A note from our editor, Elizabeth MacBride:
At our event last week, Nina Roberts, a stellar freelance writer, asked me why I thought big media doesn’t cover small business very much.
The left-wing media, the news outlets we’ve both written for and read, like The Atlantic, or The New York Times or The Washington Post, are ostensibly the champions of the underdogs. Small businesses are big-time underdogs in an increasingly monopolistic economy. (Lori Ioannou wrote about this evolving dynamic in the creator economy this week).
Capital is Bad, Labor is Good
One reason the big outlets don’t cover small business much, I believe, is that the big newsrooms hew to an increasingly rigid Progressive economic ideology: capital is bad, labor is good. They only have room for a certain number of underdogs, and small businesses are not instant victims. (The big media’s abandonment of the small business constituency to organizations like Fox may be one reason so many small business owners, an estimated 60%-plus, voted for Donald Trump.)
But there’s a more important underlying reason. If you include small businesses in serious conversations about the economy, the questions get more complicated and less emotional – and more solve-able.
Is the immigrant owner of a chain of small businesses who underpays employees a good guy or a bad guy? Is a small business that gets overwhelmed and doesn’t fulfill orders the object of outrage or sympathy? Increasing the rate of small business ownership is also one of the few changes (government safety net measures are others) that would put real wealth into the hands of people who don’t have it.
Small business is inherently gray, and it’s in the gray area, the nuances and the details, that we find shared language, and ultimately, agree on progress. I think that’s why small business doesn’t get much coverage in the big outlets. Both political sides are avoiding conversations that could lead to real change, in this case economic change. Change would mean letting go of the blindness that keeps us happy and the anger that in some ways sustains us.
Last week, I had all these thoughts in my mind as I was driving down my street when I saw a neighbor walking. When we were younger, we hung out together, during neighborhood snowstorm parties and summertime happy hours. Then, the country’s political issues moved onto my street. More words and phrases became unspeakable, slights were flying, and more things became incontrovertible signs that someone was good or bad.
I’m not sure how, or whether, my neighbor and I can get back to shared standards. But I pulled the car up beside him and rolled down the window. “Hey, I just wanted to say that I miss talking to you,’ I said, and I added that in general, I miss talking to people who are different than I am.
He said he’d been having some of the same thoughts. “Let’s hang out,” he said, and I agreed.