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Telling one of the biggest business stories of our time


When do journalists tell a good, complicated and signficant story? I mean, really look at the big picture and cover an issue so thoroughly that the public understands the topic and can make good decisions based on that knowledge?

I had the pleasure of listening to David Halberstam speak about this task, even responsbility, a few years ago. He challenged the room full of ambitious journalists to determine the important stories of our time and to tell them well.

It’s not too difficult to determine one of the biggest business stories of our time is the current economic downturn. We are seeing a virtual restructuring of the manufacturing sector take place one earnings release at a time. David Leonhardt of the New York Times hit on some of the stresses in the manufacturing sector during a recent interview with President Obama. In the piece titled “After the Great Recession,” Obama covers a lot of territory, including the restructuring of manufacturing.

Some excerpts: “You go in to factories all across the Midwest and you talk to the men who work there—they’ve got extraordinary skill and extraordinary pride in what they make. And I think that for them, the loss of manufacturing is a loss of a way of life and not just a loss of income.”

On manufacturing when the economy improves: “A healthy economy is going to have a broad mix of jobs, and there has to be a place for somebody with terrific mechanical aptitude who can perform highly skilled tasks with his hands, whether it’s in construction or manufacturing.”

On the need to retrain displaced workers: “Somehow, we have not done a good job of matching up the training with the need out there.”

These statements offer clues to where the story is going to go next. Into worker retraining. Into the new areas of manufacturing such as alternative energy and the smart grid. Smart journalists are already pursuing these topics and more.

Yes, journalists are telling one of the biggest stories of our time. The late Halberstam would encourage even more coverage. After all. The story has several chapters yet to unfold.

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