How the Media Should Cover Corporations Now

How the Media Should Cover Corporations Now

Yesterday’s restatement of corporate purpose from the Business Roundtable is a clear acknowledgment that America’s economic pooh-bahs have realized they’re about as popular as a strain of bacteria. There is much to be said about this about-face, in which the Roundtable said that the purpose of American corporations is no longer to maximize shareholder value at the expense of all other corporate stakeholders, but rather to treat those stakeholders—including employees, consumers, and communities, as well as shareholders—as equals. I’ll say more at greater length later this week.

For now, though, here’s a suggestion to the business page editors of American newspapers: Now that shareholder value isn’t the be-all and end-all of corporate purpose, you need to supplement your business coverage with indices of more than a corporation’s share prices. How about posting the median wage of its employees, and the ratio of CEO pay to median worker pay alongside the daily share value? How about posting (it’s OK to use abbreviations) whether a particular corporation offers defined benefit pensions (DBFs) or 401(k)s, paid sick days (PSDs—you get the point), paid family leave, and paid vacation time—for starters. How about listing the number of U.S. employees and whether a company is unionized or not?

Obviously, media outlets devoted to Milton Friedman’s nostrums, which have done more to destroy the American middle class over the past 40 years than any other body of thought, will have no interest in listing more than the share price. But the general welfare of the vast majority of the American people depends primarily on wages and benefits, not share values. How about conforming your economic coverage to ’muricans’ actual needs?