Those who were enjoying a weekend of high sports drama or familial bliss might have missed another media obituary this past Sunday -- David Carr's persuasive au revoir to business journalism in the New York Times.
Carr cites several "technical reasons underlying the collapse -- and that's what it is -- of business journalism." It's hard to argue with him, not to mention dangerous. You don't want a guy like Carr mad at you. Still, you've got to hope he's being a bit pessimistic in order to make his point, and that there's still some life in the game if somebody can figure out a new way to do it.
Carr suggests that the beat itself has lost its mojo, because its subject -- essentially the aggrandizement of business and its practitioners -- has disappeared. We're not interested in big, glossy spreads of the superpeople who run the economy and its constituent parts. We don't want to see one more big piece on how great this or that financial wizard might be ... because we're not in the wizard business anymore.
Yet the need for stories that concern the making and spending of money have never been more important. The collapse of this discipline as a popular art form will spell disaster in the short and long term. Short term -- we won't know what's really going on even more than usual. Long term -- same, only bigger. So what should those who cover business be writing about, and not? Here are some early suggestions:
NO: The Financial Sector. I'm bored with it. I'm not saying there shouldn't be coverage. But about 80% of all stuff right now is about Wall Street, banks, financial institutions, rich farts getting bonuses, and so forth. Been there. Done that. Unless a guy is running around in front of the stock exchange with his or her pants on fire, I'm not as interested as I should be anymore.
YES: People in other areas of enterprise who are making news in one way or another. There must be some other fields of endeavor where people make something other than decisions and big money. I mean ... aren't there?
NO: Prognostications from economists and security analysts. With the winnowing-away of huge swaths of reporters and editors, a lot of newspapers, magazines and websites now confine themselves almost exclusively to reporting on the reports of those whose job it is to issue reports. Sometimes these guys are right. Sometimes they're wrong. They're seldom very interesting to read about. But it fills space, particularly the more outlandish and opinionated ones.
YES: Bovine methane emissions and attempts to either reduce or monetize them.
NO: Davos. The Allen Conference. Any other story that features the usual stiffs wearing blue jeans and white water rafting. That includes Bono.
YES: Auto workers who are still employed. How science is making our lives better. Malls that are sinking into the swamps on which they were built. Stem-cell start-ups in weird locations. Businesses that are actually making money, instead of those that are grooming themselves for a VC run. You know... business. Remember business?
NO: Dead stuff and why it's dying.
YES: Having fun in Tokyo.
NO: What old guys are thinking.
YES: What young people are doing.
Business is about life, not death; about freedom, not prison; about struggle, not defeat. Sometimes when the story isn't going your way, you have to change the story. What was first in importance is now last; what was last is suddenly first.
Maybe it's time we all started looking at the front end of the elephant for a while. The view is different from up there.