Sponsored Partner Content

October 18, 2022 (Updated )

Shortly after Roula Khalaf was promoted to editor of the Financial Times in 2020, she spoke about how the image of the paper could sometimes come across as intimidating. “It feels intimidating because of its reputation,” she told a Women in Journalism audience with honesty. “The image of the FT is more intimidating than the content.”

Does this intimidating reputation extend to the journalism behind stories? Well, perhaps. It might seem that if you haven’t trained in economics or don’t possess a solid knowledge of finance and e-commerce, this could be an area of journalism that’s off-limits to you.

However, when you delve into what makes a relevant and interesting money story, it quickly becomes clear that there are stories to be told within all sectors — from hospitality, leisure, and sports to health, education, and careers.

In fact, by speaking to the journalists whose stories make the pages, we discovered that there really are money stories within every beat.

Clichéd But True: Money Makes The World Go Round

Journalist Alice Hancock, now covers energy and climate for the Financial Times in Brussels, but had initially joined as the leisure industries reporter. She explains how she came to the publication without any “financial journalism training in any shape or form”.

Hailing from an interiors magazine, Hancock admits she also assumed the newspaper’s content would be hard for her to understand, but urges others to not be put off by such misconceptions.

Journo Resources
Journo Resources

“What I have learnt [since working at the FT] is that finance and economics makes the world go round,” says Hancock. “Whether you are a consumer journalist, a lifestyle journalist, or looking at politics or geopolitical trends, even a basic grasp of the subject is important.” Or, to put it another way, there are money stories everywhere.

Hancock now uses her own experiences of lifestyle writing to produce compelling, information-filled stories for a wide selection of Financial Times readers — a combination which can make the stories even stronger.

One such story that had also received a lot of attention looked at the scramble for pubs to secure scotch eggs in 2020. Demand for the snack boomed after cabinet minister Michael Gove suggested they could count as a substantial meal under lockdown rules, meaning punters could also order alcoholic drinks.

“I spent a day calling around all the scotch egg suppliers I could find, and so many pubs [off the back of those comments],” laughs Hancock. “I find that usually small businesses and retailers are especially willing to be a part of a story and will share their knowledge with you.”

“They told me there had been a sales uptick. From there I spoke to other producers, who shared their stories with me. The resulting story was picked up by the BBC and The Week — and it is a good example of a fun leisure and financial story — showing how a politician’s words can filter through to the market.”

Look At The Money Behind Trends Or Stories

Akila Quinio, who is currently on a two-year graduate trainee programme, agrees that many of her success stories come from the research around an unexpected topic or interest. One of her big break stories came from listening to friends, who were trainees in large law firms, talking about a new trend of YouTube influencers who dedicate their channels on how to get into Magic Circle law firms.

“I thought this was an interesting trend to investigate,” Quinio tells us. “These influencers were highlighting what they do each day within these law firms, filming videos, and essentially marketing those firms without a formal relationship.”

Similar to Hancock, Quinio believes she was able to pursue the piece by drawing on her other interests. “I knew this is where my knowledge of social media, and outlook as a young person, could be useful,” she explains, adding that it could work across various audiences from young people to partners “who could now understand what was happening among their younger recruit communities.”

Journo Resources
“Usually small businesses and retailers are especially willing to be a part of a story and will share their specialist knowledge with you.”
Alice Hancock, Leisure Industries Reporter

Quinio approached the story just like any other. She approached three influencers; one through LinkedIn, another via Instagram, and one through an agent.

“I felt I related to them because I was also a graduate trainee at a corporate firm, so it was easy to be curious about what they do and their journey to get there,” she explains.

“While it was a little harder to approach the subjects of whether there are commercial payments and how much oversight they have, I could ask those towards the end of the interview — and fully understand what was happening behind-the-scenes first.”

Take Your Next Career Step At The FT

Staff at the Financial Times are united by a mission to deliver world-class information, news, and services to a discerning global audience — and it could be the next stop for your career.

There is no single type of person who gets hired at the FT. They’re looking for people from all backgrounds and walks of life, united by a passion for delivering compelling, smart journalism fuelled by cutting-edge technology.

They’re also committed to investing in the next generation through internships, work experience, graduate schemes, and the FT Talent Challenge.

Find Out More Here

‘Start By Listening To What Others Have To Say’

Financial Times’ communities editor, Lucy Warwick-Ching, shares the belief that there is a money story to be found in almost every corner of life. “I’ve found some of my best stories simply by keeping my ears open and listening to what the people around me are talking about,” she says.

“For example, from what they’re getting agitated by, to the injustices they have come across. You can find a story by talking to your friends, parents, colleagues, and readers.”

One of Warwick-Ching’s most recent pieces came out of a call-out to new graduates, asking them to share how their lives had been affected by the pandemic. More than 100 people responded with their personal stories. As a result, Warwick-Ching and her colleague Janina Conboye produced an information-centred article on the difficulties faced by new graduates — a topic that perhaps isn’t quite the stereotype of heavy-handed finance.

Lucy, a woman with blonde hair, smiles at the camera from a cafe table
Communities Editor, Lucy Warwick-Ching, uses her natural instinct and interest in a story to guide her investigations. (Image Credit: Supplied)

“Personal finance impacts everyone from wealthy people to those without much money,” stresses Warwick-Ching. “It’s unlikely that you will find someone who doesn’t care at all about money.

“Yes, there are columns [in the money section] that are aimed at hedge fund investors; maybe only a small percentage of readers might be drawn to those. But the main features are more practical and will include tips for people who don’t understand the subject as much.”

It’s also not unusual for a journalist’s interests and, therefore, story angles to evolve over time, especially in response to their own life experiences. For Warwick-Ching, this was the case when she became a parent.

She began writing the newspaper’s Family Money column, where she was able to cover topics such as the ‘motherhood penalty’ — where women’s salaries and career prospects go down after having children — and the tax-free childcare account website. These were subjects that she admits she wasn’t as aware of before becoming a mother.

Journo Resources
“You can find a story by talking to your friends, parents, colleagues — and readers.”
Lucy Warwick-Ching

“Look at it like you’re gaining an understanding about how the world works, rather than becoming an expert in finance or economics specifically,” she advises.

“Financial terms can be learnt on the job. No one expects you to know everything as a graduate or trainee. That happens alongside learning about the world.”

Remember Your Audience Wants Accessible Information

But no matter how much you avoid it, there will always be times when you’ll need to relay financial information within a story, which can feel pretty daunting. However, Hancock reassures us there are plenty of ways to do this clearly — which is vital for your audience too.

“Most people are reading these articles on their phone so that information needs to be conveyed in an accessible way,” she tells us. “That’s a part of the whole package of the article. Some statistics, that aren’t heavy, can be placed into the piece itself; but when the subject is more complicated, you can use graphs, for example, so people can grasp the information quickly and simply.”

Practical Tips For Finding & Reporting Money Stories

Ask your audience what’s bugging or intriguing them: Start with a topic you know people care about. Put out a survey or call-out, take notes from conversations you’ve overheard, or think about what’s striking a chord in the news agenda. You might even look to your own life experiences.

Focus on the context before the financial jargon: Don’t start out with a finance or economics question — ask what’s happening in the world and try to understand it. Only once you understand the context and effects, should you start to get technical. This should also reflect in your writing — only use stats in context, rather than as a long list.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help: No one expects you to know everything when you start. As long as you’ve got a nose for a story, your colleagues can help with any more complex aspects of financial reporting.

Remember to keep it accessible for your audience: Even if you do need to dig into the weeds, remember that you shouldn’t make it complicated when you’re writing it. Your audience needs to be able to understand the top-line quickly and easily, so don’t get bogged down with jargon.

Keep focused: Money stories often interlock with one another and it’s easy for an interviewee to get sidetracked. In your copy, try to just focus on one key area, so audiences don’t get confused.

Quinio, meanwhile, says putting numbers and figures in context, rather than listing them, makes all the difference to the reader’s understanding. Similarly, she recommends using people’s real names, personal experiences, and their photos, to make an otherwise information-heavy piece engaging and relatable.

Her primary advice, however, is to take as much time as you need to fully understand the topic. Asking colleagues, and being willing to ask silly questions, is a part of the learning process.

“Obviously you should always keep the type of publication you’re pitching to, and its readers, in mind,” Warwick-Ching advises. “Have a look at the various sections and the stories that appear and find an angle you’re interested in that fits.

“Our money section, for example, has much more of a ‘campaign’ feel to it than you might think. We cover stories about student loans and debt to credit card fraud. Anything goes if it impacts people’s finances.”

Finally, Quinio recommends focusing a longer piece towards the subject you’re investigating and what you’re trying to say. It’s good advice for any type of journalism — but with technical topics like money it’s even more important not to confuse the reader. Quinoa concludes, “Be focused and specific about the topic at hand […]  and the story you want to tell.”

The Financial Times
The Financial Times

Across the FT Group, our people are united by a mission to deliver world-class information, news, and services to our global audiences. We’re a digital-first organisation made up of journalists, technologists, product managers, event planners, strategists, commercial and finance experts, marketing and communications specialists — and much more. Our strength is in our employees.

There is no single type of person whom we hire at the FT. Our strength is in our employees, from all different backgrounds and walks of life, united by a passion for delivering compelling, smart journalism fuelled by cutting-edge technology.

This is sponsored partner content supported by the FT Group.

Karen Edwards
Karen Edwards

Karen Edwards is the senior journalist at Journo Resources.

She focuses on practical, advice-led pieces on various sectors across the industry – feel free to get in touch with her if you have suggestions on what we should cover!

Outside of Journo Resources, Karen writes for print titles such as High Life by British Airways, Grazia and Metro, alongside digital platforms, including IndyVoices and Telegraph Travel.