Back It Up

I try to spend one day each week doing research at a local library, either for an article I’m working on, or for potential ones. As a freelancer, research helps in generating new ideas and keeping stories in the pipeline. I also get to read what others are talking/writing about.

The internet certainly allows you to do your research from home. There is a downside to that method, however. I also find corresponding value in getting out into the real world occasionally. Working at home is great and all, but at some point, the walls begin closing in, especially during January and February. I even think my weekly research trips spur creativity and productivity. An added plus is that going to a physical repository of books and information—i.e. a library—gets me away from my screens for a bit.

Currently, in January 2015, there are still places where you can find dozens of print publications; magazines and newspapers from around the country and even the world available to look through. This is a pleasure of mine dating back to my days of sitting in the Folger Library Reading Room, when I was a student at the University of Maine. Of course, back in the early 1980s, smoking was allowed, and I’d be reading my newspapers while sitting in a haze of second hand cigarette smoke. No smoking these days at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, or Portland Public Library, in downtown Portland.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal had a front page (below the fold) story about U.S. manufacturing and companies bringing their production back from China and other places offshore. The article, written by James R. Hagerty and Magnier, was a worthwhile read. There was one thing in particular that bothered me in the piece. It was the following line: No one expects the U.S. to again make most of the electronic gadgets, tools, toys, furniture, lighting, and other household products that tally more than $500 billion a year in imports. My first question was, “why?”

U.S. manufacturing isn't what it used to be.

U.S. manufacturing isn’t what it used to be.

I find this happens often in articles I’m reading. The reporter/journalist makes this kind of definitive statement without offering any support for his/her opinion. Or, it might not even be couched as an opinion—it could be written in 3rd person journalist speak. The assumption is that the reader will take it on face value–and I’m sure many do.

Believe me, I’m all for opinionated writing—I prefer it to the usual he said she said drivel that’s all too common—however, you can’t throw out a statement like the one cited about American-made products without offering a bit more to back-up your premise.

These two journalists didn’t do that. “But they’re writing for the Wall Street Journal, and you’re not.” Touché!

The story of American-made products and U.S. manufacturing is just one of several I’m quite interested in. I’ll be looking for more of these kinds of stories in publications like the Wall Street Journal, and others, and I’ll report back to you occasionally about them.