Even if a group of reporters has to start by hanging around some stores and observing how many of these weapons go out the doors, the effort would be worth it. The Times had a six-person team do a story Saturday on gun sales generally. Why not have six reporters hang out at Wal-Mart stores for a few days?

Beyond that, someone should ask Wal-Mart whether being forced to stop selling certain weapons would have a material effect on earnings and, if so, whether the company plans to list that as a risk in its next securities filing. It’s highly unlikely, but worth a try, as a way to start a conversation. Few public companies will ignore questions related to the integrity of their securities disclosures.

Another line of inquiry would involve getting a fix on whether Wal-Mart is more worried that taking what gun control advocates would see as a more responsible position on assault weapons sales would risk an overall consumer backlash that would cost more than lost sales on those products.

4. Boeing’s Dreamliner Crisis:

I assume that the key business reporting outlets are working on tick-tocks of how Boeing is coping with the crisis surrounding its new Dreamliner aircraft and how competitor Airbus is trying to take advantage of it.

But a story covering the struggles of the people behind the design, sale (and competitive fights) and setbacks of this game-changing plane would be a great book. I’m thinking of The Devil’s Candy by Julie Solomon, one of my favorite books, which was about the making of the disastrous movie version of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. Maybe this one will have a happier ending — but either way it has all the elements of a compelling read.


Steven Brill , the author of Class Warfare: Inside the Fight To Fix America’s Schools, has written for magazines including New York, The New Yorker, Time, Harper's, and The New York Times Magazine. He founded and ran Court TV, The American Lawyer magazine, ten regional legal newspapers, and Brill's Content magazine. He also teaches journalism at Yale, where he founded the Yale Journalism Initiative.