Money Matters: Pew study shows consumer news lacking

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New research from Pew this week confirmed that when it comes to local news, local TV news is in the strongest position in terms of audience trust and reliance.

It also found that 90% of Americans are at least interested in following prices, with 37% saying it’s important for daily life, but only 25% of people say it is easy to stay informed about prices.

Slightly fewer, 82%, are interested in following jobs and unemployment, with more saying it is important but not for daily life. Yet just 21% of people say jobs and unemployment are easy to keep informed about jobs.

Those are some stark spreads, and represent an opportunity for consumer reporters to consider ways to communicate important information that often doesn’t make it into newscasts.

Cost of living indices are one key source of price news. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses six categories of expenses to calculate cost of living, and other organizations like the Council for Community and Economic Research break down cost of living by city and provide comparisons to the national average. Check your area’s data and compare your score in each category.  Then, dig into which are higher or lower than the national average and why. Your local Chamber of Commerce would be a great resource, too.

You could also use a cost of living calculator, like this one, to compare your city to others in your state or viewing area.

Among the six categories used for cost of living, the top consumer expenses include:

  • Housing prices - property taxes or rent
    • Do any agencies track housing prices in your area? Can you identify seasonal trends and include a regular mention on air in your segments about consumer topics?
  • Transportation – gas prices, tolls, parking costs
    • How do people in your viewing area commute? Can you include gas price data in your regular traffic reports?
  • Food
    • A regular consumer segment could include a quick update on the price of milk, or look into what fruits and vegetables are in season.

Jobs and Unemployment
The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Local Area Unemployment Statistics program releases monthly unemployment data for states, counties, and some cities. 

New unemployment data can be worth a mention in your consumer segment, but audiences are also looking for regular job information. Does your website or app include a local job board, or information about where to look for jobs locally?

Weekly Money Matters personal finance content for your newsroom is sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education