Armchair Analysts Won’t Agree On Their Pick Of Top Business Stories

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 27, 1995

‘Tis the day after Christmas, and all through the week, not a news source is stirring … so it’s time to review.

Probably for most business owners and managers in Spokane and Eastern Washington, the No. 1 news story this year was tax breaks enacted by the 1995 Washington State Legislature.

Next comes lawmakers’ rewrite of the state’s 1993 universal health care act. And after that, regulatory reform.

In North Idaho, the double whammy of Post Falls losing a Louisiana Pacific plant and the Greyhound park combined could be numero uno.

From a broader perspective, the battle in the nation’s capital over the GOP’s Contract With America could affect Idaho, Washington, every state, everyone for decades to come. Or not, if the Republican revolution fizzles.

Down on the farm, the hot topic is agricultural reforms in the congressional hopper.

In the corporate sphere, the Washington Water Power/Sierra Pacific pending merger gets top billing.

Boring though it may be to the average newspaper reader just now, the merger could generate lively debate later on, as the true impact on regional gas and electric rates becomes known. For more than a century, as a home-town private utility, as an area industrial giant, as an active corporate citizen, WWP has been part and parcel of the Inland Northwest, for better or worse.

Sierra Pacific is not. Should this be more of a concern to regional ratepayers and regulators?

In the industrial sector, and on the labor front - the Kaiser and Boeing strikes vie for top billing.

On the other hand, voter rejection of the proposal to install a Spokane satellite of Seattle’s esteemed Pacific Science Center in Riverfront Park had a high impact with me.

The extremely narrow defeat at the polls struck a blow at the vitality of Spokane as a visitor destination - a cultural, entertainment and recreational hub of the region. That’s the big picture, as I see it.

Others wouldn’t even view the science center as a business story, and that very well might include some business writers. Most people saw the science center as an opportunity to introduce children to the exciting and wondrous world of science education - a viewpoint I fully appreciate, as it happens, because of a son who is a science teacher.

Suffice it to say defeat of the pavilion science center probably would not make everyone’s list of the top 10 business stories.

But what is the measure of “business” news? Is it economic impact - Egghead headquarters coming to town, with 500 new jobs? Is it financial impact - the bull market?

Is the only real and important reporting confined to the breaking of hard news - Smith’s files for bankruptcy? Is it news with a human element or vicarious appeal to readers - what journalists call reader interest? Which readers - owners? Managers? Workers? Shareholders? Customers and consumers? Taxpayers?

Clearly, there are any number of yardsticks for measuring business news. And a great deal depends on a reader’s, or writer’s, agenda - his or her politics, job, checking account, investment portfolio, age. Where a person’s bread is buttered.

On Sunday a week ago, a page one headline in The Spokesman-Review proclaimed: “Republican revolution grinds to halt.”

Editors of the big Sunday paper made the call, rightly in my opinion, that this piece deserved the top spot. Even though it was a rehash, a perspective or opinion piece labeled “Analysis.”

Somebody I’ve never heard of, a writer named Robert A. Rankin who works for Knight-Ridder Newspapers, had the temerity to state in the lead sentence of a piece dissecting the news: “The vaunted Republican revolution is verging on neartotal failure.”

Boy or boy, did that set Republican leaders off. And they let me, as business columnist, know about it in no uncertain terms.

To these partisans, the piece was not only unworthy of page one but unfit for print. Although I had nothing to do with the selection or play of this piece of news analysis, I concur in the news editors’ judgment.

In a like vein, Time magazine named Newt Gingrich man of the year. I agree with that selection. It doesn’t mean I approve of Newt Gingrich.

As business columnist, I tend to look at news in broad analytical terms. Hence, for me, failure to avail the community of an attraction the caliber of the Pacific Science Center adversely impacts every business person, every worker and every taxpayer in this community.

The top 10 stories?

Your guess is as good as mine.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Click here to comment on this story »