Past Teletraining- Inflation and food costs: Telling impactful stories

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Inflation and food costs: Telling impactful stories

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fluctuating prices for food and other commodities have raised concerns about higher costs for consumers and businesses. This session gave journalists the tools they need to report on these impacts during the crucial North American growing season. Bureau of Labor Statistics economists  helped participants learn to track down accurate price information online and put it into context. Other topics  included how to find the “why” behind big price moves and which sources are readily available (regionally and nationally) to help journalists; how to report on the impacts of commodity price movements on consumers, industries, the nation and the world; and how to bring otherwise dry economic stories to life.

Listen to the call: Computer Link

Moderator:

Greg McCune, Associated Press

Greg McCune is a former president of SABEW who has been a business journalist, newsroom manager, writer and teacher in his long career. Currently a copy editor at the Associated Press in Chicago and journalism instructor at Northwestern University’s Medill journalism school, he previously held eight different reporting, editing and training roles during a three-decade career with Reuters. They included Midwest General News Editor, Training Editor, Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Bureau Chief and Canada Chief Correspondent. He began his career as a commodities and agriculture reporter and has covered a host of issues from international trade to commodity markets and statistics.

Panelists:

Marilyn Geewax, NPR

Marilyn Geewax is a senior editor, assigning and editing business radio stories. She also serves as the national economics correspondent for the NPR web site, and regularly discusses economic issues onTell Me More and Here & Now. Her work contributed to NPR’s 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award for hard news for “The Foreclosure Nightmare.” Geewax also worked on the foreclosure-crisis coverage that was recognized with a 2009 Heywood Broun Award.

Before joining NPR in 2008, Geewax served as the national economics correspondent for Cox Newspapers’ Washington Bureau. Before that, she worked at Cox’s flagship paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, first as a business reporter and then as a columnist and editorial board member. She got her start as a reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal. Over the years, she has filed business news stories from China, Japan, South Africa and Europe. Just this June, she went to Europe on the RIAS 2014 German/American Journalist Exchange Program.

Geewax was a 1994-95 Nieman Fellow at Harvard, where she studied economics and international relations. She earned a master’s degree at Georgetown University, focusing on international economic affairs, and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University.

Steve Reed, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steve Reed is an economist in the Information and Analysis section of the Consumer Price Index Program at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. His duties include writing the monthly press release, answering questions about the CPI from the press and other users, and research and analysis of the CPI and related issues. Steve has been at the Bureau since 1998. He received a B.A. in Economics from the College of William and Mary and a M.A. in Economics from the University of Maryland.

Perry Tsay, BLS Consumer Price Index Program

Perry Tsay is an economist in the Food section of the Consumer Price Index Program at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. His duties include reviewing and analyzing data for a broad range of food items, with a primary focus on the Other Foods and the Food Away From Home components of the CPI. Perry has been at the Bureau since the fall of 2006. He received a B.A. in Economics and in Geography from Rutgers University.

Food and Inflation Links

The CPI databases pagehttp://www.bls.gov/cpi/data.htm

Change in food prices, compiled by USDA and Economic Research Service.

Includes forecasts for the year aheadhttp://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook.aspx

The FAQ page, a good general reference: http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpifaq.htm

Chapter 17, a more technical overview of CPI history and methods: http://www.bls.gov/opub/hom/pdf/homch17.pdf

Regional consumer price index news releases: http://www.bls.gov/regions/cpi.asp

And finally a page discussing and refuting misconceptions about the CPI: http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpiqa.htm

Tip Sheet and links provided by Marilyn Geewax…

If you want to cover food prices, you should keep an eye on at least four broader issues as well:

1)      Geopolitical tensions – Relations with other countries can have an impact on grocery bills. The US-Russian tit-for-tat sanctions provide a good example. Russia is blocking U.S. beef, and will instead buy from Brazil – so maybe that will turn out to be GOOD for U.S. consumers who will enjoy lower prices from having more beef kept in this country. But will it hurt U.S. cattlemen in the long run?http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/08/09/how-russian-ban-on-u-s-e-u-food-could-turn-into-a-windfall-for-brazil

2)      Climate change – Changing weather patterns may have a big impact on food prices. Climate change might hurt some harvests – thanks to too much drought or too much rain. But this year, grain harvests are huge. The UN says food prices are falling worldwide. Don’t make assumptions! Longer growing season from warmer weather may provide more food. This story may hold my  surprises; keep an open mind and use reliable sources. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2014/08/11/world-food-prices/13913193

3)      Trade policy – At this moment, the US Trade Representative’s office  is negotiating to close two immense trade deals – one with the EU and the other with Asian nations. All of the negotiations could have a huge impact on U.S. agriculture. Completion of either deal could open up major new markets for U.S. farmers. http://www.ustr.gov/tpp and http://www.ustr.gov/ttip

4)      Disease – Everything from citrus canker to mad-cow disease can affect food prices.

Additional Links

Food Additives on the Rise as FDA Scrutiny Wanes, The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/food-additives-on-the-rise-as-fda-scrutiny-wanes/2014/08/17/828e9bf8-1cb2-11e4-ab7b-696c295ddfd1_story.html

The Only Food the Poor Americans Can Afford is Making Them Unhealthy on Quartz.com:  http://qz.com/251202/the-only-food-that-poor-americans-can-afford-is-making-them-unhealthy/#251202/the-only-food-that-poor-americans-can-afford-is-making-them-unhealthy/

U.S. Farmers are Up to Their Ears in Corn, Wall Street Journal and WSJ.com: http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-farmers-are-up-to-their-ears-in-corn-1408318910

For more information on “Inflation and food costs: Telling impactful stories,” contact Mary Jane Pardue, mjpardue@missouristate.edu/ 417-836-8834 or Kimberly Quillen at kimberlyquillen@arizonarepublic.com/ 602-444-8280.

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