In January of 2010, the reporters of NPR News in cooperation with Planet Money have purchased a toxic asset to learn more about the 2008 financial crisis. Toxic assets are usually financial assets that have lost their value due to mortgages not being paid and cannot be sold at a good price anymore. The reporters acquired one of these and decided to look into its history, and learn the stories of the people who invested in it. After conducting their investigation, the events were documented in audio, text, and video form, which garnered a significant audience. One of the unique features of this project is the video presentation made by Planet Money, as the creators chose to portray the toxic asset as an anthropomorphized creature named “Toxie”.
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When recounting the story of Toxie, the reporters explain how “she” came to be, and how her life began at the peak of the housing market, progressed through the years. They visually show how subprime loans from banks made Toxie worse, with many borrowers being unable to or deciding not to pay their mortgages, abandoning the accumulated debt and property. With many people not paying the banks, the investors also did not get their money back, and quickly tried to get rid of their assets while they still have value. This shift is represented in the animated video as Toxies becoming weird and getting sent to the pet store to get sold at a large discount. The cuteness of the simplified presentation helped me to acknowledge the timeline and to get a better understanding of the more difficult parts of this event. The association of a toxic asset with a pet was useful for showing how different involved organizations influenced it, as well as to help the viewer base engage with the content.