It doesn’t take much to find a perfect example that illustrates one of my blog posts.

Just yesterday I wrote about how the media loves to find stories involving victims.  Stories of people allegedly being taken advantage of play better than stories of people behaving responsibly because they are inherently more emotional.

Check out this story out of a Kansas City news station.  Watch the video.

What makes for better television than a man with cancer and one tooth, sitting in a wheelchair, talking about how his car got repossessed because he didn’t keep up with his title loan payments?  Add in the reporter’s emphasis on the infamous “triple-digit APR”, and the “thousand dollar monthly payment”, and the audience has been ginned up to hate that nasty title lender.  Nothing against Mr. Miller – he’s got cancer and needs help.  Personally, I think the title lender blew it by repossessing the car.  Then again, perhaps there are parts of the story we don’t know about.

After all, the title lender did warn Mr. Miller not to fall behind.  Most likely the title lender also provided all the required disclosures.  For all we know, the lender may have even tried to talk him out of it.  Maybe Mr. Miller was given a grace period?  Did he ask for an extended repayment plan?  Was he already on one?  We don’t know because the reporter was too interested in the “victim’s” story, and ignored the other side.

I do, however, give credit to the reporter on one matter.  She keeps in several lines that are, in fact, the most important part of the story.  Regrettably, these points are buried beneath the emotional aspects of the story.

Mr. Miller says the most important words that any borrower of any kind of loan should heed:  “I didn’t sit down and really discuss my options. That was my, that was on me,” he said. “I didn’t really sit down and focus on what needed to be done…”

 

I cannot emphasize enough how important these words are.  Anytime you have a financial decision to make, you need to think about it.  Discuss your options.  There are so many resources available, especially in a place like Kansas City, that taking the time to avail yourself of those resources should be your first thought.

The answer is not to use government to legislate away options.

The answer is to use government to encourage personal responsibility.

I feel badly for Mr. Miller.  I hope things improve for him, and there is value in his message to think before acting.  But shame on the media for exploiting his situation to demonize a business that helps millions of people.

How about a story on how a title lender helped someone for a change?

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