Posts Tagged Facing the Mortgage Crisis
On a rainy July evening, I am perched on a stool in the control room of WYSO, an NPR station with a 52-year history in Yellow Springs, Ohio. A staff of nine operates from the lower level of a building on the campus of Antioch University, a college that closed its doors two years ago and is struggling to re-open.
Across the room is station manager Neenah Ellis, a twenty-year veteran of NPR in Washington, who took over WYSO last February. Ellis is preparing to manage the phones for a 7:00 p.m. call-in show, the last of three in a project called “My Home: Facing the Mortgage Crisis,” a programming initiative that has WYSO collaborating with ThinkTV in nearby Dayton and the Dayton Daily News.
In the studio is the evening’s moderator, Emily McCord, a reporter and local host of All Things Considered, who has recently returned from NPR’s Economic Training Project in Culver City, California. Joining McCord to answer the phone calls they hope will come are three expert guests. Beth Deutscher is executive director of the Home Ownership Center of Greater Dayton. Professor Richard Stock is Director of the Business Research Group at the University of Dayton. Willis Blackshear is the Montgomery County Recorder.
WYSO serves the portion of west-central Ohio that includes Yellow Springs, Dayton and Springfield, an area designated by the Treasury Department as among those critically affected by the mortgage crisis. When Willis Blackshear took over duties as director of the office where all mortgages in the county are registered, he discovered that Dayton ranked #2 in the state of Ohio in foreclosures.
Since then, plagued by plant closings, rising unemployment and mortgage failures, the recession has tightened its grip on this part of Ohio. “We’re looking at 2013 for this to clear up,” says Willis Blackshear.
Richard Stock, who studies the impact on commercial as well as residential lending adds, “The rate of foreclosures is now 10-times as great as the early 1990′s. Three more years is a frightening thought.”
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Let’s roll back the tape for a moment. For personal reasons I found myself spending several weeks this summer in Yellow Springs, getting my daily dose of NPR from WYSO. Hearing from the local experts who gather in the coffee shops of this village and listening to the station promos for the upcoming series, “Facing the Mortgage Crisis,” I decided I wanted a little more background, so I asked Neenah Ellis if I could come by for a visit.
“This is our Katrina,” Ellis told me. The problem is larger in this area than elsewhere and larger than generally perceived, she explained, also difficult for both the public and the people trapped in it to understand. To cover the story properly WYOS needed to find a way to immerse the staff and the station in the problem. The solution came in a grant from CPB.
In the summer of 2008, CPB made a pilot grant to cover the mortgage crisis to KETC in St. Louis. “They retooled the station to make themselves more community-centric, created a package of “lessons learned” and put it online,” says Lynda Clarke, CPB’s overall project manager.
In an effort to make the project national, CPB then looked at U.S. Treasury Department reports on top foreclosure markets in the country and developed a grants program. “We sent out a limited request for proposals (RPF),” explains Clarke. “You’re in a market we want to cover, we said, and we urged stations to collaborate with other media to extend their reach.”
During this time of economic crisis, public media is able to provide trusted information to the nation. 76 public TV and radio stations are doing this locally in 32 markets, and nationally programs like NewsHour are reporting on economic matters as well.
Check out NewsHour’s Making Sen$e–a guide to the economy that features videos, interactive games, and explanations of different economic aspects. This is another great example of what public media is doing to face the mortgage, and the broader financial, crisis.
One of our partners in this initiative is United Way and their 2-1-1 Referral Service—their partnership has been invaluable during Facing the Mortgage Crisis, because 2-1-1 is able to directly connect people to trusted resources. What’s interesting is that coverage varies in the country—some communities have just one call center, some have none, and others have several.
Through their work on Facing the Mortgage Crisis, stations have already seen their impact, not only on their communities, but on organizations that provide resources—from working with and uniting multiple 2-1-1 call centers, to connecting a new demographic to 2-1-1’s resources, the work of public media can be seen.
WVIZ/ideastream in Cleveland has created a strong partnership with their local 2-1-1 service—their United Way office noted a significant jump in calls once ideastream’s initiative began. They also noticed a new group of people calling into 2-1-1, suggesting that ideastream’s work had cast a web of resources further into Cleveland and its surrounding areas.
For this initiative, KERA in Dallas is working with its 13 local call centers. To help coordinate activities and logistics, KERA set up weekly conference calls with the centers. KERA’s coordination efforts have made working with several call centers possible, so 2-1-1 in the Dallas area can connect as many people as possible to the resources they need.
So what’s the moral of the story? The resources are out there–fantastic organizations like United Way help connect people to trusted resources in the community. But sometimes a connector, a convener, is needed in order to get the word out to as many people as possible–in this case, for this initiative, public media is helping connect more people to organizations like United Way.
How are we going to face the mortgage crisis? How are we going to keep the homes that can be saved? How are we going to give people who have lost their jobs and homes the hope to rebuild their lives? How are we going to protect communities that are full of foreclosed homes from disintegrating?
In the 1930′s the New Deal was the project of hope for millions of Americans. The heart of the New Deal was that the government facilitated the creation or work and opportunity for people. I think that there is a new “New Deal” on the horizon in our time. A New Deal where local communities facilitate their own help, their own opportunity and in the end maybe even their own work for people. Central to this new community and local effort is your local public TV or radio station.
Last year, one TV station, in one market – St Louis’s KETC - was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to try an experiment. To see if a public TV station could offer this kind of help. We found out that we could. We did this by helping the helpers and by working to change the story of the crisis.
We discovered that we could help the “Helping” organizations in our city come together as a powerful platform of advice and support. We discovered that we could help the people who were most affected get the confidence and the information to reach out to help that they could trust. We discovered that we could help start to create hope. Real hope. Hope that people were not alone, not helpless, not to blame and that they had easy access to help that they can trust. We discovered that we could change the prevailing story that help was out there to a new story – that we ourselves could be the help.
But we were just one station in one city. In the scheme of things we were an interesting anecdote. How could the wider story in America become one where people could realistically experience and hence know that they had the answers in their own hands? How could we do that?
Of course the answer to that question has to be that we needed more stations and more cities to take up this work. So CPB has brought together 76 stations in 32 of the hardest hit cities to expand on this idea of helping the helping organizations get together and in reaching out to people and helping them connect safely to this help.
View Facing the Mortgage Crisis Applicants in a larger map
Here they are. You can find them in this map. If you expand the view, the Google Map Page will open and you can see the names and the contact information on the legend. As the project moves forward, each station will add your local resources to the map. In time we will have a map showing the growing platform of help across America.
One of the ways you can also identify if your station is involved is that they will be using branding that looks like this:
Here is how WDET is using this brand on its home page:
Just as Intel co brand with PC makers, so CPB is co branding the “Facing the Mortgage Crisis” project with your stations own brand.
Our hope is that if we can make this story of self help big enough that it will become the new normal. We hope that a national networked effort by Public TV and Radio stations might bring back a very old American idea of the community working together to do important things for each other.
So when you see this brand – this is what it is all about.