Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 17:50 UK

Top 10 tips: Reporting the economy

The BBC's Business Editor Robert Peston
The BBC's Business Editor Robert Peston

The BBC's business editor Robert Peston gives students his top 10 tips for reporting news about business and the economy.

1. Ask yourself: Why does it matter? Business and economics is about stuff that really affects the lives of millions of people, so start by making sure you understand why a change in the inflation rate, or a big loss made by a company, or a big movement in the stock market (and so on) actually matters. Read about a couple, for example, who have split up but are trapped into living with each other by a lack of movement in the housing market.

2. Avoid jargon. If you can't turn technical language into everyday English then you don't know what you're talking about. The BBC's jargon buster may help you.

3. Be honest about what you do and don't know. If you are interviewing an expert, don't pretend to have knowledge you actually lack. Your interviewee will be a lot more helpful if you have the confidence to admit that you are a bit confused.

4. Identify the big trends that are shaping the world. Some are long term, such as the rise of the Chinese and Indian economies. Some are shorter term, such as the explosive growth of borrowing by the British government. When you have a sense of the trends, you'll know where to look for important stories and you'll be able to provide context and balance in the presentation of your stories. The BBC's recession tracker shows the UK trends in unemployment, house prices, interest rates, inflation, repossession and Gross Domestic Product (services and goods produced in a year). Why not test yourself now by thinking about how the rise of the Chinese and Indian economies might be relevant to us here in the UK.

5. Find good interviewees. Work hard to identify people who know stuff. Then try to win their confidence, so that they will share some of their precious knowledge with you.

6. Do some background research. Spend as much time as you can reading the business pages of the BBC News website and their equivalents in national newspapers. This will give you a useful sense of what's hot and what's not.

7. Don't be a sheep. Don't follow the herd. Be aware of what's obsessing the media, but do your own thing. Dare to stand out from the crowd. Have a look at some of the economy stories produced by other School Reporters .

Graph representing the 12 month decline of the FTSE 100 share index
Don't be afraid to play around with some numbers

8. Do some maths.

When you've got a bit of experience and confidence, you'll be able to take the data from official economic statistics or announcements by companies, and do a few simple sums that tell you useful things. For example, the economy of an area may be growing, and this may be presented as a great success. But if you have spotted that the population is growing at a faster rate, a simple bit of division would tell you that on average people there are actually getting poorer, not richer, which would undermine the claim of success. This Bitesize guide to handling data might help you.

9. Find out about jobs in your area. A good place to start as a reporter is assessing the local economy of where you live. Try to work out how most adults in your community make a living - and thus what stories could really grab their interest. A BBC special report on the UK in recession contains an "Around the UK" section which reflects what is happening near you.

10. Pity anyone who says that business and economics are boring. They are saying that they have no interest in understanding how the world works.



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