Writing History at the Wall Street Journal

Business History Conference 2
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Grace Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Daniel Levinson Wilk, Fashion Institute of Technology

Session Abstract

If newspaper articles are the first draft of history, journalists often write the second draft too.  Sometimes in newspapers themselves, sometimes in book-length manuscripts, reporters go back in time to recount, reconsider, and analyze events covered by previous generations of journalists.  In this roundtable panel, four employees of the Wall Street Journal will recount their attempts to recapture various histories—the suffering of the Civil War, the reenslavement of African-Americans after emancipation, the genesis of the board game Monopoly and the desegregation of the Pepsi corporation.  The participants will consider the following questions.  Do journalists write history differently from trained historians?  What particular strengths or weaknesses do journalists bring to the study of history?  Does the Wall Street Journal encourage its reporters to think historically, especially on issues related to business and the economy?  Have recent changes to management at the Wall Street Journal had any effect on this tendency?  Does the experience of writing history make it difficult to return to the shorter format of everyday reporting?  Has that experience inflected subsequent reporting by these historians?