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Hey, How'd You Reinvent Business Reporting, Planet Money?

This NPR team parses global economic gobbledygook into accessible podcasts, blog posts and tweets

- June 1, 2009
This American Life broke the mold on business reporting a year ago when it aired an hour-long documentary on the normally snooze-inducing (at least back then) topic of the housing crisis. "The Giant Pool of Money," a collaboration between TAL producer Alex Blumberg and NPR business reporter Adam Davidson, became a podcast hit long after the broadcast was over, as tens of thousands of people downloaded it to sort out why banks loaned money to people with little or no income and why that strategy was now dragging down the wider economy.

The duo's plain-talking, we-don't-really-get-this-any-better-than-you-do style of reporting became the foundation for a new NPR unit: Planet Money, a team of seven reporters and editors (including Blumberg and Davidson), whose mission is to help regular folks understand the economic gobbledygook being spewed out by government officials, financial bigwigs, and (some) mainstream reporters.

Their accessible style isn't their only novel take. The team is re-imagining how news should be delivered. Instead of limiting themselves to traditional radio broadcasts, Planet Money is experimenting with new ways of gathering and disseminating information. In addition to radio news segments, they do a thrice-weekly podcast (with over a million downloads every month); they post charts, graphs, and other extras to a blog; they contribute text-based stories to NPR.com; and they host a Facebook group and chat on Twitter, both of which have enabled them to build relationships with thousands of listeners -- and sources -- all around the world.

The approach is having results: The podcast is regularly in iTunes' Top 10, Blumberg and Davidson recently walked away with a Polk Award, and "The Giant Pool of Money" won a Peabody. (And if that's not enough, "The Giant Pool of Money" made such an impact that it even has its own Wikipedia page.)

mediabistro.com caught up with Planet Money editor Laura Conaway to learn how this scrappy team got people to start paying attention to business news again....

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