By Chris Adams
For reporters who cover money, retirement and related aging issues, the simplest messages can be repeated again and again – since reader demand for that information is vast.
Three reporters who specialize in consumer and personal finance journalism told a group of National Press Foundation fellows that they aren’t interested in big policy stories. They want to cover the stories that have an immediate impact on readers’ lives.
Michelle Singletary, author of “The Color of Money” column in The Washington Post, said she enjoys her beat because “you get to peer into people’s lives and learn how they spend their money.” Still, she said retirement is both scary to people and potentially an eye-glazing topic. She offered some tips to making retirement and aging content more interesting.
Journalists should try to minimize financial jargon and acronyms, to simplify a complicated subject for readers. She has a 1-2-3 rule of never bogging down a column with any more than three financial tips. She uses real peoples’ stories to humanize and personalize her financial stories – but makes sure the anecdote is on point.
She also offered up a #RidetheLion guideline. You’ll have to read her column here to find out what that’s about.
Her reporting required wide-ranging, shoe-leather reporting to find cases around the country. Unfortunately, she said, the stories were plentiful.
“If you want to cover a growing industry, this is a growing industry,” Stanger said. “Sad to say.”
Stanger passed on a range of resources that will help reporters reach the people who can illustrate their stories. Among the most helpful:
- The listserv for the National Center on Elder Abuse; joining by contacting NCEA@med.usc.edu
- Elder abuse prosecutors, typically assistant district attorneys (for several names, click here) .
- The National Adult Protective Services Association
- Research organizations such as the Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine
And Philip Moeller, a reporter for Money magazine and PBS, talked about reaching readers – and consumers – with his practical columns and books. He is a co-author of “Get What’s Yours,” which discusses effective strategies for maneuvering the Social Security system, as well as a 2016 version on the Medicare system.
What he does in his books and a related column is give readers tips and answer questions on the very complicated programs that can have a major impact on people’s lives.
“The more questions I answer the more questions I get,” he said. “There is a bottomless well of interest in these topics.”