Oh, the places you’ll go

August 21, 2013 § 6 Comments

Journalism will take you places, but it won’t always be the places you expect. Pull up a chair, and let me tell you a tale – one that starts in the murky underbelly of personal finance.

Earlier on in my freelance career, I wrote consumer finance articles for the Mail & Guardian. They were the usual suspects – advice about saving and retirement planning or medical aids. And then, one day, they weren’t.

All it took was one phone call from my editor – let’s call her Anna – to make consumer finance seem really, really interesting. There I was, just minding my business in my little home office, when the phone rang one morning.

Anna: Hi, Mandy. I’d like to try something a little different for us this week. Could you write us a story about porn shops?

Me: (a little surprised) Um, well, yes… what exactly did you have in mind?

Anna: Well, no-one really writes about them, so I thought we should.

Me: Uh huh.

Anna: So many people use them, but we don’t know a lot about them. And I think they use an interesting financial model.

Me: Really? Okay… I hadn’t considered that. But actually, now that you mention it, there’s a porn shop up the road from us with a sign outside that says “We deliver.” That’s always puzzled me – how does that work, exactly?

Anna: Oh? Well, I think you should go in there and talk to them. And find out what kind of things people ask for; see if they have any interesting anecdotes just to lighten things up a little.

Me: (confused and wondering if this will really fit the section) Um, okay. I’ll get on it right away.

Anna: Great. I’ve also got some contacts for other shops. I’ll email them to you.

Me: Perfect. Thanks, Anna – I think this is going to be fun.

About half an hour later the email arrived: “Hi, Mandy. You can try Manny’s Pawn Shop on 011 123-4567 or Prestige Pawn Shop on 011 234-5678.”


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