Reynolds Weekly: June 10, 2019

by June 10, 2019
Robocalls, travel bans and killer scooters––this has been an eventful week in business news. We’ve made a list of story angles you can take in your local coverage of last week’s national headlines. (Image via Pexels user breakingic CC0 License)
FCC moves to kill robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission has caught a lot of heat in the past year or so over net neutrality, but this week they’ve done something consumers actually like: allowed major carriers to block annoying robocalls.

Robocalls are recorded calls used by political campaigns, telemarketers and even scammers to spam as many people as possible. By some estimates, Americans receive billions of robocalls per month, but this ruling may change that. Below are some business story angles to pursue related to the future of automated calls.

How to start your reporting:

Robocalls are so unpopular, some consumers pay third-party companies to help block spam calls. While it remains to be seen if carriers will charge a fee to block robocalls, what might the future of these third-party businesses look like if consumers can opt-out of automated calls through their carriers?

The rise in robocall use has also irritated legitimate businesses who report issues in reaching their customers who may be less inclined to answer numbers they don’t recognize. See how local businesses that rely on phone communication have responded to the FCC ruling.

A more serious story angle could examine the damaging effects robocalls can have on those who fall victim to scammers. Elderly Americans lose an average of $3 billion per year to scams, often with the help of robocalls. Talk to senior living centers or senior advocacy groups about the epidemic of scam calls and get their take on the FCC ruling.   

Cuba is canceled (again)

Last week, the Trump administration announced tougher restrictions on U.S. travel to Cuba, causing cruise ships to quickly reroute their tours from the Caribbean island nation.

For nearly 60 years, American travel to Cuba was forbidden, until restrictions were relaxed in 2016 under the Obama administration. beginning in the Cold War. When Trump assumed office, he quickly reinstated restrictions related to Cuba. However, Americans could still visit under educational “person to person” visits, which was one of the most common ways cruise liners legally bypassed restrictions. Now, the Trump administration has implemented new rules regarding Cuban travel, which ban person to person visits.

How to start your reporting:

An estimated 800,000 cruise ship bookings have been affected by the new travel restrictions. Some cruise lines are offering refunds and credits to passengers who purchased trips to Cuba. As a business reporter, you could examine the cost to businesses and consumers who are forced to change their plans amid the travel ban.

Major cruise liners might lose money, but they probably won’t go under due to the ban. But what about smaller, local businesses that popped up under eased travel laws? In the past few years, U.S. travel to Cuba is booming. Look into how these travel restrictions might impact small business in your area that rely on American travel to Cuba. Currently, there are still ways around the ban. Talk to business owners about how they plan to conduct operations going forward.

With Cuba more difficult to reach, where will Americans go instead? Certain cruise lines have chosen to reroute their ships to Mexico or the Bahamas. Beyond these cruises, it may be worth looking into where U.S. citizens will choose to spend their money with a Cuba ban in place.

Dockless scooter companies draw more outrage

The rising popularity of dockless electric scooter companies like Lime and Bird have drawn outrage from local governments and pedestrians for a while. But recent reporting by Reuters questions the safety of the rentable scooters, especially in dense urban areas where they’re most common.

How to start your reporting:

If dockless scooter have made their way into your area, determine if local ordinances restrict their use in some way. Some cities have capped the number of scooters allowed on the streets or forced companies to deactivate them after a certain time for safety reasons. How has this impacted the business of dockless scooters in your area?

Since e-scooters can essentially be left anywhere, people who use public transit may rely on rentable scooters to make their commutes a little easier. Find people who depend on e-scooters to get to work or school. Are they concerned about safety, or have they experienced safety issues while riding in the past?

Experts say it’s not just that the scooters are unsafe, but roads and sidewalks weren’t built with e-scooters in mind. This story about safety risks of e-scooters could turn into a much larger piece about aging infrastructure and lack of walkability within many cities. Every year, the American Society of Civil Engineers publishes an infrastructure report card for each state. Check out their website to get a sense of how your state is performing.