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Two Minute Tips

CNNMoney’s Tami Luhby: Listen to people

November 29, 2010

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Tami Luhby is a senior writer at CNNMoney.com, where she covers the economy. Before joining CNN Money, she covered personal finance for Newsday. Luhby graduated from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, where she now teaches. She is also a graduate of Columbia College and has worked at Crain’s New York Business and American Banker. Luhby was also a metro reporter at The Home News Tribune and at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey. She will be teaching a free, one-hour Reynolds Center Webinar on May 3 on “15 Time Management Tips for Business Journalists.”

1.) What types of business stories seem to resonate with your readers?

We like giving our readers a mix of hard news stories and pieces that will entertain them. For instance, readers flock to our pieces on the deficit commission recommendations, Federal Reserve actions, and Congressional debates on extending unemployment insurance. They also click on feature stories about the foreclosure crisis and people’s search for a job. And readers love quirky pieces such as a gallery we recently did about the new $100 bill.

2.) Do you have any suggestions for finding stories or how to turn a topic of interest into a news story?

Listen to what people are talking about. A college friend of mine gives me great story ideas because she often tells me her opinion on issues in the news. And I’ve found that if she’s thinking about a topic in certain way, others are too. So keep your ears open.

Also, keep your eyes open. If you cover retail, notice what’s happening to stores in your area. If you cover real estate, check out how Realtors are marketing their homes. I came up with a great story idea one Saturday while biking and finding Realtor signs advertising incentives such as vacations and gifts if you buy the home.

3.) What do you think business journalists can do to improve their coverage?

They should talk more to their sources and really hit their beats. Too often, they fall into a pattern of calling the same old folks for story after story. They should try to expand their Rolodex. And they should also take their sources to lunch and shoot the breeze. Sometimes, great stories can be found in casual conversation.

4.) What types of stories do you like to focus on — company coverage or more economics coverage — and why?

I prefer to focus on economic coverage…but what I like most is writing business stories that directly affect real people. I covered personal finance for six years and I couldn’t write enough stories on retirement, student loans and debt reduction. I find readers can really relate – and be helped – by this type of coverage. I got great feedback on my stories from readers. Now I cover foreclosures and unemployment and I get many thoughtful, and sad, emails from readers. It’s very gratifying to know that you are having an impact.

5.) Do you have any tips for new business journalists? Either someone new to journalism or someone who has moved from another beat to the business desk?

Read the competition and take note of their sources. I read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and clip the stories related to my beat. I add the sources they quote to my Rolodex. And I also read RSS feeds of many other publications, including The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and more niche publications such as Stateline and HousingWire. That way I know what’s going on on my beat and whom to talk to for information.


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