In Praise of USA Today
Today, two newspaper articles made a splash in the blogosphere. One noted that one in six Americans — 50 million people — relies on food stamps, welfare payments, Medicaid, unemployment insurance or other anti-poverty programs — a point picked up by, among others, Daniel Foster at The National Review. The second noted that small businesses might be waiting to hire until they know whether Congress will approve a bill filled with tax breaks for them. No less than President Obama cited the article.
These trenchant, ahead-of-the-curve pieces did not come from one of the prestige papers, or a connected D.C. political publication. They came from kitchen-table favorite USA Today — the paper that far and away offers the best comprehensive coverage of nitty-gritty, human-impact, real-economy issues from unemployment to empty office parks to home-equity lines of credit.
I am not entirely sure why. But USA Today does seem to devote tremendous resources to national-scope real-economy reporting, whereas other papers tend to keep an enterprise reporter or two on the topic, supplanted with bigger staffs in personal finance and business. I also think how USA Today tends to frame issues makes a difference. Its journalists consistently keep an eye on labor market and economic policy changes, and then write stories about how they impact individuals. It’s an old-school style, but highly effective in bridging the yawning gap between what’s happening in Washington and what’s happening in homes and businesses.
So, I am sad to read about cutbacks there. It really is a tremendous resource.