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Don’t forget the human side of business stories

John Schmid of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found a human angle to help tell the tale of the final chapter of a Milwaukee company.

Nearly 10,000 people once worked at the sprawling ruins known to some as the former A.O. Smith industrial site, to others as the deathbed of Tower Automotive.

Now it is down to a single worker, Rich Wendling. Wendling learned recently that his final shift comes in November, following the City of Milwaukee’s decision to buy the mothballed property and create an industrial park.

John says he has covered the industrial site since 2004 as part of the ongoing story of Milwaukee’s industrial history. He maintained sources and was able to tell the story of the site’s final days through the story of Rich Wendling.

Today’s Tip, as John says: “It makes no sense to do economics reporting in a vacuum that relies on statistics. Good econ reporting is both social, human and global.”

By talking to a person with whom most readers could identify, John made the story more accessible to a wide variety of readers. By intertwining Rich Wendling’s history and the company’s history, he helped draw a vivid picture of the impact the site had on the city and the employees.

About the Author

Rosland Gammon is a former business journalist turned college instructor. Her newsroom experience includes reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and reporting and editing at Bloomberg News. Gammon currently teaches communications at Alverno College in Milwaukee. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Rosland Gammon

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