Monday, March 23, 2009

This probably wouldn't have saved newspapers, but...

This would have been a good idea:

Imagine a newspaper with no "Business" section. Where the Business section is now, there is, instead, a "Work" section.

It would make sense for the paper from a, you know, business standpoint. Higher circulation means more revenue for the paper, so it makes sense to focus on the needs, concerns and interests the largest number of potential readers. The current model of a Business section is designed for only the tiniest slice of potential readers -- those who think of themselves primarily as investors. Why not aim, instead, for the vastly larger, overwhelming majority of potential readers, those who think of themselves primarily as people who work for a living?

[...]

Think how differently that section of the paper would have evolved if it had been the Work section instead of the Business section. It wouldn't have two pages of dense, inscrutable columns of stock prices tailored to people who think of themselves as "investors." (They're not, of course -- if you're checking the stock price every day, you're not so much investing in the company as betting on it.) Instead there might be columns listing the hourly wages for various employers and industries and their competing benefit plans.

If that last suggestion strikes you as shocking because information about wages and benefits is a private matter, that's because you've been reading newspapers with Business sections and not Work sections all these years and you've learned to think about these things from that perspective. If you'd been reading a newspaper with a Work section, instead, then you'd have spent all those years developing a better BS detector for that kind of thing. Thus if someone suggested that wages and benefits ought to be intensely private and secretive, you'd have learned to ask what it was they were trying to hide and why they're insisting on a labor market in which workers operate with imperfect and incomplete information.

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