In case it wasn’t on your calendar, this issue marks the 13th anniversary of Twin Cities Business. From its beginning, the magazine has had to be sent to our printer almost a month before readers see it, causing worry that a story will be overtaken by events—made irrelevant—before it’s published. In 156 issues, that never happened as starkly as it did five years ago this month. The event was the September 11 attack on America. The cover of the September 2001 issue featured Richard Anderson, who had recently been named CEO of Northwest Airlines.
“Northwest entered the 21st century larger, more influential, and with more routes, revenue, industry partnerships, and global reach than at any time in its history,” writer Adam Platt noted in the story. Northwest had reported year-2000 net income of $256 million on $11.4 billion in revenue. Although rising labor and jet-fuel costs (oil had reached $32 a barrel) had led to losses in early 2001, the carrier was formulating strategies to appeal to upscale travelers. It was improving comfort by adding space between rows of seats and expanding first-class sections, and it planned to buy 74 new aircraft in 2002 and 2003.
Pat Fallon, chairman of Fallon Worldwide and perhaps Minnesota’s best-recognized creator of advertising, notes in a recent book that the five major U.S. airlines lost 20 percent of their passengers in the next two years. Northwest was forced into bankruptcy.
Fallon’s agency represented United Airlines at the time of the 9/11 attacks, which had involved hijacked United planes. Fallon’s New York employees watched from the Woolworth Building as World Trade Center tenants leaped from the burning towers. In Minneapolis, Fallon personnel gathered thoughts from United employees and created an ad that read, in part:
“On Monday, the papers and the news magazines were filled with stories about the new fall TV schedule . . . . the American flag hung, for the most part, unnoticed . . . . we passed strangers without much regard. On Tuesday, September 11, all that changed . . . . naivetÃ© was lost . . . . strangers died for each other . . . . America was knocked to its knees . . . [and] got back up again.”
Christopher Hitchens, formerly of The Nation, has written compellingly that 9/11 should not be “commemorated” with flags and ceremonies. He has enjoined his readers to remember silently that theocratic terrorism murders without distinction, and not to dilute that thought with “Ground Zero kitsch or yellow-ribbon-type events.”
“What is required,” he says, “is steady, unostentatious stoicism, made up of cold hatred and contempt for the aggressors and complete determination that their defeat will be utter and shameful. This doesn’t require drum rills or bagpipes and banners.”
››› On a lighter matter: Our annual “Best of Business” feature first appeared in 1994, on the magazine’s first anniversary. Senior Editor Gene Rebeck has supervised the project since 2000 and completed this year’s edition before I had a chance to add “Best Business Lesson from the British Invasion.” It comes from The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz, a retrospective to which I referred last month.
Hamburg, Germany, 1960: The Beatles—with five members—are playing seven nights a week at the Kaiserkeller, a bar often populated by drunken sailors. The hours are long: Two bands each play for five hours between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m., sometimes exhausting 20 songs in a set. A bathroom break would bring a shout from the red-faced owner: “I pay five men! Mach Schau! (Make a show!) Mach Schau!”
The room is tightly packed, loud, hot; the musicians’ suits begin “to stink and give way at the seams.” Outside, the action is “shoulder to shoulder, back to back: bars, nightclubs, cafÃ©s, luncheonettes, clip joints, arcades, dance halls, saloons.” And every afternoon, the Beatles gather to rehearse.