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Please Read This Story...It's Important

There’s nothing more frustrating for a journalist than to present a really important story…that no one reads.

We have one of those today. It’s about an interest rate that affects mortgages, credit cards, and municipal and corporate bonds across the globe. Apparently, some of the bank folks who set this interest rate may have been engaging in some hanky panky, and so regulators want to change the way the rate is set.

Think of it: The rate at the heart of a major chunk of day-to-day finance may have been manipulated to such an extent that regulators want to change the system. That’s a pretty momentous development. Unfortunately, not that many people have read the story.

Why? Because it’s complicated and jargon-y. The rate is commonly called “Libor,” hardly an inviting headline word. Explaining what the rate does and how it’s created isn’t easy…in fact, it can get muddy very quickly (it involves daily estimates from a variety of financial institutions of borrowing costs over 15 time periods and in 10 currencies). And bringing the importance home to the average reader requires some intricate connect-the-dots linkage to the global finance system. To top it off, most of the action takes place in the UK, which throws some of our Anglo-American differences into the mix.

Suddenly a news story becomes homework.

In the days of newspapers, we wouldn’t be so aware of it. But with the traffic counting gizmos available in Internet journalism, well, I can practically see the readers running away. And no amount of headline and copy tweaking seems to change that unfortunate trend.

And so, I make this plea…please read this story. It’s important. Honest.

And you can get a Libor lesson here.