Each year, RTDNA and the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) present the RTDNA/NEFE Personal Finance Award to the most outstanding work from radio, television and digital journalists covering personal finance issues in their reporting.
At the Money Matters session at Excellence in Journalism 2016 in New Orleans, this year's winners were given the opportunity to talk about how they built their award-winning stories. They also gave advice other personal finance reporters, and students considering specializing in the field.
Radio Winner: Tina Martin
By Lester Duhé, RTDNA News
For her story, Martin told the audience that she had discovered that the attorney general in Massachusetts had just filed a lawsuit against a debt collection firm, who was collecting on debts that they did not approve.
Martin said that she needed to find a personal connection that was deeply affected by this. So one day, a woman who did not want to be named, shared to Martin about how she was having a really hard time paying for her debt. In her story, Martin called this woman “Denise.” Because she was in so much debt, Denise didn’t even realize how much money she owed, and she felt like she didn’t have a future because of all her debt.
In her story, Martin wanted to show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and a way to work on paying your student loans and hospital bills.
When approaching the story, she wanted to shine a light on how sensitive debt really is. She wanted to make sure that her viewers walked away understanding that they could be Denise, but they have rights and do not have to be subject to these debt collectors. Martin wants her viewers to walk away from her stories understanding a lot more about the subject she reported about.
To the audience, Martin said that she is not only a news reporter, but she is a part of the community she reports. In her three to four minute pieces, she wants viewers to understand that there is trouble out there in the world, but there is help and ways to fix it.
Television Winner: Chris Vanderveen
By Angelina Salcedo, RTDNA News
Chris Vanderveen, a reporter for Denver’s KUSA-TV, received the award for Excellence in Financial Reporting for television.
His story, BuyER Beware, highlighted UCHealth, a company with storefronts that look urgent care centers affiliated with hospitals, but which sends bills like an emergency room. The stories warned viewers to be cautious when visiting these centers, which operated independently.
“When we don’t access medicine, when we don’t access health care a lot, we’re all a little naive... most doctors don’t even know how billing works.”
Vanderveen says that one of the most important aspects of his job as a journalist is that he gets to hold powerful entities accountable. That’s why he loves reporting.
He added that being honored by RTDNA is encouragement to continue something that he’s “insanely passionate about,” his health reporting.
Online Winner: Jillian Berman
By Amelia Fabiano, RTDNA News
Jillian Berman, a reporter for MarketWatch.com, received her award for Excellence in Financial Reporting for Online.
Her coverage on student debt and its effects on their families, themselves, the economy, and society won this joint RTDNA/NEFE Award. MarketWatch is one of the only news organizations that dedicates a reporter this this subject. Berman has covered it since March 2015.
“We all have issues with our money whether it’s more frequently covered finance topics like debt, credit cards, things like that, or money comes up in relationships for example,” Berman says. “It’s important because it really figures into everyone’s daily life.”
Berman says that one thing personal finance reporting lacks today is data. She says that some reporting is a lot of theorizing and not enough of the hard facts that can help people.
She says that she is excited to be receiving this award.