The public radio program Marketplace deals with some pretty complicated issues — sometimes too complex to be summarized in a minute or two of airtime. So senior editor Paddy Hirsch is making a series of short videos explaining difficult concepts: naked shorts, credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, and so on. They’re really quite clear (via Marginal Revolution):
The current financial crisis has really brought out the best in explanatory journalism. This American Life has been justly praised for its two programs that, straightforwardly and using their standard storytelling toolkit, explained to millions why the economy was going in the tank. And while those episodes were done up the This American Life’s standard production values, anyone could do what Marketplace is doing here. Their videos are almost no-tech: no editing, one camera, and no prop more expensive than a dry-erase board.
What complicated stories in your newsroom could best be told this way? At my old newspaper, there’s been an ongoing and years-long bribery scandal at city hall. I paid more attention to it than most Dallasites, I imagine, but I still couldn’t sum up the issues and accusations as easily as I can explain why the credit default swaps market tanked, thanks to This American Life. The next time you’re covering a complex, interwoven story, the kind that stretches for months, think about shooting an explainer video that captures how you would explain the story to a buddy at a bar.