As you can see, Paul Solman, business, economics and occasional art correspondent for the PBS NewsHour since 1985, used to have lots of hair. In the '60s, his father found it amusing to say, "you don't need a haircut so much as an estimate." His intramural softball teammates at Brandeis University dubbed him "the Black Medusa."
Having served as editor of the Brandeis newspaper, "The Justice," he got his first paid journalism job in 1970 at the alternative weekly "Boston After Dark." Then and now, he liked to talk on the phone.
Paul became founding editor of the rival alternative weekly The Real Paper in 1972, became its investigative reporter, and became interested in business when he set out to do a story about municipal bond rates (this was 1976) and realized he was clueless. As was, he realized, the entire booming generation in his wake. Here was an opportunity. But how to seize it? How about going to business school?
Having no money for tuition, Paul applied for a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard and lucked out, joining the Harvard Business school MBA class of 1977-8. He embarked on a career as a business reporter at WGBH Boston immediately thereafter, just as the alopecia was making inroads. After a few years of local PBS reporting, he inaugurated the PBS business documentary series, ENTERPRISE with fellow Nieman Fellow Zvi Dor-Ner. (There was also a Nieman felon in their class, but that's for someone else's biography.)
In the 1980s, Paul produced documentaries, returned to local reporting, and joined the Harvard Business School faculty, teaching media, finance and business history in the school's Advanced Management Program. He also co-authored a better-than-average-seller, Life and Death on the Corporate Battlefield (1983), which appeared in Japanese, German and a pirated Taiwanese edition. He joined "MacNeil/Lehrer" in 1985, two years after it become an hour-long news show, and has been the program's Business and Economics Correspondent ever since, with occasional forays into art and sport.
In the '90s, with sociologist Morrie Schwartz, a teacher of his at Brandeis, Paul helped create -- and wrote the introduction to -- the book "Morrie: In His Own Words," which preceded "Tuesdays with Morrie" by a year or more, but failed to outsell it by several orders of magnitude.
Paul has lectured on college campuses since the '80s and has written for numerous publications, including the Journal of Economic Education. He thinks he's the only person, besides John Kenneth Galbraith, to have written for both Forbes and Mother Jones magazines; he was for years East Coast editor of the latter. A one-time cab driver, kindergarten teacher, crafts store co-owner and management consultant, he is also the author and presenter of "Discovering Economics with Paul Solman," a series of videos distributed by McGraw-Hill to accompany the company's introductory economics textbooks.
In 2007, he joined the faculty at Yale, where he adds a dose of economics to the university's Grand Strategy course. In 2011, he was the Richman Distinguished Visiting Professor at his alma mater, Brandeis, where he taught a seminar, "Economic Grand Strategies: From Chimps to Champs? Or Chumps?" He has lectured at campuses across the country, and taught regularly at West Point.
Paul took up tennis at 50 and plays with a knee brace. He'd like to shave off his mustache but is afraid to. He wears a hat because his doctor insists. He is married with children. And grandchildren. He will not bore you with their extraordinary virtues and nascent achievements.
Paul's Most Recent Stories
- September 15, 2014
In the early 1990s, Xerox wasn’t just a company. “To Xerox” was a verb, reflecting the company’s singular focus on producing copying machines. But faced with competition from digital imaging, Xerox has had to change their focus; they’re now in the business of client services. One reason they were able to weather that transition, says Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, is the diversity of their ranks. Continue reading →
- July 30, 2014
Everyone knows prices in the U.S. vary regionally, just like certain products are cheaper in China, say, or far cheaper in the Ukraine. But that hardly demonstrates that the renminbi or hyrvnia currencies are overvalued, Paul Solman says, noting that The Economist’s Big Mac index seems to link the wealth or poverty of countries to the price of a Big Mac, not to manipulation of exchange rates. Continue reading →
- June 6, 2014
With 217,000 jobs added to the economy, payrolls now exceed their pre-recession level. But even if the economy is pumping out enough jobs for a workforce that also grew by roughly 200,000, there are now nearly 300,000 more Americans than in April who say they want a job. Continue reading →
- June 4, 2014
Werner Eikenbusch, BMW’s head of workforce development for the Americas, left high school in the 10th grade for an apprenticeship program that combined on-the-job training with vocational school. He eventually returned to school to become an engineer, and at BMW’s only U.S. manufacturing plant, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, helped establish an apprenticeship program modeled on the ones back home to fill the void of skilled workers. Continue reading →
- May 22, 2014
You’ve heard French economist Thomas Piketty talk about inequality and a global wealth tax to tap into the high rate of return on capital. The stock market is the source of much of that high-end wealth, and Piketty doesn’t see the market’s recent highs coming down anytime soon. Continue reading →