Karen Peterson

Karen Peterson: TNT to focus on living better in the local economy

The sentiment was clear. You are worried about your financial security.

The News Tribune surveyed readers and other local residents last fall, asking a series of questions, including this one: “What are the four things you would say worry you most in your own life?”

More than 3,000 people answered the open-ended question. The No. 1 worry by far, cited by 58 percent of respondents, was in the category of Jobs/Business/Economy/Money.

You expressed it like this:

•  “Having enough money to pay rent each month. Having enough money to buy food each month.”



•  “Affordable health care, high health insurance premiums, high taxes.”



•  “Health, job security, financial security/saving for school and retirement.”



We conducted the survey to pinpoint what local folks care most about. That helps us focus on stories we hope you will find most meaningful.

The American Press Institute was our partner in the survey. The organization also provided us software to track how people read our stories online.

We tracked how many readers clicked on stories in each topic area, how much time they spent reading and how often they shared stories on Facebook or other social media.

Again, local economy stories were popular.

The top two business stories since we started tracking them last June were these:

•  “Good news for Washington job seekers: Job vacancies, hiring up in latest data from state” — read by more than 60,000 people.



•  “Amazon is hiring for 350 full-time positions in Sumner” — liked or shared more than 35,000 times on social media.



The research clearly points to this as a high-interest topic. And we think the TNT can become an even better source of local economic information. In fact, we think we can become THE local source. That’s our goal.

Beyond the economic data and stories of business comings and goings, we want to help readers thrive economically.

On Thursday afternoon, 20 staff members gathered to brainstorm ideas for how to improve our coverage on this topic — Living in the South Sound Economy.

We filled a whiteboard with ideas, voted on our favorites and will perfect them in the coming weeks.

One suggestion was for an ongoing feature called “Do that job.” We’d pick an interesting job, maybe one in demand locally. We’d spend a day doing that job and share the story with readers. We could add a box listing skills and education needed to get that job, local businesses that employ people doing that job, and how much the job pays.

Another idea was to offer how-to guides on various topics — how to buy school uniforms on the cheap or how to improve your credit score, for instance.

We talked about hosting an event where personal finance experts would teach us how to build a family budget. We talked about writing financial case studies of local people saving for college or planning for retirement or buying a house that would be instructional for others. We talked about developing a local economic index that we could track over time.

If you have other ideas for what the TNT can do to help you navigate the local economy, send me an email at the address below.

Later this year, we’ll be digging deeper into other topics that proved popular with readers.

PHOTOGRAPHIC INSPIRATION

People often ask me where we get our story ideas. Generally, they come from well-sourced reporters or readers willing to share a tip.

The special section inside your paper today was inspired, instead, by a photograph.

Reporter Lisa Pemberton saw this unlikely promotional photo a year ago of the monks of Saint Martin’s Abbey in Lacey. She knew of the abbey and the monks, but the photograph made Pemberton curious about the men behind the silly dark glasses.

Pemberton and photographer Tony Overman spent the past year getting to know the monks and gaining the trust required to tell their story — sometimes somber, sometimes spirited, always hard-working and contemplative.

The tone of the section, with its layered look at the cloistered life, doesn’t match the tone of the photo. But the photo provided the spark for this much deeper story.

  Comments