What the Nation's Leading Papers Said This Week

Assessments of the meltdown in dot.com stocks. Plus: Another look at workplace violence; the history and promise of the 401(k); and the true cost of cheap clothes

By Eric Hübler

While many investors and journalists concentrated last week on the disappointing year in stocks, the true tragedy was the massacre at a Massachusetts software company, Edgewater Technology. The Boston Globe had an emotional recap, plus a story about letting a managed care company run mental health, that, however unintentionally, seems related. The New York Times (free registration required) interviewed Joseph Califano for some insight on workplace violence, including a recommendation for "local crisis teams."

Now for some of those year-in-review stories. Most were predictable whines about the dot-coms pooping out, but The Washington Post made the bad news almost fun to read with its bouncy style ("blunders and boobies").

The New York Times' viciously witty Gretchen Morgenson presented year-end "awards" you wouldn't want to put on your mantle. And she offered an explanation for why stock investors suddenly seemed so stupid in 2000: Analysts aren't really analysts anymore, they're sponsors, and everyone who believes them is a sucker.

The Detroit News said this may feel like a recession, but it isn't .

DOLLARS AND DREAMS. The Denver Post and The (Portland) Oregonian told the big, bad story via several little, bad ones: What happened to once-loved local tech companies with names like Rhythms NetConnections and Webfinity Studios.

And a management professor wrote in The Minneapolis Star Tribune that it may be time to reevaluate a lot of business models.

Striking Seattle Times reporters rejected a contract on Saturday. What better place to read about it than in the strikers' own paper, The Seattle Union Record. However, their colleagues at the Post-Intelligencer accepted a contract earlier in the week, which will put plenty of pressure on the remaining strikers.

Sometimes, as illustrated by this San Jose Mercury News piece, dollars and dreams come together in a way that makes a business opportunity a profound mission. The diagnosis of a rare genetic disorder in his sons led a successful food processing executive to learn everything he could about biotech. Today he leads a company, Perlegen Sciences, that's trying to speed cures with DNA chips.

BACK TO THE FOLD. Online, offline, what's the diff as long as I get what I want when I want it? That's the message as many retailers try to make the two work together, says The Los Angeles Times. And staying offline has been the key to success for old-fashioned brokerage Edward Jones & Co., adds The Dallas Morning News.

Here's an article from The Cincinnati Enquirer about a small but successful e-tailer, bird house seller BestNest.com. But be forewarned: it contains the unpardonable phrase, "e-commerce storefront solution."

Welcome baaaaack....

No, it isn't Mr. Kotter The Chicago Tribune is talking about, but ex-dot-commers who want to return to their old jobs. EDS, for one, welcomes them back -- as long as they were considerate when they left.

To pay homage to another oldie: How can something that feels so right turn out to be so wrong? Turning Budget Rent a Car from a franchiser to a company-owned operation, and buying the Ryder truck rental business, seemed like logical decisions. Yet shareholders have lost 95% of their money, The Orlando Sentinel says.

HEYDAY OF THE 401(K). It's the stuff of legend: How benefits consultant Ted Benna conceived a new type of pension plan with an aggressive interpretation of Section 401(k) of the federal tax code -- an idea the IRS quickly sanctioned. The Baltimore Sun recounts Benna's brainstorm and looks ahead to whether the now-ubiquitous plans -- which in many cases replaced safer, traditional pension plans -- will live up to their promise of enriching retirement for millions.

The New Economy has been the best of times and the worst of times for women, The St. Paul Pioneer Press says. A national survey by a Boston consulting company found that women feel energized when they join young, entrepreneurial companies, but sometimes get that spirit kicked out of them by the long hours and a culture that sometimes favors young men.

Are cheap clothes worth the human cost that manufacturing them exacts? You be the judge after reading this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel package on Nicaraguan garment workers.

Finally this week and this year: The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff Brown says that all financial New Year's resolutions -- indeed, all financial decisions -- can be boiled down to this: Is it worth it?

Hübler reports for The Denver Post

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