Just to play out the Wal-Mart thread…Compare the current Business Week cover story with the February Fortune piece that I touted a few posts ago, and ask yourself, what do we learn in the Business Week story that we didn’t already know? Both articles cite the company’s size, growth rate, number of employees, and spectacular impact on the economy. Both cite studies by consultancies on the company’s impact. The Biz Week story does cast a critical eye on Wal-Mart’s scary cultural impact of keeping magazines like Maxim and Stuff from customers; and admirably critiques its role as the largest creator of jobs that pay wages under the poverty line.
But I can only read this piece and ask: why can’t you tell me something new? Why did it take ten reporters, and "bureau reports" to boot, to research a story that Fortune did with one writer and one researcher, eight months ago? And, if you get a chance to look at this story on the newsstand, you can’t help but ask: could it be any uglier? The cover is a hideous and unimaginative drawing of a shopping cart with monster truck wheels. The inside story’s headline runs over a blurry, two-page photograph taken from the ground up, looking up an aisle of goods (none of which, by the way, are the Wal-Mart private label goods, which would have jogged an intriguing point about the company’s inroads on brands….but oops the story didn’t explore this.) Down the aisle we see the ass of a shopper pushing a cart. And hold that ass image, because this theme continues throughout the snapshot-quality photos that run throughout this story, as we see eight more asses in Wal-Mart stores. And a rack of underwear.
Ah….there goes my job at Business Week.
Okay, here’s my new favorite business story: this incredible Inc. piece on the ten year struggle of a persistent entrepreneur to commercialize Russian technology. In particular, the insane struggles of a Nevada businessman who stumbles onto the world’s strongest fireproof material, straight out of the Soviet Union space program, as he attempts to cut deals, raise funds, and navigate the insane puzzle of turning this resource into a profitable venture. It's a great piece, and a reminder of what business journalism can be.
Posted by tom at September 30, 2003 10:46 PM