The Economist & me

I’ve been writing for The Economist since 1997, which probably comes to a thousand stories or so. That includes stories I write for our two sister publications: Intelligent Life, our soulful style-and-culture magazine, and The World In [year], our annual year-end preview of the coming year.

If you’re interested in my ongoing weekly output, I usually link that in my Twitter feed.

On this page, I’ll just post an itty-bitty sample of a few story categories we at The Economist consider “special.”

Two other things to note:

  1. We switch “beats” every few years, and I’m in my fifth beat now. (More about the philosophy behind beat-switching here.)
  2. In The Economist (but not in Intelligent Life or The World in [YEAR]) we have no ‘bylines’, meaning that the articles are not signed by writers. This frustrates some readers, and even some writers. (More about this topic here.)

Intelligent Life

Stumbling over the Past, May/June 2013

How an artist and many private citizens remember holocaust victims with Stolpersteine, little brass plates in the public sidewalk of Berlin and other cities, and how those stones form new human connections.

Sprechen Sie Du?January/February 2013

A humorous look at a vexing problem with the German language: whether to use the formal or informal “you”.

Christmas Specials

The Holy Roman Empire: European Disunion done right, December 20th, 2012

Written in the thick of the euro crisis, this is meant to be a cheeky historical comparison between the European Union and the Holy Roman Empire. The parallels really are quite striking, and may offer lessons.

Migrant farm workers: Fields of Tears, December 16th, 2010

Here I’m profiling a family of Mexicans who came — illegally — to work in California’s fields. I compare them with the Okies that John Steinbeck wrote about in Grapes of Wrath. Why did they come? Does that reason make it right?

Socrates in America: Arguing to death, December 17th, 2009

What would Socrates think about the way Americans talk to one another today? What would Americans think about Socrates? A thought exercise about American democracy, conformism and individualism, good and bad conversations, and more. This story came out of a thread right here on The Hannibal Blog!

The Filipina Sisterhood: An anthropology of happiness, December 20th, 2001.

This is my favorite story ever. Why are the poor and down-trodden Filipina maids in Hong Kong cheerful and apparently happy, when their rich and successful Chinese employers are reliably miserable and cranky? Lessons for all of us!

American Spirituality: Where “California” bubbled up, December 19th, 2007.

Here I report from the Mecca of the counterculture and the New Age, the hot baths at Esalen in Big Sur on the Pacific Coast. What happened to all those Hippies? Shamans? Yogis? How is the enlightenment-genre doing these days?

Special Reports

Democracy in California: The people’s will, April 23rd, 2011

A deep dive into the causes of California’s dysfunction, which turns into an investigation of “direct democracy”, California’s fourth branch of government. Of interest to governance and democracy wonks all over the world.

(This special report was on the cover. I also wrote the cover Leader.)


Mobility: Nomads at last, April 10th, 2008.

A sociological, anthropological and psychological look at how our mobile technologies, such as mobile phones, WiFi, laptops and so forth, are changing the way we work, live, love, think, speak and write.


New media: Among the audience, April 20th, 2006. (This won an award.)

A look at how technology changes the media and society, from Gutenberg to blogs, podcasts, wikis and so forth. Includes a few podcasts we did, which happen to be The Economist‘s first ever!

Information technology: Make it simple, October 28th, 2004.

My dirge about complexity in technology, and promise of simplicity as the ‘next big thing’.

Asian Business: In Praise of Rules, April 5th, 2001.

From South-East Asia to China, the past, present and future of business, companies and law. And, of course, those colorful tycoons!

22 thoughts on “The Economist & me

  1. Andreas, kudos on the Nomad piece in particular. I’m in the depths of manuscript cement mixing for a new book and I’d like to get in touch with you. How is best to do that?

  2. You just did, Johnny. If you go to the About Me page and type into the form, I get an email and will reply.
    I’m very intrigued by your book. Right off the bat, I know you should contact my colleague Tom Standage, who has written, among other things, “The Victorian Internet”.

  3. Andreas –

    I bumped into your blog today. It’s an absolute pleasure to finally know the author of the New Media survey. The survey had an indelible impact on me – considering I was then working with a new media company that had disastrously merged with a old media company. I’m sure you’ve figured the company out by now. For a lot of us, the survey helped us understand for the first time the many big changes the industry was witnessing, but had no words to describe or no context to understand. For example, the company I was working with was still in denial of the power of user-generated content, forget reconciling itself to an era of participatory media. I still think it is the best survey I’ve so far read in the Economist.

    Congratulations on your 10th year at the Economist, and all the best for your new beat!

  4. Thank you, Kaushik! I love hearing this sort of thing, as you can imagine. There’s nothing better for a writer than knowing that his words made some tiny bit of difference to somebody.

    And yes, I have figured out your company. Pity indeed. Best of luck in future in this new-media world.

  5. I read The Filipina Sisterhood when I was learning English (when I was being inducted to the newspaper by my A Levels teacher) and I remember being impressed at the article’s insightful nature, which I have not forgotten all these years!

    Lucky me to have found the blog of a writer from my favourite newspaper (:

    • Hi Luke.

      There is no “how” (ie, no formula or set process or shortcuts).

      There aren’t many of us (I’m talking about Editorial only), and we don’t change jobs often, so there is extremely little turnover.

      In my case, it took me years of expressing interest (and doing other things) until I was hired in 1997.

      It helps, of course, if you have written great stuff elsewhere. ;)

    • Hi Brian,

      thanks for watching the talk. Let’s be in touch next year once the book is out. There’s a good chance I’ll be in the UK some time next year anyway.

      Till then,

  6. Andreas,

    I’m eagerly awaiting your book in early 2012.

    You seem to already know I am another “Hannibalographer” , having spent almost 20 years following something of his route from Carthage, through Spain, across France and over the Alps and to every battle site in Italy. At present I prefer the Clapier/Savine-Coche northern Alps route – these two tracks are less than a kilometer apart in the same summit valley on north and south sides respectively, and end up about the same relative place on the Italian descent above Susa – but I try to be open-minded. Of course, I’m only one current archaeologist/historian in a long line of researchers who hold this preference for the Clapier/Savine Coche, and my only claim so far is to have spent many years on foot over these valleys, but I’ve hiked over every other major pass candidate on foot as well looking to match ancient texts with modern topography. I correspond occasionally with both Mahaney and Prevas (the latter I can even call a friend) and if we disagree once in awhile on minor matters, I hope it is as gentlemen, as I respect them both immensely for their valuable contributions to Hannibal studies. I’ll be back in the Alps in a few months.

    I must also affirm that I think the ECONOMIST is the best publication in the Anglophone world and cannot do without its perceptive take on global matters of almost any ilk. Thank you for contributing in whatever capacity to this much-needed publication.

    Patrick Hunt

    • Dear Patrick,

      First of call, Welcome to the Hannibal Blog. I’m thrilled you found it. I long ago found you.

      Which is funny, actually: When I was pitching my book, many aeons ago in November of 2007 (I looked it up in Gmail), I emailed you and we almost met up for a chat. Somehow, one of my follow-up emails must have got caught in one of your spam filters, and it never happened. A pity.

      Anyway, you (and your friend Prevas) are in my bibliography and endnotes, and I loved your iTunes U course on Hannibal. I’m rooting for you to be the one to find that tusk, or bone or sword or whatever that’ll make you ‘the Hannibal Schliemann’.

      I’m traveling right now, but when I’m back and sedentary again, I might have a look through my endnotes and do a blog post about what (at that time, so long ago now) I learned from you. I seem to remember that one Aha moment had to do with the chemistry of the (per Livy) pouring of vinegar on the rocks on the Alpine descent….

      More to come. Great to hear from you.

  7. Question: Andreas, what is the trick to your success on your blog? Answer: You are opinionated as well as likable at the same time: a freaking hard combination to pull off. Your arguments come with some simple and strong reasoning. So, while people may not agree with all of them, they surely do seem to love your point of view – which is backed by some very well researched facts and beautiful storytelling. Keep up the great work!

    Your Digital Nomads special report stands out. It will be quoted in many a presentation in B-Schools, corporate world and possibly by my generation to my grandchildren when we say, “During our times…”

    • Oh boy, Abhishek. That’s too flattering for me to respond to (it would imply agreement). But thanks!

      I should add that I was today, on Google+, advertised as “one of my regular smartypantses”. So that’s your answer re the opinionated/likable spectrum.

  8. Hi Andreas,

    Really loved your book. I tweeted that it’s the best book I’ve read this year. It’s a pity it hasn’t got more momentum in the UK so far.

    It’s a long shot but maybe you’d like to enter this competition if you’re in the UK in September

    If not it would be a pleasure to have you as a speaker at the UK Speechwriters’ Guild to talk to us about storytelling. See here:

    Kind regards, Brian Jenner

    • Thank you, Brian!! Delighted that you liked the book.

      Let me ponder these things in the UK this September. I should know in August or so whether I can be there.

      Thanks again, A

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