Beat reporting
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Reporters covering the stock market for television often find themselves working with the same predictable pictures in telling what happened that day. Wide shot, NYSE trading floor. Nat sound of the closing bell. Full screen graphic. MOS bites. Standup.

The finished product rarely tells the whole story, and doesn't help viewers make sense of the news. But there are other options. This tip sheet offers some suggestions, plus a guide to Internet resources on stocks and investing.

Tell the Story

  • Strong characters are great narrators for economic stories. Who is affected? Who benefits? Who suffers? Look beyond the obvious examples of people who have lost their savings and must go back to work. Find someone who is doing well in a bear market, not just someone who got out in time. Brokers make just as much money when clients sell as when they buy. Could that be a story?

  • Reassess the need for the "expert" soundbite that adds nothing to the viewer's understanding. Use experts as guides to find an angle on today's developments, but don't feel obliged to include them in every story.

  • Tell the day's market numbers in a v/o or anchor reader, then go deeper in a related story with a narrower focus.

Explain the Story

  • Why do stock prices fall, anyway? Explain the basics by looking for comparisons to illustrate supply and demand. A job market crowded with candidates means salaries can be lower, for example.

  • Get interactive. Web sites like Yahoo! Finance offer quizzes about savings and investment that could be adapted for TV news. Example: introduce two characters in different situations; pose a question and ask for feedback by phone or on your Web site; then provide the answer on the air.

  • Track the story over time. What if you chose a portfolio of stocks, maybe the most widely held in your area, and tracked them--get what they were worth two months ago or two years ago and see where they are now. You could check back on them every so often, like a market basket. And you could brand it with cool graphics.

  • Create graphics that show movement and change. Preliminary research says animated graphics work better than static graphics in holding attention and building understanding.

Compare and Relate

  • Put raw numbers in context. Use percentage change, not just point change, when describing a large drop or jump in the Dow.

  • Compare what you can't see to something you can. Could you compare a loss (or gain) in the Dow over time to the loss (or gain) of the same percentage of something else? What would you look like if you lost that much weight? Maybe if you lost that much of your house, you'd go from a four-room detached to a one-bedroom condo. The rollercoaster analogy may be shopworn, but what if you compared the market gyrations to a bungee jump?

  • Look for story ideas everywhere. This joke is making the rounds on email: "If you had bought $1,000.00 worth of Nortel stock one year ago, it would now be worth $49.00. With Enron, you would have $16.50 of the original $1,000.00. With Worldcom, you would have less than $5.00 left. If you had bought $1,000.00 worth of Budweiser (the beer, not the stock) one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the cans for the 10 cent deposit, you would have $214.00. Based on the above, my current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle." If those numbers are actually correct, could that be a story?

Page Last Updated
January 15, 2009

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