OTNB IDEA: Covering the Economy

For the rest of the week I will offer story ideas for your newsroom. Right now, there is no story more universal, more emotional to your viewers than their personal struggles during the economic downturn.
Here is a heartbreaking story that you could localize or turn into an “On Your Side” consumer story – You don’t owe the debts of your deceased spouse, so why is the debt collector calling?

MINNEAPOLIS — The banks need another bailout and countless homeowners cannot handle their mortgage payments, but one group is paying its bills: the dead.

Melanie Ellston helping process claims.

Dozens of specially trained agents work on the third floor of DCM Services here, calling up the dear departed’s next of kin and kindly asking if they want to settle the balance on a credit card or bank loan, or perhaps make that final utility bill or cellphone payment.

The people on the other end of the line often have no legal obligation to assume the debt of a spouse, sibling or parent. But they take responsibility for it anyway.

“I am out of work now, to be honest with you, and money is very tight for us,” one man declared on a recent phone call after he was apprised of his late mother-in-law’s $280 credit card bill. He promised to pay $15 a month.


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