Stacey Vanek Smith

Stacey Vanek Smith is a reporter for Planet Money, where she covers business and economics. Stacey came to NPR from Marketplace, where she was a correspondent and fill-in host, most recently in Marketplace's New York bureau.

While at Marketplace, Stacey was part of a collaboration with The New York Times, where she explored the relationship between money and marriage. She was also part of Marketplace's live shows, where she produced a series of pieces on getting her data mined.

Stacey is a native of Idaho and grew up working on her parents' cattle ranch. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in comparative literature and creative writing. She also holds a master's in broadcast journalism from Columbia University. She lives in Brooklyn.

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I'm in a booth with a computer program called Ellie. She's on a screen in front of me.

Ellie was designed to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and when I get into the booth she starts asking me questions — about my family, my feelings, my biggest regrets.

Emotions seem really messy and hard for a machine to understand. But Skip Rizzo, a psychologist who helped design Ellie, thought otherwise.

Even the most creative jobs have parts that are pretty routine — tasks that, at least in theory, can be done by a machine. Take, for example, being a reporter.

A company called Automated Insights created a program called WordSmith that generates simple news stories based on things like sporting events and financial news. The stories are published on Yahoo! and via the Associated Press, among other outlets.

We wanted to know: How would NPR's best stack up against the machine?

We recently did a story that began with this sentence:

"The housing market has recovered in many parts of the country, but the government still owns the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

After the story aired, we got a bunch of messages from a listener, Andrew Tomlinson, demanding a correction. So we called him up.

Andrew argues that the government does not actually own Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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How are you feeling seems like the kind of question you might get from a psychiatrist, not an economist. Then again, Stacey Vanek Smith, from NPR's Planet Money team, reminds us about one vitally important economic indicator.

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