This week’s edition of America’s best newspaper writing features the often overlooked art of Business Reporting and Explanatory Journalism, the kind of stuff people don’t normally think of when they think of exemplary writing.
The first on the list is one William Blundell, a writer for the Wall Street Journal who excelled so highly in his area of expertise that he was known to coach younger journalists
in his area at later times in his life, allowing them to flourish into excellence. His article, The Life of a Cowboy: Drudgery and Danger, truly showcases his abilities to rise above the crowd and reveal himself as a keystone writer. William Blundell writes and reports by outlining every aspect of his story and then categorizing his material. He finds a way to reinforce the theme of what he is reporting on by on producing his message in a variety of different ways. Blundell utilizes a feature lead and vividly sets the scene for the reader at the beginning of his article by use of imagery and description. He also uses character development in his writings and brings up various interesting points about Jim Miller which keep his story interesting and intuitive. By creating unique transitions, incorporating interesting facts and using outside perspective, Blundell tells an original story about a topic that some people may find rather dry or unappealing.
Peter Rinearson’s article tells us that an airplane is a thing that many of us are afraid of. It is a thing that implants anxieties about freak accidents and heightens worries of bad weather. And for all the anxiety that airplanes cause, it is a wonder that more of us don’t research them more – that is, until you read Rinearson’s in-depth feature on them. At points, Rinearson’s writing shocks you with the difficulties of compromise. At others, he turns the door of the Boeing 757 into a stubborn character or a simple cork. The end result is what feels like a thorough understanding of the complexities involved in crafting one of these machines, matched with a much more thorough understanding that it is too complex to ever comprehend. Perhaps Boeing is best left to their devices and our faith is best left in them.
Michael Gartner’s “Property Tax Exemptions: Legal but Terribly Unfair” written in August 1995 proves just how much the man loves facts, and for good reason. The simplest bridge between misunderstanding and understanding is a few
simple facts. “Blistering logic and passionate style” is how the textbook phrases it. In Gartner’s business report on the immorality of properties being tax exempt, he not only explains what buildings and organizations are not being taxed in his area but also what that means for the people of this town. He says things like “should” and “could” and would”. “The property tax on that, (the Elks Club) at the business rate that other restaurants pay, would be $10,087. Would be, but isn’t.” To relate even more to his audience, Gartner lays out the guidelines for becoming exempted from taxes, possibly to spite the local government and their “unfair” tax policies. “You can have your taxes rolled back if you are in an urban revitalization district and improve your home or building,” writes Gartner. “You can petition to have the taxes on those improvements forgiven for three years or reduced for five to 10 years. It’s the exemption that allowed The Daily Tribune to escape paying taxes – about $3,100 a year – on $100,000 of improvements for three years.” The man calls on his own newspaper as a culprit of this. That is a move! Gartner shows us how to find what’s important in a topic and pick a central theme. His story never makes you doubt what its subject is.
All of these writers and more tell us a thing or two about the nature of business writing and explanatory journalism, and break down the walls that surround the stereotypes concerning business writing. These writers make the genre exciting, engaging and grabbing.