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Five tips for covering personal finance

July 6, 2015

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Covering personal finance means offering information to readers and sometimes, it even means offering financial counseling. Readers want to learn how to improve their finances and often turn to journalists for help. Here are our top five tips for reporting on personal finance:

1. Look to local consumer trends.

As a reporter, your job is to tell readers why your story is important and deserving of their time. Though national financial trends can seem overwhelming or like they are above your head, they almost always translate into smaller, community-based stories. Localizing stories is a great way to garner more attention and inform the community of how they will be affected. You can make it personal by telling a narrative story about someone in the neighborhood, or maybe visiting the nearest grocery store and report on how advertisements and coupons have changed due to government legislation. What’s important is informing readers in a way that makes them feel involved.

2. Utilize financial experts in your community.

Financial planners, brokers and other experts in the community are one of your largest assets as a reporter. As with any beat, forming a relationship with sources can be invaluable in finding the best story. These local experts can teach you things and, once you’ve established rapport and trust, set you up with clients for further research. That being said, be careful not to rely on the same source too often, doing so can compromise the professional nature of the relationship. Regardless of time spent with your sources, stories should be fact checked and quotes should be verified to ensure accuracy.

3. Don’t neglect groups of readers.

Oftentimes, financial stories revolve around successful people who have worked their way to a comfortable living. As important as those stories are, low-income families also encounter personal finance issues that are just as deserving of a story. Seek out people who have yet to be covered by media and find out what stories can be discovered.

4. Help empower readers by informing them.

Personal finance reporters have a lot of ground to cover, a lot of which is new to readers. Though you can’t serve as a financial advisor, you can provide readers with the information necessary to move forward. Define terms that seem like jargon or that you wouldn’t know if you weren’t a financial reporter. You can also provide scenarios that clarify financial processes and practices in ways most people could understand.

5. Revisit your stories.

One of the bigger challenges personal finance reporters face is make similar stories fresh and relevant. Find interesting new angles on insurance stories or spending trends. Look at the previous year’s articles and see if there are any valuable updates you should report on.

Want more? Download our “Guide to Business Beat Basics” for tips on covering money in personal finance and other beats.

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