scorecardHow self-proclaimed 'Fed geek' Ben Winck covers the economy without getting whiplash
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How self-proclaimed 'Fed geek' Ben Winck covers the economy without getting whiplash

Sarah Belle Lin   

How self-proclaimed 'Fed geek' Ben Winck covers the economy without getting whiplash
PolicyPolicy4 min read
Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Insider economy reporter Ben Winck in front of a purple background
Insider economy reporter Ben Winck is a self-proclaimed "Fed geek" covering market action and economic data.      Hollis Johnson/Insider
  • Business Insider is taking you behind the scenes of the best stories in our series "The Inside Story."
  • It's an in-depth look at how these stories came together and a peek inside the reporter's notebook.
  • Reporter Ben Winck talks to Sarah Belle Lin about being a "Fed geek" and how his work has influenced his spending habits.

Sarah Belle Lin: You write about the economy, including the hottest topics right now like inflation, the crazy housing market, and climbing gas prices. How did you get started on this beat?

Ben Winck: I covered financial markets when I started at Insider, and lots of the market action I covered was powered by new economic data, Federal Reserve actions, or legislation making its way through Congress. That sparked my interest in covering those topics. I expanded my beat through 2019 and 2020 to include the Fed, economic data, and some economic policy coverage. Once the economy team was created in early 2021, I made the jump and have been focusing more on those topics ever since.

Lin: You talk to experts on both sides of the recession debate. So what do you think, is a US recession inevitable?

Winck: I definitely don't think a recession is inevitable. Yes, there are several factors that could plunge the country into a downturn sometime in 2023, and a growing number of economists see a recession as increasingly likely. Yet I still believe there's a decent chance that the Federal Reserve can bring inflation lower without tanking the economy. Much of it relies on factors the Fed can't control like tangled supply chains, but I think it's possible! Then again I've always erred on the optimistic side.

Lin: You've reported about how renters of color spend hundreds more on average than white renters. How and when do you try to incorporate race in your reporting?

Winck: Knowing how uneven the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis was, I felt that I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't cover the disparities of today's recovery. It's easy to say that the country has fully healed when you only look at the privileged groups that are likely to rebound the fastest. I need to consider all perspectives and the structural disadvantages in our economy if I'm going to accurately cover the economy as it exists today. I also like to think that by calling out racial, gender, and socioeconomic inequities, I can help educate readers about how many parts of our economy aren't equal playing fields.

Lin: What topics have been the most challenging to report on? How did you work through them?

Winck: Everyone on my team knows I'm a massive Fed geek. I absolutely love covering central banks and monetary policy, but it can be difficult to explain how a slight change in Jerome Powell's remarks or quantitative tightening affects the everyday American. The best Fed stories are those that balance insight with accessibility, and it can be a challenge to nail that mix. Finding the right sources for those topics can be tough as well, as I've had several interviews that just turn into a source talking about what they would do if they ran the Fed.

Lin: Walk us through a day in your work life (be they one of the busier ones or typical ones).

Winck: Many of my days start right at 8:30 a.m. ET, since that's usually when new economic data drops. If my editor and I decide it's worth covering, we'll write up a story on that report, and typically we'll follow that up with a step-back analysis of the data and what it means for the economy overall. If there aren't any relevant speeches or hearings to cover then I'll usually spend the rest of the day working on longer analysis pieces, either by interviewing sources, combing through the FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data) site, or reading some research papers. And if there's an important report dropping the following morning, I'll prewrite a story on that so we can publish ASAP.

Lin: For folks trying to understand the current market landscape, what books or shows would you recommend?

Winck: Great question. For understanding markets, reading a variety of daily market wraps (stories that sum up what's going on in markets) is the best way to quickly get a handle on what's going on. Having Bloomberg TV or CNBC on in the background is also a great way to get a read on the biggest financial and economic stories of the day. Markets Insider does a fantastic job at covering both the major trends in markets and the day's biggest stock moves. As for TV shows and movies, I'd recommend "Industry," "The Big Short," and "Too Big to Fail."

Lin: How does your reporting at Insider influence your own spending or investing habits?

Winck: It's actually made me more passive than active with my investing! I didn't do any active trading when I covered markets, just because of the obvious conflict of interest issues that would emerge. That's not as much of an obstacle on the economy team (no, I'm not getting the monthly jobs report ahead of everyone else), but covering the economy broadly has made me appreciate just how futile active trading would be for me. So I'm more focused on investing into a handful of broad ETFs when I can and then forgetting about it, instead of letting it distract me. As for spending, I just try to steer clear of spending on things that I know have seen very strong inflation. I don't think I've ever been happier to not have a car I need to fuel up!

You can read some of Winck's stories here:

There is no good solution to the kind of inflation we're seeing right now

The next recession will be mini compared to the last 2 — and feel completely different

Inside the 2 sides of America's recession debate: From Jamie Dimon predicting a 'hurricane' to a Harvard economist completely unworried about a downturn

A fracking boom made the US the world's biggest oil producer. Now its end is pushing gas prices much higher.

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