In difficult times, it can be tempting to want to hide under your bed covers until it’s safe again. For Stacey Vanek Smith ’99, co-host of “The Indicator” podcast from National Public Radio’s Planet Money, throwing a comforter over her head has literally become part of her daily routine during the current COVID-19 crisis.

Since the pandemic slammed into New York City, forcing most residents to work from home, Vanek Smith, who’s been an audio journalist covering the economy for 17 years and joined Planet Money in 2014, has continued recording her portions of the podcast from her Brooklyn apartment. She has experimented with a variety of jerry-rigged arrangements and discovered that snuggling underneath her comforter muffled any recording echo and provided decent acoustics. Since setting up her cozy, DIY soundbooth on March 11, Vanek Smith has delivered 24 new episodes, and there’s no chance of slowing down.

“We’re an economics podcast and if we don’t broadcast now, then why do we exist?” she said. “There’s unemployment, there’s healthcare, there’s a million small businesses who are desperate for money. It almost feels like the stories are choosing themselves. But we can only cover one a day. Things are changing so fast that just keeping up is the challenge right now.”

In the last week, Vanek Smith and her team (co-host Cardiff Garcia, two producers, an editor and an intern) released new episodes that examined ongoing trade wars, the gig economy, and the lessons of the deadly 1918 flu outbreak. Listeners seem to be hungry for the timely content: Vanek Smith said downloads of “The Indicator” are up about 57 percent compared to last year and around 10 percent from just last month.

Vanek Smith has adjusted to her new workplace, but she definitely feels restricted. “I feel like I’m reporting from a bubble, and professionally, that’s a really hard thing,” she said. “I want to be out in the field. Like, I really want to go to an emergency room right now. But I can’t. That’s not responsible.”

For now, she’ll settle for a slightly less suffocative workplace. Last weekend, she upgraded her home studio. “I finally cleared out a closet and made a little makeshift studio out of a food tray and a blanket that I nailed to the wall,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going back to [the office] anytime soon, and like everyone else, we just have to figure this out. Because we’re still sort of in the thick of it.”

To subscribe or listen to “The Indicator” podcast, visit NPR.

Maggie Zhang and Daniel He

Alumni create online directory to support local businesses

Mar 30, 2020 Community

Maggie Zhang ’16 and Daniel He ’16 recognize that small businesses are the heart of our communities — and the most susceptible to the economic effects of the pandemic. To help those businesses survive, they created Local for Later, an online directory to promote local businesses through gift cards. they wrote on their site, which has grown to include 11 U.S. cities.

Each city’s list is made up of businesses submitted by users, and includes restaurants, shops, and activities like theaters and tour companies.

See the lists and add your favorite here.

Messages to #VirtualPrincetonU

Princeton Faculty Members Send Greetings As Classes Go Virtual

Mar 26, 2020 Community , Education

No one has all the answers about what comes next, not even Princeton faculty. But as Princeton shifted to virtual learning during the COVID-19 outbreak, professors from across disciplines sent warm video reassurance that their mission remained the same, and that Princeton is wherever you are.

#TellUsTigers Q&A: Tanesha Brown, nurse manager, University Health Services

#TellUsTigers Q&A: Tanesha Brown, nurse manager, University Health Services

Mar 20, 2020 Community , Health Care

Tanesha Brown, the nurse manager at University Health Services, is a critical member of the University’s coronavirus preparedness team, working with a broad range of departments and colleagues across campus. She reflects on addressing the fear of the unknown, how she practices self-care and the most important things she wants people to know during the coronavirus crisis. Read more …