It’s the economy, stupid. That’s what Tom Warhover told us, quoting Bill Clinton’s winning mantra, when we started at the Missourian during the summer of 2009. Every story relates to it in some way, he said.
Apparently, we listened. A year and a half later (and wiser), we’re proud to say a group of students from every corner the Missouri School of Journalism spent a year on that issue alone and told the stories of mid-Missourians forced to adapt to a changing economy. It’s an important story, and one that’s under-reported in our community.
Project 573 is a multimedia (audio, video, photo, graphics, games, text, etc.) website that tells the stories of people responding to issues such as unemployment, the housing crisis, industry shifts and everyday struggles such as paying their bills. It’s led by students, reported by students and produced by students who have roots in different community newsrooms such as KBIA, KOMU and the Missourian. With time, excitement and naivete on our side, we launched Project 573 as a way to unearth intimate stories that take time to uncover.
Reporting for the project is finished now; we’ve graduated. But we feel we have a handle on how the area has responded to the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
A town that some thought recession-proof, Columbia fared rather well compared to the rest of the nation, but the effects of the economic downturn are still wide-ranging. Unemployment numbers have risen significantly, foreclosures hit an all-time high in 2010 and pocketbooks took a hit. Outside of Columbia, the picture’s bleaker. Project 573 sought to put mid-Missouri’s economic struggles in perspective with that national scene.
It’s been a tough process, but it’s been heartening at the same time to see how mid-Missourians have responded to the recession. The communities have proven resilient and the people are creative.
We set out to do a project about adaptation, and that’s just what we found. Along the way, we met a woman who struggled after losing her job of 14 years, learned about Brick City’s return and explored a trout farm now run by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, among other stories.
After more than three months reporting in the field on the Great Recession, we think Project 573 serves as a snapshot or a postcard from the present.
Take a look at project573.com and let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @project_573 or find us on Facebook. We’re grateful to be able to tell this community’s stories and hope they resonate with you, dear reader.
— Evan Bush and Adam Falk, Co-Executive Editors of Project 573