FOLLOW THE BOUNCING
||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.
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?