Self promo: “The literary style of corporate annual reports”

I just published a piece for THIS — among the coolest left-wing magazines on the planet — about the literary style of corporate annual reports:

A crucial part of conveying this warm, fuzzy image is relying on the company’s one true connection to The Little Guy: their employees. Focussing on the CEO, after all, might eventually force you to note that this guy used his insider access to lie deliberately about the value of the company and then make out like a bandit—like, say, Global Crossing head Gary Winnick, who raked in $735 million by selling his company’s stock just before it imploded. Or you’d have to acknowledge the Olympian perks, such as the $18 million Manhattan apartment given to Dennis Kozlowski, the former head of Tyco, another artist of book-cookery. No, it is far safer to focus on employees. Pages upon pages are bedecked with pictures of construction guys mired with mud, secretaries striding through the hallway with armfuls of papers, scientists squinting at test tubes filled with mysterious green goo. And there is always, without fail and without exception, at least one picture of a black man or woman leading a meeting. Given that the directors of corporations are almost invariably white, these firms are palpably desperate to pose as diverse. The picture of a confident person-of-colour leading a meeting is virtually a Jungian archetype.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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