Tag Archives: Personal finance coverage

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Suze Orman’s brand of personal finance journalism

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Adam Auriemma of The Daily Beast writes about CNBC personal finance journalist Suze Orman and the advice she gives.

Auriemma writes, “Indeed, Orman’s supposed omniscience — combined with the oratory zeal of a Bible thumper and the manic enthusiasm of a children’s show actor — is the key driver of her success. Money and markets are intrinsically unstable topics, as the agitated anchors of every other CNBC program illustrate, but Orman’s relentless appeals to gut and intuition send a radically different message: forget about wealth and focus on security. Her advice, sugarcoated in goofy catchphrases, is delivered in the unimpeachable rhetoric of common sense. Get an eight-month emergency fund, girlfriend. Sign your will and your trust, boyfriend. How am I doing? Can I afford it? Amy Feller Gallant, the show’s executive producer, tweeted during the government shutdown that the show got mash notes from furloughed employees thanking Orman for teaching them to save for a rainy day.

“‘Remember,’ Orman says. ‘My topic is personal finance. It’s not what stock should you buy, where’s the economy, it’s not a deep dive like that. There’s plenty of people that will tell you about stocks and money. Mine’s personal finance, so when it comes to that, I am not wrong, sir. Not wrong.’

“But even gurus make mistakes. Last year, Orman put her famous intuition on the line in the most fraught venture of her career. Her steely self-assuredness was the same, but the stakes couldn’t have been higher: Orman was promising to change the credit structure of an entire economy, to create a ‘sidewalk out of poverty’ for the working class—all with a prepaid debit card with her name on it. She took a drubbing, fielding accusations of self-aggrandizement from the financial press and fans alike.

“Now, for the first time since that media firestorm, Orman speaks extensively about the product launch that left a blemish on her nearly infallible record — an ordeal that lumped her decisions in with the dubious business dealings of Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian.”

Read more here.

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Personal finance reporting can be funny

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Brian O’Connor is the syndicated Funny Money columnist from The Detroit News, a Knight-Bagehot fellow from the class of 2001, founding managing editor of Bankrate.com and author of the new humorous personal finance book, “The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese.”

The book is selling well and garnering good reviews, including one from Go Banking Rates that called it “a hilarious and savvy guide.”

Publishers Weekly said the book’s advice and approach is better than Suze Orman and concluded that, “This funny, pragmatic guide will have you laughing all the way to the bank.”

O’Connort is the winner of the inaugural Christopher H. Welles Memorial Prize for business writing from Columbia University, as well as a winner of the Best in Business award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

O’Connor also is a two-time winner of the award for humor writing from the National Society of Newspaper columnists. A native Detroiter, he is a graduate of The Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills, Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism

O’Connor spoke by email with Talking Biz News about personal finance writing and his new book. What follows is an edited transcript.

How did you start writing about personal finance topics?

In the 1980s, as a copy editor and assistant business editor at two South Florida dailies, I edited the Monday business tab sections, so I handled a lot of personal finance copy. When I became the founding managing editor of Bankrate.com, my focus shifted to all personal finance, all the time. After moving back home to Detroit to work at The News, the personal finance job opened up here and it was a perfect fit.

How do you come up with your ideas?

Usually in desperation. There are about three topics in personal finance at any one time that everyone is covering, so you read the same story over and over again. I try to avoid those, while looking for something that can be personal. And, because my column is a humor column, too, it has to be something where I can find a funny angle.

Do you find yourself writing about the same topics over and over again? In other words, how do you keep it fresh and new?

When I was running Bankrate, every Wednesday we released our new mortgage stats, so the main feature had to tie into home loans. I thought it would be impossible to get a new story every week, but if you dig deep enough and look broadly, there is always some new angle you can explore. If not, there is always some news event that makes it a good time to take a new look at an old topic. I saw a good feature last week on emergency savings that was tied to the government shutdown. That is a basic bread-and-butter personal finance feature, and advice that people widely ignore. But if the writer makes it timely, it could be that learning moment for some readers to finally take action.

You use a lot of your own personal situations in your writing. When did you decide to do that and how does that help you with your readers?

When I got the Your Money gig at The News in 2007, the column came with the job. Now, I’d read a lot of personal finance columns between 1985 and then, and many of them were just as dry as dust. Editing them was murder, and I can’t imagine the readers felt any more enthusiastic about 850 words on “selling short against the box” to avoid taxes on stocks. (By the time I actually understood what that was, by the way, it was illegal.) When I sat down to do my first column, I just couldn’t be “that guy” so, being a naturally born smart aleck, I tried humor. And to find any humor in most financial topics, I had to personalize the situations.

My wife was less than enthusiastic about becoming a central figure in the column, so I refer to her as Mrs. Your Money, which creates enough distance to keep the peace at home. When someone asks, she says, “I’m not Mrs. Your Money, but she’s a character based on me.” It’s basically the same thing Erma Bombeck and Mike Royko did with their families and alter egos, plus my wife is much more attractive than Slats Grobnik.

What’s the hardest thing about personal finance writing?

First, for me, it’s finding humor, and finding the right situations that can be addressed through humor. That can be very, very difficult during a bad economy, as I found out. When the economic meltdown was confined to a credit crisis in 2007, I wrote a Q&A that was one of my funniest columns, and readers love it. I had dozens of phone calls from non-traditional business readers, saying they laughed out loud. A year later, I reprised it about the recession, and the phone calls were all bitter, angry or obscene (except for the ones that were bitter AND angry AND obscene). When it was happening to them, readers didn’t find the recession to be the least bit amusing.

The other hard part for me is getting down to a real answer for readers. Every column poses some kind of question or problem, and I want to lead my readers to making the decision that works best for their situation. Because I was a Knight-Bagehot fellow at Columbia University, my first impulse is to run the numbers and do the math, to see what gives the best return, or the lowest cost, or the best outcome. Going from writing about basic personal finance concepts into doing the actual math can be a challenge, especially in finding data and constructing good, accurate scenarios. But I just can’t write a column about whether it’s better to buy or lease a car without looking at the long-term best outcome for the buyers, then discussing the individual situations where buying or leasing makes sense.

My own hard-and-fast rule is that every column I write – and pretty much every story, too – absolutely must contain dollar signs. Otherwise, you’re just not giving readers the bottom line.

What do you do when you write something that you later regret?

Besides trying to blame someone else? The only thing to do is ’fess up, admit the mistake, apologize if that’s called for, and get the right information out there. I had a disastrous column about flood insurance a year ago, and I had to write another entire column just to correct the misinformation I was given by some pretty big insurance companies. But it’s my column, so it’s my mistake. I just try to focus on what is going to make things right for my reader, to tell them where I went wrong, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

oconnor_book_coverOf course, with humor, someone always gets offended. I did a column based on the last pope’s retirement, and I referred to him once as “Bennie.” Now, my two aunts in the convent and my cousin the priest were OK with it, but I got a rash of complaints from around Detroit.  (Oddly, the syndicated column that goes through Tribune Content Agency got a total of zero gripes.) My bosses apologized to callers, but I refused. Going into a family newspaper, my jokes already are pretty tame, and unless I’ve been purposely mean spirited, my attitude is, “(Screw) ’em if they can’t take a joke.” Especially since I’m the butt of nearly all the humor in my column.

How did you decide to put this into book form?

I did 10 columns in late 2009 where I aimed to cut $100 from my family’s top 10 monthly budget categories, and they formed the basis of the book. I was hoping it would be a big enough gimmick that it could be the basis for a book, since there were all these stunt books coming out at the time, such as “My Year Without Toilet Paper” or “My Year Without Spending” of the woman who made love to her husband every day for 365 days straight. One of the things that’s said about writing a newspaper column is that it’s like being married to a nymphomaniac — as soon as your done, you just have to start all over again — but I’ve never wanted to take it THAT literally.

Fortunately, I did manage to save $1,000 — barely — which wasn’t a given going into the project. The columns were a big hit with readers, and they won the Christopher Welles Memorial Prize from Columbia, as well as a SABEW Best In Business award. But the book proposal languished for three years until I happened to link up with the right book agent, just by pure accident, and then the book wound up going to auction. But it wasn’t ever guaranteed to be a book project.

Did you change or update any of the columns for the book?

All told, the original 10 columns, plus a first-week introductory piece, came to about 5,000 words, and the folks at Portfolio-Penguin wanted at least 50,000 words for the book. My original plan was to open up the columns by expanding the advice, which is the bulk of the book. But since it’s also first-person, it’s got a bit of a memoir approach, too, and that required writing a first chapter to set up the characters of my family, and our situation of having moved to Detroit — which was basically Ground Zero for the economic meltdown — to take a newspaper job at the outset of the Great Recession.

How did you organize the book’s content?

The hardest part to write was the first chapter, setting up my whole family situation. First you’ve got to know these people well enough to care about them, then you’ve got to understand how they got to this situation, and what they want. It was daunting, but fortunately my fifth-grade girlfriend is a writing teacher in New York, and she’s married to a guy who teaches screenwriting and wrote for “Seinfeld.” They pointed my in the right direction for what originally was the first two chapters, but my editor, Maria Gagliano, was smart enough to ask me condense it into one chapter, which took three different attempts.

After that, the book followed the order of the columns, since each chapter ended with a running tab of what savings I’d found and how much more I needed to cut to get to the $1,000 goal. My strategy for expanding the chapters was that I divided all the savings strategies into three categories, ranging from how much people need to cut to how desperate they were to find savings. So we had three different approaches in each chapter: “Freeing Up Cash;” “Making Ends Meet;” and “Pinching Pennies So Hard That Lincoln Gets a Headache.”

What do you like, and dislike, about the current state of personal finance writing?

I think there’s a really good crop of columnists that I see out there doing good work, from Liz Weston, to Gail Marks Jarvis, Al Lewis, Jean Chatzky and Pamela Yip, plus some smart, fun stuff from my buddy Charles Passy and the whole crowd of staffers at Marketwatch.com. I also like that we seem to have gotten away from constantly covering the hot investment of the moment and are looking to topics that are more basic concerns for readers.

What really, really bothers me about personal finance writing is two things.

First, the lack of hard, investigative approaches to consumer finance. As we saw after the mortgage bubble, a lot of the agencies and boards that are supposed to protect consumers and investors do a lousy job, or have rules that aren’t up to the task, and a lot of our readers have taken a major, life-changing hit because of those failures. And those failures are OUR failures to watch the watchdogs.

I’ve done stories on foreclosure abuses that are still going on in Michigan — and in every other state, too, I’ll wager — that amount to judicially sanctioned thefts of people’s homes, where the foreclosure laws are not fairly enforced but routinely violated and abused. Everything that comes out of the CFPB is a story that personal finance writers should be digging into on a long-term basis, from abuses by credit-card issuers to debt collectors and more. We need to turn some of our resources away from telling comfortable, well-off people which credit card gives them the most frequent-flyer points to protecting people’s basic assets and rights under the law. And that isn’t happening, even at the biggest, strongest papers or Web publications.

Second, is that we need to start covering the personal finance aspects of poverty and people who’ve taken major setbacks. There is a very self-satisfied, ignorant strain of thought that says anybody can cutback or save or work and be able to provide for themselves and their families, and that is simply not true. I even say in my book that saving $1,000 a month isn’t realistic for many people in this country, and that there are plenty who’d be lucky to find savings of $1,000 a year. We’ve got a huge wave of people who are going to retire with nearly nothing but Social Security to depend on, and another big chunk of wage-earners who are seeing their real earnings shrink and their costs soar. We need to start writing about the financially vulnerable and the personal finance realities of not being able to make it in the U.S.A.

Why don’t more media have personal finance content? It would seem to have widespread appeal.

I think it’s because a lot of personal finance stories come off as very generic, don’t involve real people, and don’t address the big, hard topics that make some people squirm, but would really engage readers. And a lot of what passes for personal finance coverage is aimed at the top earners in our country, who not only don’t need the advice, but already pay advisers to tell them all that.

But there aren’t a lot of religion writers anymore, either, because newspapers can’t seem to find the right way to talk about the huge moral questions of the day, including right, wrong, evil and the meaning of life. You can’t really grapple with that stuff in the inverted pyramid. It should be a challenge to us because we know people care about big life issues such as their financial security and morality, but we have to find ways to engage them on all those topics.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Hearing from real people who are finding ways to create financial security. And hearing from people who normally wouldn’t read the personal finance or business section, who get engaged through the different approach of a humorous personal finance column.

Plus, getting off a good joke every once in a while. If my wife reads my column and I hear her laugh, I know it’s been a good week.

Mandi Woodruff

Yahoo Finance hires personal finance reporter

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Mandi Woodruff, who has covered personal finance news and edited Business Insider’s ‘Your Money’ section for the past two years, is now writing personal finance for Yahoo Finance.

In an email to the staff Yahoo Finance editor in chief Aaron Task wrote that Woodruff will “write quick-hit stories on news of the day issues that affect people’s finances and longer-term features to complement our partners’ content.”

Before Business Insider, Woodruff she spent a year at Law360.com as a reporter ans also worked at Reader’s Digest as a research associate editor.

Woodruff is originally from Georgia, and she has a bacherlor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia.

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WSJ seeks credit reporter in NYC

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The Wall Street Journal¹s Personal Finance bureau is seeking a New York-based reporter to cover consumer credit and banking. The natural candidate will be able to jump from big trend stories to news scoops and write with panache, and have a proven ability to develop deep sources within the industry and among government and consumer-advocacy groups.

The reporter must have knowledge of banking and personal-finance issues, and be a skillful writer with a proven ability to generate news. The reporter will write Weekend Investor section-front and inside stories and regular blog posts, as well as stories for Page One and the Money & Investing front page.

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To apply, go here.

Carmen Wong Ulrich

Ulrich named new host for “Marketplace Money”

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American Public Media announced that personal finance expert Carmen Wong Ulrich will be the new host of “Marketplace Money,” its weekend personal finance program.

Ulrich will begin with programs airing the weekend of Nov. 2.  She replaces Tess Vigeland, who left in November 2012. Since that time, the show has used guest hosts.

Ulrich will be the signature voice of Marketplace’s personal finance coverage across all Marketplace programs and online at Marketplace.org. She will host the weekend Marketplace Money show, blog at MarketplaceMoney.org and appear on the daily Marketplace and Marketplace Morning Report shows.

“Carmen brings a broad and deep knowledge of personal finance to the Marketplace portfolio,” said Marketplace vice president and executive producer Deborah Clark in a statement. “She’s really the whole package – personal finance smarts and expertise and an engaging broadcast personality—and will fit seamlessly into the Marketplace sensibility of being able to translate complex issues into relatable stories. Listeners will benefit greatly from her background. She can go beyond explaining how to make smart healthcare or investment choices to a deeper understanding of the direct impact of public policy and the market’s ebbs and flows.”

Ulrich has co-owned an all-female financial planning firm and hosted her own personal finance television show, CNBC’s “On the Money.” She appears frequently as a personal finance expert on numerous national network and cable outlets, including on NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “The View,” and a variety of shows on CNN, MSNBC and CBS.

Ulrich is the author of “Generation Debt: Take Control of Your Money,” lauded as a must-read for the under-40 set by The Wall Street Journal. and “The Real Cost of Living,” which explores the psychological costs and benefits of financial choices.

A former editor at Money magazine, Ulrich currently writes for The New York Times and pens a monthly advice column for Good Housekeeping.

“I’m thrilled to sit back in the host chair for Marketplace Money,” said Ulrich. “Connecting with listeners, readers and viewers is paramount in keeping personal finance personal and Marketplace has an engaged, responsive audience like no other. I can’t wait to meet them.”

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Don’t follow Dave Ramsey’s investment advice

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Felix Salmon and Susie Poppick write for the latest edition of Money magazine about Dave Ramsey, the personal finance author who has his own radio show and once had a personal finance show on Fox Business Network.

Their conclusion: Don’t follow his investment advice.

Salmon and Poppick write, “Ramsey seems to be so dismissive of bonds because he’s bullish on stocks. How bullish? He often speaks of earning 12% a year — a number that’s been a lightning rod for his critics. Ramsey has sometimes hedged this, but visit his website and you’ll find blog posts with headlines like ‘Yes, You Can Make 12% With Your Mutual Funds’ and ‘The 12% Reality.’

“In fact, this is unhinged from the reality of the investing world. ‘I don’t see how anybody can count on 12% annual returns,’ says William N. Goetzmann, professor of finance at Yale. Part of the issue is a wonky-sounding math point. Correctly calculated, the long-term return on stocks since 1926 is closer to 10% — before taking out mutual fund fees and front-end sales costs.

“And if you follow Ramsey, you’re likely to pay sales charges: Outside a 401(k), he recommends A-share “load” funds sold via advisers. That’s because, he says, people need a pro to help them stick to their plan and not jump out when an investment underperforms.

“The other problem with 12% is obvious: the experience of the past 13 wild years. While some periods, like the 1980s and ’90s, do deliver double-digit returns, investors know they can also see long stretches — perhaps in their peak saving or retirement years — earning a lot less.

“Ramsey recently debated that subject on his radio show with Brian Stoffel, a columnist for The Motley Fool, who wrote about that 12% number in the wake of the Twitter fight. Stoffel said 12% was unrealistic; Ramsey said that it wasn’t, and that if his listeners had taken his advice and followed it for the past 20 years, ‘they would have had a pretty strong rate of return.’ He challenged Stoffel ‘to analyze that and figure that out,’ which Stoffel obviously couldn’t do on a live radio show.”

Read more here.

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Behind the scenes of WSJ. Money

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The third issue of WSJ Money, the Wall Street Journal‘s upscale personal finance magazine, appears Saturday as an insert in the business newspaper.

The magazine focuses on investing issues for the high-net worth crowd, with special departments and columns such as “Empire Builder” and “Made of Money” centered around several long-form features written by the staff and freelancers.

It has also looked into why Singapore has quietly attracted such a high number of millionaires, the strange and curious world behind the  gem business, and what Christine Lagarde has to say about the future of the world economy.

Jonathan DahlJonathan Dahl is the editor of the magazine. He was formerly the editor of Smart Money, the Dow Jones & Co. personal finance magazine that stopped printing in 2012.

Dahl spoke Friday morning by email with Talking Biz News about WSJ. Money. What follows is an edited transcript.

How did the idea for WSJ.Money come about?

The field for personal finance coverage has become enormously crowded, with so many magazines, websites and cable shows offering advice on how to spend, save and plan your money. But the coverage is almost entirely focused on the mid-market reader. We saw a chance to reach out to a different audience — the high-end crowd — but knew it had to be done with great journalism and with great photography that a glossy magazine can produce.

There seem to be a number of magazines in this field, from Bloomberg Pursuits to Forbes Life. What do you do different at WSJ. Money?

I enjoy reading about how the rich-and-famous spend their money. Who doesn’t? But that has nothing to do with WSJ. Money: We’re showing how the wealthy are growing (not spending) their money. And we’re doing it during a period when it has never been harder to do so, given today’s low interest rates. But in the same way those spending magazines are fun to read, we believe WSJ. Money is similarly interesting to readers who are not ultra-wealthy, but who want to read about people who are buying entire toll bridges, investing in Burma gem mines, and making a killing on Chinese stamps.

What did you learn at Smart Money that you’re doing now with WSJ. Money?

We use less far less resources to accomplish much of the same, in terms of producing quality features and attractive designs. As with the rest of the journalism field, we have learned to become a lot more efficient.

This magazine is a quarterly. Why that publishing schedule?

Over the years, we’ve seen many new magazines blow all their resources before establishing their advertising and readership market. The magazine is off to a great start, but is a new concept that will need tweaking. WSJ., our widely successful sister publication, started out on a similar schedule.

Could this expand to more issues per year, and be sold separately from the newspaper?

We definitely will consider expanding to more issues a year, but I don’t think it makes sense to move us to newspaper stands. By inserting the magazine into The Wall Street Journal, we are guaranteed an enormous readership.

How is the magazine content produced — staff, freelancers, or a combination?

It’s a combination of freelancers and staff members, and so far the mix has been great — from the Journal’s award winning columnist Jason Zweig to John Koten, the former to top editor for Fast Company and Inc.

What are the goals of the magazine?

We want to create awareness surrounding high-end finance — how, for example, wealthy families tend to eat up most of their inheritances by the third generation, why Singapore is quietly attracting the world’s high ratio of millionaires, and so on. But equally important, we want to continue to show the value and importance of long-form journalism. I’m proud of the features we have already run. We were first, for example, to interview a little-known young Houston couple who have decided to give away $4 billion.

How is high-end personal finance a niche in business journalism that produces quality content?

The number of millionaires  with assets over $5 million has quadrupled in 10 years. For better or worse, it is the ultra-rich who are driving the much of the world economy. Business publications today need to know where these people — especially the new rich in Asia — are investing their assets.

How does the magazine fit into what The Journal is trying to accomplish with its coverage?

I’ve watched the paper over the years become far more of an international publication, as it keeps up with the fast-paced changes in the global economy. WSJ. Money focuses precisely on the international sector — with the bulk of our stories and departments describing world investments. Like the Journal, we’ve also got access to some of the biggest names in business, whether it’s Mark Cuban describing his climb to wealth in our “Empire Builder” graphic, or Christine Lagarde offering her thoughts on the Europe economy.

What has improved from the first issue to the one coming out on Saturday?

Because of the success of the early issues, both in reader feedback and advertising, we have more space now to do more features and provide more colorful photography. The reader doesn’t know it, of course, but the team producing all this is much more efficient now too.

What areas would you still like to work on with the magazine?

I think the greatest opportunities for this kind of coverage will ultimately be online. We started out with the notion of setting the table, if you will, with a beautiful and interesting publication readers could hold in their hands. But we know that we’ll need to increase our online content as we continue to grow.

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Our job is to demystify and explain

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Suzanne McGee, who has begun writing a column for The Guardian’s U.S. business section, writes about what business journalists should be doing in their work.

McGee writes, “Only a minority of those who write about personal finance will be investigative reporters, digging into topics such as the allegations that Merrill Lynch and other institutions manipulated that auction-rate securities market. But too often, those investigations take place only after the fact. That may give you a sense of ‘closure’, I suppose, but it’s not going to help your portfolio recover from the hit it just took.

“What a financial journalist can do is draw attention to corners of the market that are particularly complex: the targets of a lot of marketing on the part of financial institutions that develop investment products, or those that appear to be the focus of irrational exuberance or undue apathy. Ideally, what we choose to write about will help you cut through the jargon, and help you think critically, just the best financial professionals do. The hope is that you can soon pose tough questions of your own to anyone who suggests that Financial Product A or Stock B is a one-stop solution to your investment needs.

“What none of us can or should do is to suggest that a given stock, investment strategy, product or idea is the right thing to do at any given time. So if you’re looking for a list of ‘Five Stocks to Own This Winter!’, you might want to move along in your quest for a pundit’s quick advice.”

Read more here.

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Nation’s top personal finance reporters named

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Tennessee television reporter Don Dare, along with National Public Radio senior editor Uri Berliner and CNNMoney.com personal finance writer Blake Ellis, are being recognized for outstanding reporting on personal finance issues.

A story on the website of WATE, the television station where Dare works, states, “The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) named Dare one of the winners of the 2013 RTDNA/NEFE Award for Personal Finance Reporting.

“The organization announced the award winners Wednesday. Dare and two other winners will be honored in a presentation later this month in Anaheim, Calif. at the national convention of RTDNA, the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

“Dare, along with National Public Radio Senior Editor Uri Berliner and CNNMoney.com Personal Finance Writer Blake Ellis, are being recognized for outstanding reporting on personal finance issues.

“Each winner receives a $1000 cash prize. They will present a training seminar entitled Excellence in Financial Reporting: How Award-Winning Journalists Get it Done at the Anaheim conference.

“Dare is the only winner for television reporting. His award is for a series of 6 On Your Side reports on debt issues, options and answers.”

Read more here.

Jason Zweig

Betting against what other personal finance journalists are writing

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Jason Zweig of The Wall Street Journal, who earlier this week won a Gerald Loeb Award for personal finance coverage, writes Friday about how he does his job.

Zweig writes, “But humans perceive reality in short bursts and streaks, making a long-term perspective almost impossible to sustain – and making most people prone to believing that every blip is the beginning of a durable opportunity.

“My role, therefore, is to bet on regression to the mean even as most investors, and financial journalists, are betting against it. I try to talk readers out of chasing whatever is hot and, instead, to think about investing in what is not hot. Instead of pandering to investors’ own worst tendencies, I try to push back. My role is also to remind them constantly that knowing what not to do is much more important than what to do. Approximately 99% of the time, the single most important thing investors should do is absolutely nothing.

“There’s no smugness or self-satisfaction in this sort of role. The competitive and psychological pressure to give bad advice is so intense, the demand to produce noise is so unremitting, that I often feel like a performer onstage before a hostile audience that is forever hissing and throwing rotten fruit at him. It’s hard for your head to swell when you spend so much of your time ducking.

“On the other hand, you can’t be a columnist for The Wall Street Journal without a thick skin. I have been called an ignoramus, an idiot and dozens of epithets unprintable in a family newspaper; accused of front-running or trading ahead of my own columns; assailed as being in the pockets of short-sellers betting against regular investors; described as being a close friend of a person I’ve never met in my entire life.”

Read more here.