It's curious, to say the least, that an established, award-winning White House correspondent would leave his post to anchor a business show centered in Long Beach. But 43-year-old radio journalist Jim Angle believes that his transition from covering politics to covering economics is a reflection of the growing importance of business news in world affairs.
"Now, much more than any time in the past, economic reforms are leading and pulling along political reforms," he said. "Some even believe that the reason apartheid is ending, or beginning to end, is because of the economic necessity. You can't oppress a people and expect them to be a productive force in the economy. . . . For the first time, at least in my lifetime, economic forces (rather than political forces) are dominating and shaping our lives and our country."
Angle was hired away from National Public Radio in June to replace Michael Creedman as anchor of American Public Radio's fast-growing "Marketplace"--a national business show that will move from Long Beach to the USC campus on Labor Day weekend.
An example of the impact of economic issues is the current crisis in the Middle East. Angle points out that the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was economically motivated--and economically frightening as well.
"The power of economic issues over our lives has been painfully demonstrated over the last few days," he said. "Due to the acts of one ruthless man, over the last few days we've looked into the abyss of economic ruin. One of the points we've tried to make this (past) week is that oil is the heroin of industrialized society, and just the thought, just the fear that we wouldn't have as much as we could consume sent the entire industrialized world into a full-scale panic. We learned how vulnerable we were to economic changes we have very little control over."
Angle said that he is as pleased with his new job as he was with his old.
"I've been very fortunate," he said. "I covered the Reagan White House when he was on top of the world and when he fell from the top of the world with the Iran-Contra affair. In both cases, there are some days where you're just going to work, and there are some days where you're going, 'I'm witnessing history here.' . . . I was very fortunate, and now I feel the same way about 'Marketplace.' "
The 19-month-old show, produced weekdays by KUSC Radio and distributed nationwide by satellite, was recently lauded as the best business program on the air by the Columbia Journalism Review. According to executive producer Jim Russell, "Marketplace" has expanded from its initial 77 stations to 120, and now reaches an estimated 1.2 million listeners over the course of a week.
Russell said the program is targeted at the same type of audience that listens to NPR, and on many stations it follows NPR's "All Things Considered," one of two shows where Angle was previously heard.
The reputation he developed there has helped "Marketplace."
"Since word of him coming on (got out), stations in Denver, Pittsburgh and Memphis have added the show, and Houston is coming on in September, which pivoted entirely on Angle," Russell said. "In addition, he has credibility with the NPR audience, and some listeners have heard the show and said, 'I thought I was listening to NPR.' "
Angle started his radio career in 1975 by hosting a weekly radio program on Latin American issues, reaching 155 stations, as part of his duties as a senior staff member at the University of Texas' Institute of Latin American Studies. He began free-lancing for NPR the following year and then joined the staff full-time in 1981. He spent six years on the White House beat.
According to Angle, the "Marketplace" philosophy is that "economic issues are too important to be left to just economists." In other words, he said, the problem with most business shows is that they are aimed solely at investors.
"We try to combine two things: a sophisticated analysis of what is happening in the world and the economy, presented in a down-home way," he said. "For instance, we did a story on how much higher (than earlier thought) the budget deficit was, and that can be the driest type of business story. But we opened it up with a quote from (poet) E.E. Cummings, 'I'm living so far beyond my means that we may almost be said to be living apart'--(and then told the audience) that's what budget director Richard Darman said today. . . . You just have to point out the impact, and not be afraid to have a little fun in the meantime."
Angle keeps "involved up to (his) eyeballs" at "Marketplace," working 10 to 12 hours a day. It's a pace to which he is accustomed. At NPR, he was the sole White House correspondent for both "All Things Considered" and "Morning Report," and worked 14-hour days with 15-minute breaks for microwave dinners for several years.
"I have no family," he said, "and that schedule is largely why. . . . If you just listen to public radio and watch Cable News Network, that's two full-time jobs right there. There's so much information out there; I can barely keep up with it, and I do it for a living."
Angle's quest is to present a concise, even-handed distillation of this wealth of information.
"I have very strong feelings about the role the journalist has in explaining things to people," he said. "They want to know what you know. They want to know what you have learned on their behalf, going through a thousand pieces of information, and they want that presented to them, without deciding for them what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad. My philosophy is (that) the listener has the right to make that decision for himself."
Angle can be heard hosting "Marketplace" weekdays at 3:30 p.m. on KCRW-FM (89.9), and at 6 p.m. on KUSC-FM (91.5) and KLON-FM (88.1).