I'm talking about something closer to my own heart: the underrated insurance trade press, where agents and brokers get their news and commentary about all this other really important stuff.
When I arrived on the scene some 40 years ago, the business trade press in general was a backwater of American journalism. The insurance press was Sleepy Hollow. But that changed in a hurry. The daily press began to contract. In New York alone, where I lived, the Herald Tribune, the World Telegram & Sun, the Journal American, the Brooklyn Eagle and the Daily Mirror died in short order just as I and many like me were looking for work in the newspaper business.
Soon thereafter, the economy became a "story," as publishers put it. The business pages of the country's newspapers, then little more than stock tables buried behind the sports department of your favorite daily paper, were broken out into full-blown sections. The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and BusinessWeek, to take but three examples, got sexy and hot.
Next came the Watergate saga as told by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose exposes in the Washington Post and All the President's Men inspired a love affair between them and a generation of the nation's young with the profession of journalism. The country's schools of journalism (some said irresponsibly) were pumping out graduates in record numbers.
Where were they to go? With the newspaper market drying up and thousands of veteran journalists out of work, prospects for young journalists were dismal indeed. Many of us, like myself, discovered the trade press.
The net effect of this over the long haul was to raise the bar of business reporting generally and insurance business reporting specifically. Many of these talented young reporters found a home in the insurance trade press and fell under the wings of seasoned editors, like Manny Levy of the Insurance Advocate and the late John Cosgrove (my own mentor) of the National Underwriter, to take two exemplars from the insurance press who had labored long and hard in the vineyard.
When this first took hold, a number of insurance periodicals were moving toward the century mark. A number fell by the wayside. And a number, like the one I'm now writing in, were unborn. But the survivors have accommodated themselves to the new era of electronic journalism and have thrived.
SPREAD THE WORD
Footnote:A few columns back, I wrote a column on innovation in insurance, which was the subject of that issue of Risk & Insurance®. I played on the old George Carlin joke about mutually exclusive terms, like "military intelligence" and maybe "insurance innovation." Specifically, I addressed innovation among agents and brokers and, not just trying to be a wise guy, I was hard put to come up with examples.
I had a handful of thoughts across the insurance industry at large, like the homeowners policy, the CGL policy and the alternative markets, but few if any in terms of producers. I had an afterthought, however: that perhaps I was blind, that perhaps I overlooked the obvious. In this column especially I don't want to be doing that. If you have thoughts in that direction, please send them along, and we'll share them.
TOM SLATTERY, a veteran editor and writer on industry affairs for 40 years, is currently Managing Director of Slattery-Esterkamp Communications, Baldwin, N.Y.
October 15, 2007
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