Friday, November 15, 2013

RIP Mark Lacter

Tributes and recollections continue to pour in about Mark Lacter, a very fine journalist and an exceptional business editor.  After hearing from colleagues and reading other tributes, it is clear that Mark possessed some unique skills as a business journalist and editor. 

His business acumen.  Covering business is not easy. Companies tend to hide things, protect their reputation and dole out details in small chunks.   For many readers of business stories,the focus generally is on whether a company's stock is rising or falling, a new product, a profile of a quirky business, an acquisition or profiles of leadership.  Mark always knew there is more to covering business and challenge himself and others to dig deeper. As an editor, he challenged other writers.

There are plenty of great writers and editors who can take complex subjects and present them in easy-to-understand terms.  Mark went beyond this - primarily by either spotting trends or nuances that really mattered in our daily lives, and by challenging the assumptions and prepared statements of business leaders, elected officials and others.

There were trends that only Mark spotted.  I was constantly amazed by his attention to detail - he would hear someone raise an issue or make a statement and Mark would pull up a fact-based observation that challenged that convention. These details would be amassed from his ability to search, poke and prod.  There are plenty of business leaders, elected officials and source who would squirm under Mark's intense stare and line of questioning.  Why? Because he was smart, came prepared and ask questions no one else was considering.  There were the routine business stories that needed to be told, but Mark's quest was to report on those that deserved to be told.

Mark possessed a genuine curiosity - a trait not all journalist possess.  This served him well because he would not accept blanket statements or lines of thinking.  He would dig, scratch. He did not want to follow the patterns of other business writers.

What is amazing to me is that mainstream business news organizations did not grab Mark in these latter years and promote and nurture his brand of journalism. Sure, his freelance work was easily picked up by large news organizations and he was nominated for awards. But as a few others noted in their remembrances of Mark, he lacked an ego and was not pretentious. Did his lack of showboating keep him out of consideration for greater things? Who knows? 

What I hope will happen is that journalism schools will take note, and other business editors will study Mark's style - to show others one of the better examples of business writing and business editing.The nuts and bolts of Mark Lacter business journalism needs to be catalogued and chronicled.