On the money

FREELANCE journalists can make money by writing about money, well-established financial writer Richard Willsher told the London Freelance Branch June meeting. He sees his rôle as a decoding operation, putting City and financial information into understandable language so people can make sense of personal investments, pension plans, insurance policies and savings. "People have become little capitalists," he said.

Over the seven years he has been freelance, he has written for some 75 publications, concentrating on maybe half a dozen clients at any time but making sure he avoids becoming over-dependent on one.

A running small ad in the Press Gazette has brought him some good commissions. And there is the the matter of expertise - before becoming a freelance writer, he had been an investment banker and had edited the magazine The Investor. "Relatively few people writing about money know anything about it," he said.

Offering an insight into his working methods, he said he took as few lunches as possible: "It wastes an hour of my time, plus an hour there and back."

By contrast, Financial Times staffer Joel Kabazo emphasised the significance of lunches: "I have to lunch every single day of my life - it's a heavy price." He also has to gossip: "I am one of the few people paid to gossip." How else is he going to find out what is happening in the financial markets? "You want to know why certain shares are moving - there's always a reason. It's one's job to find out."

Joel noted the requirement for journalistic financial rectitude. "The fact that you work for the Financial Times gives you access," he said, "but also responsibility, because what you write may have a huge impact. You switch on the Reuters screen and find them quoting what you wrote. When that happens, I am filled with terror."

So more than lunchtime gossip is needed: "There is always dirt to dig. The problem is proving it, getting the documentary evidence."

NUJ NEC member Chris Wheal told the meeting that he organises a Financial Journalists Group. To find out more, fax him on 020 7696 8996.

Aug/Sep 2000
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Last modified: 25 July 2000
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