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Happy blirthday to Taking Charge

Daniel Ray

What do you call a blog’s first birthday? A blogiversary? A blirthday?

Whatever it is, wish us a happy one. A year ago today, Senior Reporter Connie Prater clicked on the dropdown list of the blog software, changed the status to “published” and nervously clicked the “Save” button.
With the publication of the item “Is the next generation already wrapped in plastic?,” “Taking Charge” was born. It’s the group blog written by the staffers of

taking-charge-turns-one.jpgA year and just about 600 items later, here we still are, still writing, as it says just about five inches to the right of my mugshot, about “the pieces of plastic we love, and love to hate.”

There have been some funny moments, such as when Emily Starbuck Gerson wrote a story about the credit card for the restaurant Hooters, which for a while made the item No. 1 ranked in Google for the search term “busty ladies.” I suspect some readers went away disappointed.

There have been newsworthy ones, too, such as when Jeremy “Scoop” Simon broke the story about how credit bureau TransUnion had settled a class action lawsuit, resulting in an award that more than half of America was entitled to lay claim to. We’ve also enjoyed being “introduced” to some of the fine personal finance bloggers out there in the blogosphere, relationships we hope to develop further. Finally, it’s been a pleasure to chat with some of the audience members, help them when we could, and often be awed by how much they already know.

Been a good year. Think we’ll have another.

Before we do, we’d like to sign off on the year of living blogerously by taking a look back at some of our eight bloggers’ favorite items, and some of yours, as determined by our Web analytics software. We’re polite folks here at TakingCharge, so please, you go first.

Your favorite 8 blogs
Politics, lawsuits, steak and celebrities were just a few of the topics our readers visited the most.  Here are the top eight Taking Charge blogs, as ranked by readers. (This is the point where I hand off the keyboard to our newest blogger, Tyler Metzger, who pulled these lists together for us.)

1.Lawsuit settlement provides free credit monitoring to millions of consumers” was by far the most popular blog     post. Staff writer Jeremy Simon first broke the story about a lawsuit that forced TransUnion to offer free credit monitoring for nine months. His two follow-ups were the second- and third-most popular, but we’ll wrap them all up as one.

2. Connie Prater’s “Wife’s credit card spending may have brought down Ed McMahon” proves people love that even you down-to-earth, savvy personal finance readers like a bit of celebrity gossip. The short post discussed former NBC “The Tonight Show” sidekick Ed McMahon’s financial misery; he and his wife were stuck with $750,000 in total credit card debt due to his wife’s spending habits. As Don Henley said, “People love it when you lose. They love dirty laundry.”

3. Matt Schulz helped steak and beer fans with his post “Competitors honor Bennigan’s, Steak & Ale gift cards.” The piece discussed how gift cards from the bankrupt restaurants might be honored by Logan’s Roadhouse, Texas Roadhouse and other eateries. Many readers left comments stating that buying restaurant gift cards is a waste of money. Guess they might be left cardless and hungry.

4. A newsy piece by Jeremy Simon discussed measures being taken by the House of Representatives to address consumers concerns about credit card issuers’ deceptive practices. Comments on “House introduces Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights” varied, but the consensus was a resounding cry of “It’s about time!”

5. Dan Ray reported in early August that banks were beginning to stiffen credit card standards by increasing interest rates, requiring higher minimum credit scores and tightening terms and conditions on new or existing customers. The post “Loan officers’ survey: Credit card lending standards tighten sharply” continues to climb in numbers as the current credit crisis looms.

6. Credit card fraud is rampant. David Munns revealed new measures that scam artists use today to steal sensitive information in “Notes from the underground: The next generation of carders.” According to Munns, scammers set up Web sites to sell packages of identity information, including people’s PIN numbers for debit cards, birth dates, mothers’ maiden names and more.

7. We’re in the heat of the World Series, and Emily Starbuck Gerson’s “The 162nd Carnival of Personal Finance: Baseball edition” came out right around the All Star game time to help unite baseball and personal finance fans alike. The extensive post covers money management, investment, frugality, credit (of course) and much more. The little baseballs are cute, too.

8. Julie Sherrier gave us the details about how only four out of nine retailers implicated in the biggest identity theft scam in the country notified their customers that their credit and debit card data had been compromised in her blog, “Largest credit card scam uncovers retailer culpability.”

Editors’ top 8 blogs
Deadbeats, politics, fraud, the Super Bowl and credit repair spurred reporters and editors to lunge for their keyboards. Here, in no particular order, is a list of the staff’s top eight Taking Charge blogs over the past year:

1. “My year of living frugally
Connie Prater shares her pride and awe of coming out of 12 months of living frugally. From killing cable to her landline, she says her no-frills lifestyle isn’t poverty, but frugality. Plus, her teenage daughter learned a few important lessons along the way.

2. “I’m not a deadbeat, but I play one on my cell phone
Dan Ray’s humorous take on a frustrating experience that many of can relate to — that of mistaken identity and persistent callers who don’t believe what you’re telling them — is gratifying.

3.Credit card ads from Super Bowls gone by
Jeremy Simon’s post is a lighthearted look at the credit card-related Super Bowl ads. The ads are a hoot, and so is the way Jeremy wrote it. In writing about the 2006 MasterCard ad, which featured a reprise of the TV action figure MacGyver, Jeremy wrote, “Back in those days, people solved problems with just their smarts and a semi-mullet, from what I understand.” Like ’72 Dolphins Super Bowl win: perfect.

4.Obama may reform McCain’s credit card rate
Lurking on page 26 of Sen. John McCain’s personal financial disclosure form was a juicy little tidbit. No, not the fact that his wife, Cindy, has a pair of American Express charge cards with limits over $100,000 each. It was the McCains’ joint personal charge card that caught Dan Ray’s eye. McCain’s card carries a whopping APR of 25.99 percent! Dan’s been covering banking products and personal finance issues for nearly a decade now, so he knows that’s the same rate that’s offered to people who can’t manage to pay their bills on time. It’s more than 10 points higher than the average.

5.You are your own best credit repair company
Matt Schulz shared his travails of trying to fix an error on his credit report, including the frustration of dealing with creditors who take their sweet time in correcting their mistakes. After two months of waiting and follow-up calls, Matt can now report his credit is all clear.

6. “Will cash become king again?
With so many people used to whipping out plastic to pay for things they cannot afford, Julie Sherrier wondered just how far consumers will be set back in this current economic climate. With tightened credit standards, consumers may just have to relearn how to use cash again, including saving, instead of charging, future expenditures.

7. “Next-generation multimedia credit card unveiled
Mash a credit card and iPhone together and you get the &d Multimedia Card by Korea’s KB Card. David Munns post on this funky invention is a great read for gadget lovers and brings us a fresh look at what the credit card future might look like.

8. “Credit card postcards from Europe
Emily Starbuck Gerson kept a journal so she could share the odd credit card and financial situations she encountered during her two-week trip to Europe. Tips such as flagging your bank account, avoiding high minimums and even carrying cash when you need to go to the bathroom were all covered in her four-part blog series.

On to Year Two!

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