Friday, November 11, 2005

Evolution of a Tax Article

As I sit here, at 5:00 a.m. waiting to make a call to the East Coast, I am reminded of something an English teacher was fond of saying in high school. He said, never assume. "You make an ass of you and me":


Fervently chasing down a story for MarketWatch, I spoke to several experts about my topic, as well as several agents who represented experts. But when youwrite articles for national publications, they expect you to go beyond the experts - and get a personal flavor to the story.

So, I needed a real person who couldtell me his or experience with this tax issue. And one of the public relations agents arranged just such an interview for me.

My goal was to finish all the interviews yesterday and spend Friday, Veterans Day, with my husband.

Then, I could use the weekend to read all the research I've collected. That way, Monday, I'd know if there were any loose ends to tie up - and I could craft another brilliant, wonderful and informative article for my TaxWatch column.

It took all day to connect with this woman, so by4:30 yesterday evening (it's dark, so it feels like evening), I thought I was finishing up the last pieceof the puzzle. Only this woman, the human interest focus of the piece, didn't want to be identified by name!

The PR agent never bothered to ask the basic question - "You understand that the journalist is interviewing you to include your story in the article. Are you willing to have your name in the article?" She assumed that this woman, a satisfied customer of her client, understood.

Why else would a journalist want to talk to a private person, rather than an expert? Unless, of course, they were doing an expose on something and needed to keep the source private - like Deep Throat.

Oh, I did ask here is she wanted to expose someone or something? But, no, she was happy with her experience - and just wanted privacy.

My friends, if you're seeking privacy, you shouldn't be volunteering to speak with journalists. What part of that concept is unclear?

The Silver Lining

Actually, as it happens, due to this lady's confusion, I had a very interesting conversation with one of my experts who did provide a customer willing to be identified. You'll meet Dan in the MarketWatch article this month. He gave me such an interesting slant on the story and how to improve an IRS procedure - that I think even IRS will like the idea.

After all, what's the point of writing a tax article if I can't also change the way the tax system works? That would be too mundane. Anyone could that!

So, tune in to next week's TaxWatch column to see how to avoid paying taxes on millions of dollars - or even a few measly hundreds of thousands - without having to work hard.

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