October 7th, 2008
04:13 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: True American stories

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

The most interesting people in this world are rarely the famous ones. Celebrities and politicians may grab more airtime and more headlines – and more of our money – but in my experience, the family next door normally holds the most unexpected, inspirational and interesting tales. Need a little convincing? Try “The Oxford Project.”

In 1984, Peter Feldstein photographed almost all of the 676 residents of Oxford, IA. Twenty years later, he came back to capture them on film again. But he wasn’t alone. Stephen G. Bloom, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa, was there this time to record the stories behind the faces. Bloom says too often, we don’t hear these stories because we in the media are too focused on the power players and the big names. "The idea was not to talk to the decision makers, but talk to the people whose lives are affected by the decision makers," he says. "My job in Oxford was to talk to the voiceless, to people who don't have any voice who are the backbone of America."

The candidates could all benefit from a trip to Oxford, Iowa – but it would have to be a true visit, not a stop on the campaign trail. There are residents just like the hundreds of folks in Oxford all across the country. Many feel forgotten. They are struggling and searching for answers. They are the hard-working Americans candidates so often invoke in their stump speeches, the same people who hear the words and are waiting for the results. Will they get any answers tonight?


I think nearly every teenager goes through a Salvation Army/thrift store phase. I did. I also enjoyed the French version, the “Kilo Shop,” where you would pay by the kilo…though somehow the cool leather jackets from the 70s we all coveted in high school were exempt from the weight bargain.

Bargain shopping is more in fashion than ever, but it’s not about being hip or edgy, it’s about being smart in a down economy.


With all this talk of the economy and our dwindling bank accounts, who couldn’t use a getaway? Preferably one on the cheap, of course. Sit back, relax and take in the beauty of fall from around the country, courtesy of our iReporters.

Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Michelle fonthill,ont, canada

    Hi Erica

    Thanks for telling tales of small town communities.They have the most valuble impact on our world today.The struggles of local people and their job problems and health related issues are the most common story that poepl want to hear it idenitfies us with them and makes us feel like we are not alone.
    Thankls for your story Erica keep upu the great work on 360
    Michelle D.

    October 8, 2008 at 9:15 am |
  2. JC-Los Angeles

    Fascinating tale about the fine people in Oxford; while the connected few in Washington and Wall Street may exchange self respect for cold hard cash, it's people like Mandela, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and the Oxford residents who come from nothing but leave the greatest contributions.

    Keep up the great work

    October 7, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    I hate to shop, always have. One of my daughters though is a super shopper. She won't buy anything that isn't on sale; she buys nice things but at a fraction of the cost they started out being priced at. I've had her do the Christmas shopping the last few years and we got what everyone wanted and came in under budget. (That was my present!). If there is a bargain to be found she can find it.

    I like to talk with older Americans about how things were when they were growing up – depending on their age I've heard everything from riding a horse across the Clinch River in 1900 to fighting in WW2 in Europe in the Battle of the Bulge to growing up in the 50s and 60s. There are a lot of wonderful people out there with amazing stories to tell. None of them are famous but they are all truly a treasure.

    Thanks for the post Erica – you always have the interesting post that makes me think.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    October 7, 2008 at 9:15 pm |
  4. Cherisa

    I went through the thrift store phase in school. I had forgotten about them until recently. Now I'm shopping at Goodwill regularly because I want to, not because I have to. It's the thrill of the hunt, and I can splurge without feeling like I've overspent.

    October 7, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  5. Megan Dresslar (Shoreline, Wa)

    Hellooo Erica!!!
    I agree with you...... I always have buy new clothes, But I'm worry about economy is going down too...... I haven't spend to buy something..... it will more worst economy in the year. I can't wait see the debate soon..... I hope it will listen very careful both candidates Obama & McCain.... See you soon......

    October 7, 2008 at 7:41 pm |
  6. Jennifer - Michigan

    Hi Erica,
    I've been very lucky to have met some heros in my life as well. And often it is your neighbor or "the family next door". It's amazing how people come into your life. There are a few people in this world that "changed my life". I'm not sure that they knew how much they inspired me. They just did it without thinking; it's in their nature. Thank God for all the heros in the world! I'm looking forward to CNN's Hero's show coming up in November. Very touching and heartwarming. Have a good night, see you later.

    October 7, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  7. Vicky, Ontario, Canada

    Erica, Think we could all use a boost after the economic news, which is hitting all over the world. The Toronto Stock Exchange is also down! I agree with you, everyday people have some amazing and inspiring stories to tell. Along those lines, have you seen the youtube video about Molly the speckled pony? She was apparently abandoned after Katrina, and required a prosthesis as her right, front leg was gnawed off or very damaged by a pit bull, when she was at a shelter for abandoned animals. She is truly a story in overcoming difficult times! Might be an idea for the "shot of the day" or "AMAZING ANIMAL VIDEOS". Have a good day!

    October 7, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  8. EJ (USA)

    I think this debate is going to over stimulate my brain more than it already is. My brain can't process all of this economic failure and panic and no health insurance.

    October 7, 2008 at 5:06 pm |
  9. marydth

    LOL Erica...Glad your generation thought those 70's leather jackets were cool...makes it easier for me to look back at those year book pictures except OMG the hair, the hair....

    October 7, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
  10. Heather,Ca

    When was a little girl my mother would take me to go visit where we used to live to spend time with our neighbors. Of course there was one purpose to the trip that at my young at the time I didn't realize. It was the late 70's and then the early 80's. I loved going because I never knew what kind of clothes I would be bringing home. It was getting what you call"hand me downs". I didn't even know that there was a term for it back then I was too young to understand any of it beyond oh it fits and I like it and thank you. I was lucky when other's are not. Every year I try to collect enough clothes to take to certain charities that take the profits and use it for research or aid. If these politicians ever want to connect with us the people they might think that our attention isn't focused on the stump speech, but on the state of our economy that we see reported on inside the big box at dinner time. After a while its all political jibberish to me. I know that there is no way that they can deliver on their promises. I just want them to make the promise that they will do whatever it takes and even if its non politically safe. I want them to ban CDO's and regulate our financial institutions. I want them to say no to the ponzi scheme that cost us $700 billion.

    I have always that the truth was in black and white photography. A picture tells a story that needs no words. The human experience,all the truth the good and the bad. We each can notice different things from the same photograph. But that doesn't change the picture. Sometime's I wonder when these politician's go out of their way not to answer a question , have they forgotten who is asking the question and do they even know what the truth is anymore. I hope tonight they can find the truth that all of us are looking for.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
  11. Brenda Harris

    These are things I've done all my life. In urban areas your take home pay barely takes you home. And when you get there your insurance is higher on your home and auto than anywhere else (redlining). Your check is taxed and everything you buy is taxed, so welcome to my world. I have always been studying the beauty of spring, summer, fall and gosh I hate winter. I can't afford a whole new outfit. Hope things will get better soon. As all things have not been distributed equally.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  12. Lilibeth

    I agree that the people you don’t hear about usually have the most amazing stories to tell. In fact, the people I look up to and admire, people who have hearts of gold, are not famous. They are my heroes. I’m blessed to have them in my life.

    I rarely pay full price when I go clothes-shopping. Down economy or not, I always like a good bargain.

    I can’t wait for the debate, Erica. See you later.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  13. Mary

    Erica, You find the neatest things to share with us. I live in a small town and we have some pretty amazing people living there. It's all what you consider "real". I appreciate where and how I live a little more after reading that article. Have a great night.

    October 7, 2008 at 4:49 pm |