In a classic work of media scholarship of the seventies, Deciding What’s News, Herbert S. Gans identified and analyzed what might be described as mainstream journalism’s fatal flaw: its tendency to fix its gaze on elites and their activities and to ignore everyone else. He called this “top-down” reporting, and showed how it had become journalism’s default mode. Journalism done right, we firmly believe, means hearing from everybody, which is what we liked about Jeff Tietz’s piece in Rolling Stone on the precariousness of a middle-class lifestyle, one of the best stories on unemployment that you will ever read. Ditto for Paul Kiel’s foreclosure story for ProPublica. And do not miss Mac McClelland’s first-person account for Mother Jones of what it’s really like to work in a digital retailer’s “fulfillment center,” better known as a warehouse.
But, this year, nothing quite had the power of the pieces that were written by non-journalists: letters about banks and bankers written by everyday people caught up on the debt trap and collected in The Trouble Is the Banks: Letters to Wall Street. We picked five; we could have chosen many more. If you read only one, I recommend: Deena DeNaro’s “Please Don’t Harass my Father Any Further.”
We hope you enjoy The Best Business Writing 2013, the second of what we hope is a long-running series.