Nothing Dismal about These Guys
Editorial discussions at our morning news meetings range far and wide, from Yahoo! to the Yankees, from Bill Ford to Harry Potter. But we always talk about the economy. This week, we mark the retirement of three people who have been our colleagues and friends for many years: Chief Economist William Wolman, Senior Editor Seymour Zucker, and Economic Trends' Gene Koretz. They have been involved in thousands of articles about the dismal science, dozens of cover stories, and--since they are economists--millions of arguments.
Beyond their individual contributions, these three helped make journalistic history. It was BusinessWeek in the 1950s and 1960s that invented the coverage of economics as news--that is, as a subject important and interesting enough to warrant attention on a regular basis, not just in academic journals but in a popular weekly magazine.
The prime mover in this trend in the 1950s was Leonard Silk, a PhD economist-turned-journalist who worked at BusinessWeek for many years and later at the New York Times. In 1960, Silk hired a young academic, also an economics PhD, named Bill Wolman. A Montreal native, Wolman had graduated from McGill University and earned his doctorate at Stanford University. At that moment in 1960, he was an assistant professor of economics at Washington State University in Pullman.
BusinessWeek's pioneering coverage, particularly in the 1960s, brought academic economists to the business community and to the general public for the first time. The magazine popularized the field and its leading practitioners--explaining Keynesianism and monetarism to us--and introduced us to the giants of the economics profession, from Paul Samuelson and Milton Friedman to Wassily Leontief and Arthur Okun.
Silk left in 1969, and for much of the next 30 years, it fell to Bill Wolman to lead the charge. But Wolman did more than pioneer a field. He helped to build a tradition at the magazine that continues today and remains one of our great strengths. He won many major journalism awards, including a National Magazine Award, and is a well-known television commentator.
Over the years, we've had PhD economists who became journalists and journalists who mastered economics. Zucker and Koretz best represent these two archetypes. Seymour Zucker is a Brooklyn native who earned a PhD in economics from the New School for Social Research. Zucker may have been a greenhorn in journalism, but he became one of the very best editors at BusinessWeek.
Gene Koretz came not as an economist but as a copy editor. A native New Yorker, he graduated from George Washington High School a few years after Alan Greenspan, and, at Indiana University, got as far as completing the course work for a PhD in English literature. From the BusinessWeek copy desk, he soon gravitated to reporting and writing, mastering the rare ability to translate arcane material into thoughtful journalism. Koretz' Economic Trends column developed a wide following, part of the smorgasbord that makes a great magazine.
Many other newspapers and magazines now cover the economy, but our job remains the same: to be on the leading edge of new thinking; to identify important people, trends, and ideas; and to do the best possible business-cycle analysis. In the process, we aim to be nonpartisan. We don't embrace any one particular ideology--whether Keynesian, monetarist, or supply-side. We examine them all and try to bring to bear intelligent and fair-minded analysis.
Economics is not a science: Reasonable people will disagree, and they certainly do. Over the years, our staff members have argued passionately among themselves and in these pages. We encourage this. We promise to keep the debate civil, rational, and nonpersonal. No one has a monopoly on economic wisdom.
We will miss Bill, Seymour, and Gene. But BusinessWeek still has a great group of people covering this important field, including Michael J. Mandel, James C. Cooper, Peter Coy, Kathleen Madigan, Rich Miller, Laura Cohn, Christopher Farrell, James Mehring, and Margaret Popper. They are joined by our rotating Economic Viewpoint columnists, Robert J. Barro, Gary S. Becker, Jeffrey E. Garten, Robert Kuttner, and Laura D'Andrea Tyson. Covering economics is an important mission, and we know that you, our readers, are counting on us to maintain an honorable tradition.
By Stephen B. Shepard, Editor-in-Chief