I had a call today from a freelance writer working on a piece on labor reporting for Journalism Education Today. She wanted to know what journalism schools were doing to prepare students to write about labor issues. I just laughed.
We’re — and I’m part of that we’re — not doing a damn thing. Labor reporting is a beat that only the top newspapers in the country and the top business magazines give to someone as a full-time job. And even then, the labor beat seems to have evolved into more of a “workplace” beat that ignores the real issues behind labor disputes. For more on this concept, see my review of Chris Martin’s book Framed!, which is available here.
Labor reporting has taken a backseat in the mainstream media because of the decline of union membership in this country. Still, more than 10 percent of the population belongs to a union. Why then, does the business section virtually ignore labor reporting? This is one of the weak spots of today’s business coverage.