, and when politics...well, OK, I know it wasn't beanbag, but it wasn't quite the bloodsport it is today, I believe."

So what is our call to arms? Bunch encourages us to use our time-tasted battle arsenal, but also to use the weapons of modern reporting warfare between now and November 4—and beyond.

1) Make fact-checking our number one priority in reporting.

2) Don't be afraid to call a spade a spade and a lie a lie.

3) Don't be compelled to cover either candidates' video press releases as if they were news. Ditto for their families—the good and the bad. If they are deemed off limits, then let it be so.

4) Make truth-telling fun and lively. Think: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

We may lose our livelihood as we know it, but they can't take away our freedom to report! Bloggers, journalists, citizen journalists, editors, freelancers and pundits—UNITE against the tyranny of campaign lies!

Things that make you, "Hmmm"

This little ditty came across the transom from my good friend to the rest of my peeps as we modern working moms try to make sense of what it means to be a woman and a feminist in this election. For your pondering pleasure...

Interesting piece from a NY publication:

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....

* If you grow up in Hawaii , raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."
* Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.
* Name your kids Willow , Trig, Piper and Track, you're a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.
* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.
* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.
* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, left your wife, and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.

* If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.
* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America 's.
* If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA , your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Some Tweets on Palin

I am addicted to Twitter. During Obama's acceptance speech at the DNC, I sat in my family room with my laptop and joined a collection of followers and followees in a shared viewing experience. Son #1 sat next me and said, "So is this like texting for adults."

Yeah, I guess it is, only you're not texting one individual, you're talking to a group of people. While there may be some shared followers, no two Twitterers share the same conversation.

Increasingly, I find myself using it as a place for mini-posts that replace regular longer posts here on Creative Ink. Call me lazy, but sometimes it's just easier to post a pithy 140-character thought than to carve out the time for something longer here. I'm striving for better balance.

Today, I've been reading about Charles Gibson's interview with Gov. Sarah Pallin. Here are the tweets based on what I've read this morning:

In response to WAPO article in which Jill Zimon is quoted about how Palin manages home/family/work:
@Jillmz Nice! Article is interesting and begging for a blog post. WHY do we have to bring up mommy wars?????

Retweeting item by Tracy Zollinger:
Retweeting @tinymantras Wondering if Sarah Palin will be interviewed by any female journalists before the election. Paging Aaron Sorkin: We need an Andrew Shepard moment to refocus campaigns on what really matters. Krugman: "how a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern." What would Bill do? Politico takes a crack: "There is a constituency of people who want their be just as clueless and uninformed as they are."
James Fallows on what Sarah Pallin didn't know: Reason? She was not interested enough.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Creative Ink is on hiatus

In light of aggressive and hostile comments and creepy online activity that I found disturbing, I've chosen to make Creative Ink a private blog for now. I will resume normal posting activity when the matter is resolved.

In the meantime, you can also visit me on Twitter.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

EDGE subcommittee IDs skills and knowledge for future

The state Subcommittee on Education in a Global Environment (EDGE) researched the skills, knowledge and behaviors that businesses believe students will need to be successful in the global economy. Here's the top 10 list posted on Ohio Department of Education list. Public can add feedback here.

Top 10 List of Findings

The following is a Top 10 list of findings from the EDGE subcommittee research
on the most important skills, knowledge and behaviors students will need to
provide Ohio with competitive advantages in the new global economy:

1. Critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and applied knowledge for practical results

2. Mastery of rigorous academic content, especially in literacy, mathematics, and information technologies

3. Innovative and creative thinking, including entrepreneurial skills

4. Communication skills, both oral and written

5. Team learning and work, relationship building, and interpersonal social skills

6. Alignment of education with the needs of economic development, including better communications and cooperation between educators and business people*

7. Personal responsibility, including good work habits, work ethic, knowing how to be flexible and continue learning, and financial literacy

8. Global awareness, languages, and understanding other cultures (including history, economics and geography)

9. Communications and better interfaces between K-12 public education and post-secondary/higher education to make high school graduates better prepared for the next stages of their education and lives*

10. Teacher education, preparation, and professional development to support content mastery and skill development, including applied learning (or problem-based learning) across disciplines in a global context*

*While these items are not necessarily knowledge, skills or behaviors, they were among the top 10 responses and address changes needed in Ohio's education system