‘The Middle: Indianapolis’ – why the story of middle-class progress in the heartland matters
Human Work and Learning

‘The Middle: Indianapolis’ – why the story of middle-class progress in the heartland matters

3 men work together in a factory setting

The economic challenges we face can be seen in nearly every community across the nation, and in seeking to tell the story of those challengesand what we can do about themIndianapolis seemed the perfect place for a digital magazine examining the struggle to preserve one city’s middle class amid a changing workplace.

The result is “The Middle: Indianapolis,” a rich blend of insights, data, and personal stories highlighted in documentary-style videos, produced by WorkingNation, a national nonprofit news organization that reports on the work of the future.

Lumina Foundation has supported this magazine and documentary video work since the project began four years ago. It puts a human facemany faces, in facton the challenges of a fast-arriving future where workers must adapt and gain new skills just to stay afloat. We’re also proud to support other journalism focused on education and the workplace from such media partners as PBS NewsHour, The Hechinger Report, and the Education Writers Association.

In the news: Jamie Merisotis talks about the project on WXIN-TV in Indianapolis

The country is at a confluence of trends that are shaping a world far different from that faced by earlier generations. Newer tech-centric jobs already require higher levels of training than in the past. And many experts say the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated those trends by 10 years or more.

WorkingNation spent four years researching, reporting, interviewing, and capturing video in Indianapolis. They spoke with community leaders working toward middle-class survival. But they also took special care to get into the communities themselves, finding real stories about people confronting these enormous trends.

The project’s mini-documentary follows Donte Sims, a former Carrier Corp. employee forced to reskill after being laid off. And we meet Tawnya McCrary, a mother taking new steps to ensure a middle-class lifestyle for her family and to help her community. Forced to find new careers because of the evolving job market, Donte and Tawnya face uncertain futures and must take great risks to develop the skills they need to survive in the workforce.

The WorkingNation team also talked with economist Austan Goolsbee and a range of local leaders including Gov. Eric Holcomb, Mayor Joe Hogsett, former Mayor Greg Ballard, Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson, EmployIndy President and CEO Angela Carr Klitzsch, Indiana Pacers President Rick Fuson, and Ivy Tech Community College Chancellor Kathleen Lee.

The magazine takes an honest look at how industries are adapting at the local level, the ways in which the middle-class lifestyle and its expectations are shifting, and why the future of Indianapolis depends on its ability to sustain and grow its middle class.

The result is a compelling focus on one community’s hopes and plansand how those might apply elsewhere as our country looks to move on from a time of painful challenges to a future of opportunity.

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