Hard Times: an ongoing column by Travis Fox on washingtonpost.com

13Oct08

i found this today, and plan on keeping up-to-date with the stories produced.

Hard Times:  Travis Fox crosses the country to see how Americans are coping with the economic downturn.

while in Missouri (more posts to come on the trip, i promise), i thought about how weird it was that hardly anyone was talking about the financial meltdown happening on Wall Street.  keep in mind, this was when it first happened, so you’d think everyone would be a bit concerned.  when i realized that we were in a tiny vacuum out in St. James, i started to wonder when it will begin affecting the residents there and just how bad it could be.

i wrote Travis Fox this email (hopefully it’s coherent – it’s hard to compose in the small window on the washingtonpost.com’s “write to us” page) with hopes that maybe he’ll be able to find some stories in communities similar to St. James.  adding the point of view of some of our most remote and poverty-stricken citizens may add a unique and touching depth to his journey across the country.  (also, i passed on explaining the Missouri Photo Workshop – his bio said he graduate from University of Missouri’s Journalism school, the main sponsor of the program.)

Travis,

Coming fresh off the Missouri Photo Workshop (and invigorated about telling visual stories), I think this road trip project is a fantastic idea.

One thing I noticed while in St. James, Missouri three weeks ago was the lack of ‘outside’ news.  I was there during the initial crash and announcements of the $700 billion bailouts, and yet most people at the diner in the morning were more concerned with what to order and who they saw talking together the other day.  The experience felt quite isolating, and I wondered how long it would take for the residents of small town Missouri to start to worry.

But even without the concerns about the downturn in the economy, I found there were people living in town who could just barely scrape by.  The difference of $50 a month could mean moving from a trailer to a rented house, and that small amount was just too much to spare.  Children were being sent home from school with backpacks full of donated food for the weekends out of concern that their families could not provide adequate, or any, meals.

It might be interesting for your column to see how the economy is (or is not yet) affecting these small towns in middle America full of residents straddling the poverty line.  The talk has been about how it will affect ‘Main Street,’ but from what I saw, it hadn’t reached the center of the country yet. When it does, what will it do to those families already hurting?

Again, thank you for taking on this adventure and telling these stories that may not otherwise be told.

Safe travels!

– Erin Schwartz
erincarly@gmail.com
(a MPW.60 participant)

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One Response to “Hard Times: an ongoing column by Travis Fox on washingtonpost.com”

  1. 1 SteveB

    Good letter — I think it’s pretty odd, because people here are almost watching the financial news like a sporting event. People shrug and move on. There’s no sign that it effects them.

    When gas got >$4/gal, people began changing their activities, but there hasn’t been more (or less) indications of jobs getting cut or businesses struggling since the bail-out.

    Of course, it may take more time to move from the financial sector to other areas of the economy.


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