William Serrin

William Serrin teaches journalism at New York University. He was the longtime labor writer for The New York Times. He is the author, most recently, of Muckraking!: The Journalism That Changed America.

Recent Articles

Banking on Decent Jobs

New technologies came slowly to the banking industry, but change is now coming faster and faster. The question is, who will benefit? Consider the check, a banking mainstay introduced shortly after the Civil War. For more than a century, checks were processed by hand. When a check was received, a clerk, sometimes wearing a green eyeshade, wrote down the amount, whether for $1 or $1 million. The check, bundled with others, was sent, often in a cardboard box, to another clerk. This clerk added up all the checks in the batch and verified that the sum equaled that of the deposit slips. Other clerks then posted balances and sent each check for collection to the bank on which it was drawn. Basically the same processes used to handle J.P. Morgan's checks in the 19th century were used to handle David Rockefeller's in the mid-20th century. One highly visible innovation appeared in the mid-1980s, the ubiquitous automated-teller machine. But such innovation lagged in bank back offices. No more...