Effects Of The Recession On A Small Town

Businesses have gone down, expenses have gone up, and people everywhere are losing their jobs. The effects of the recession can be felt just about anywhere. For some it’s worse than others. Even with aid, many still face turmoil for years to come.

In Scott Pelley’s 60 minutes segment “Wilmington, Ohio, the long recession,” he dives into the lives of the people of a town where the recession has hit hard.

One year prior Pelley visited Wilmington and spoke about how the closing of the largest employer in town affected the people who lived there. When DHL Express shut down its domestic delievery service, 10,000 people lost their jobs. Now, the town is still struggling to stay on its feet. As reporters we are asked to focus on a single story, but with 12 minutes Pelley had the ability to cover an entire town.

With economic stories overwhelming the news, I felt this was a unique story that looked at the whole of things, not just one little part of how the recession is affecting people. Pelley spoke with a number of people including the mayor of the town, a woman who has jumped from one small job to another, a woman who lost her job who now helps out in a soup kitchen, and a doctor who opened a pediatric clinic that helped more than 2,000 patients from poor families. The clinic, now closed, served many chronically ill patients who weren’t accepted anywhere else.

I found it interesting how Pelley began the story. He brought the viewer into the reality of what was happening in Wilmington by showing and telling that 59 houses in Wilmington were being foreclosed and auctioned off. Quickly afterwards he talked with Jim Curtis, a man whose house is one of them. Curtis worked at DHL Express for 24 years until he lost his job. Instantly the emotions are felt when the man’s eyes fill with tears and he says, "I let my family down…I've always been kind of taught to stand on my own two feet and that I've responsible for taking care of 'em, and it's tough on us."

Although I didn’t feel as if the story was a really good story, I do feel it was put together well. Pelley let his sound bites tell the emotion in the story. In one instance he speaks with a woman who can't afford both life insurance and health insurance. The woman's husband passed away from cancer and she was struggling to bring in income for her and her 13-year-old daughter. The woman breaks down and cries, explaining she is more concerned about her daughter having a place to live if something should happen to her than she is concerned about her own health.

Pelley also breaks up his narration every few sentences with nat sound. He introduced the viewer into the story with nat sound of the man auctioning off the houses. In many of the shots, action was usually shown with reaction. The only few edits I found distracting were a few pans and pop cuts.

In terms of interviewing his subjects, I’m not the fondest of Pelley. Although he is able to draw emotions from his interviewees, I feel like he states a fact and expects them to respond. It never seems like he asks open ended questions to give his subjects a chance to express how they truly feel. They only have a chance to respond to his statement. He comes off as very forceful with his subjects. This can be good and bad. It may cause his sources to close up and not share their emotions, but it can also challenge the subject to say what they really feel.

This story opened my eyes to how much the recession is really affecting some towns. I see it everywhere, but by getting an insight into the personal lives of many who are struggling made me sad. Pelley tries to end the story with an uplifting sentence, but it only made me feel worse, wondering how he could try and end a story with something so uplifting when clearly there is no hope in sight for these families. I appreciated his effort to make the audience feel better, but I feel a story should be told like it is. And for the town of Wilmington, Oh., 10,000 people are out of jobs. Forty percent of those who have lost their jobs have been out of work for six months or more. Schools are cutting a million dollars from their budget, the hospital is losing millions, and workers who once had insurance are now becoming “charity cases”. Hope could be in sight, but not for many years to come. In a year maybe Pelley can do another follow up and give the audience a chance to watch a long-term story really unfold. This would give us the best sense of how the recession is hitting one town hard.


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