Saturday, March 28, 2009

Region's jobless rate up sharply: District reaches nearly 10 percent

Region's jobless rate up sharply: District reaches nearly 10 percent
*Place cursor over hyperlinked text above. This leads to the original story.

The nation's unemployment rate is rising rapidly in this unstable economy, but that is not what makes this story newsworthy. Rather, Washington Post writer V. Dion Haynes assumes that the readers know about the economic crisis and that the repercussions include joblessness. Haynes goes ahead and presents new information, creating a dimension of timeliness in this article. The news from this reporter's angle is that government data released yesterday shows D.C.'s unemployment rate rising to nearly 10 percent. More specifically, from January 2009 to the data's last collected date, D.C.'s unemployment rate leaped from 9.2 to 9.8 percent. Notice how in the first paragraph the writer says "nearly 10 percent" instead of "9.8 percent" to make the summary lead more reader friendly.

In paragraph 2, the writer creates an element of interest to tie in with the lead. Oddly enough, D.C. has a higher unemployment rate than the national average, despite the fact that this area has a growing federal workforce, meaning more job opportunities. The writer goes on to explain that D.C. receives added protection from the economic crisis and mentions that a total of 5,000 federal and 3,000 state jobs were created within the past year. Haynes does a good job of explaining this detail for people outside of D.C. who wouldn't quite grasp why it's surprising that the unemployment rate is skyrocketing in D.C. The reporter shows that despite the District's added advantages, people in this area are still losing jobs and uses some statistical evidence to support that point. However, too many figures can dry up a news story. Here Haynes finds a fair balance between numbers and a verbal explanation. The reporter does a good job of choosing only the relevant data and inserts them into the story to give the readers a tangible idea of the facts. Then the writer let's the sources do the rest of the talking.

Financial experts are saying their predictions were miscalculated when they thought it would take until at least 2010 for joblessness to rise to 10 percent. This mismatch of predictions gets readers curious about exactly how experts are coming up with the figures and whether they can believe them. The fact that officials could be wrong creates a dramatic element in this piece. Also, the story touches upon the issue of rapidly increasing unemployment rates of African Americans, creating an issue of race tension. Source Anirban Basu does point to the fact that African Americans are the first to be laid off and last to be rehired, but the writer finds a balance by reporting that D.C. has a higher number of undereducated and low-skilled residents as a population. By combining information about the general scope of the population, there is less tendency to magnify the attention on one ethnic group. What the reporter could've done was interviewed people who were laid off, including Caucasians, Asians and African Americans. That would be another way to see the full scope of unemployment and not point fingers at any singular ethnicity.
This article has multiple dimensions, and it's definitely a piece that elicits readers' reactions. The writer talks to a number of good sources, and the facts and figures speak for themselves. It's unfortunate that even with the creation of new jobs, less and less people are equipped with the skills to perform the work. I would definitely want to see if the writer does a follow up on this issue of unemployment and goes into more depths with the dimensions that the reporter touched upon in this piece.


  1. I agree with your assessment. I feel this story could have just been another "boring" piece about the economy (because, let's face, it, after hearing so much it feels overplayed), but the writer really did a good job just organizing the information and getting people thinking.

  2. I agree with Jill– you have a good analysis of the article. However, maybe I'm missing this, but I don't really see how it relates to education.