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Two Minute Tips

Covering personal finance: Finding true local angles

August 3, 2011

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Photo: Mike Baird

One of the best things about covering personal finance is that EVERYONE can relate to the subject and will always have their ideas and opinions.

Your job is to separate the really good, legitimate ones from the wacko ones.

National stories abound about personal finance, but your job is to write about topics that your readers care about.

Here’s how:

  • FIND LOCAL ANGLES IN NATIONAL STORIES: Almost any national story will have a local impact. The most recent example is the one swirling around the federal debt ceiling.

President Obama’s warning that a failure to increase the debt limit could delay Social Security checks triggered immediate anxiety among seniors. Our newspaper interviewed local seniors and wrote a story about their worries.

This story could have been done in any community, so when you see a national wire story, ask whether the topic affects anyone where you live.

  • INTERACT WITH READERS: They are your best sources for stories. The responses you get to stories may hold the kernel for a great follow-up. When they ask you to write about something, take their concerns seriously and consider whether their idea has news value.
  • GET OUT OF THE OFFICE: There’s no substitute for meeting a person face to face. Let them get to know and trust you. If it’s a local PR person, tell them what you’re looking for in a story and build a working relationship so you’ll be the first person they think of when they have a big story.
finance workshop presentation
Photo: Studio de Boos

Their pitch may not always result in a story, but they may know people in your community who could help you chase down a lead.

Visit local investment clubs and meetings at churches that center around investment and money management. Many churches have programs that teach members how to manage their money according to biblical principles.

MEET FINANCIAL PEOPLE IN YOUR COMMUNITY: They can tell you what trends they’re seeing among their clients and what they’re worried about. Building a relationship with financial planners, brokers and financial planners will also help you land that all-important real person on deadline. Once they know you do quality work and are trustworthy, they can convince their client that it’s OK to talk to you.

  • ACCEPT SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS: This is a great way to find good personal finance stories because someone will talk to you afterwards and tell you something about their finances or that of someone they know, and you could have a good story.
  • MEET WITH ATTORNEYS WHO SPECIALIZE IN REPRESENTING CONSUMERS/INVESTORS: They can give you a heads up on cases that would make good stories.
  • KNOW THE “CONSUMER COPS” IN YOUR COMMUNITY: Is there someone in your police department or district attorney’s office who specializes in consumer cases, such as identity theft?

Also, meet the regulators in your state who regulate investments and key people in the state attorney general’s consumer affairs office.

Get to know your local Better Business Bureau.


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