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Help Wanted: Stories of Unemployment

August 17, 2011

In an effort to highlight the people behind the numbers associated with the economic recession, The Washington Post is offering the longtime unemployed an opportunity to share their stories directly with readers.

“Help Wanted: Stories of Unemployment” is powered by six unemployment-affected families and produced by The Post’s Business section and Interactivity team. Throughout the summer of 2011, members of the families are posting their experiences as they struggle to pay the bill, preserve relationships and maintain hope for the future in Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, California, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

How does this feature work?

It started with a Google form, which asked anybody impacted in any way by unemployment to answer a few questions. More than 250 people responded. We gauged the interest of those with the most compelling stories and eventually selected six contributors. We made diversity – by location, gender, race, length of unemployment, former occupation, socioeconomic status, family situation, political preference and more – a priority.

As the project continues, we’re in frequent communication with the contributors and occasionally suggest topics, but ultimately the contributors write whatever they want and have the power to post directly to the site. We ensure the content meets our standards and do minor editing.

The project has already drawn some media attention. MSNBC’s Jansing and Co. found the project and contacted one of the contributors to interview him on air. NPR’s On Point did an hourlong segment with two of the other contributors. Meanwhile, several people have contacted us with advice and job leads. Always eager to engage a captive audience, we’re still leveraging that initial list of respondents through the “More Voices” section of the project. Each week, we send an email to the respondents, along with others who have completed the Google form since the project began, with a question and instructions for submitting an audio response. The best answers are featured on the website.

We’re still looking to add new elements to the project. If you have any ideas for new ways to show the impact of unemployment, please let us know.

Brian Rosenthal / Interactivity Producer



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