A Conversation About One-Click America: Author, Journalist Alec MacGillis in Conversation with Business First Editor-in-Chief Doug Buchanan!

Thursday, June 3, 2021 - 7:00pm

Join award-winning journalist Alec MacGillis, author of Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America, to learn more about Amazon’s impact on the wealth and poverty of towns and cities across the United States. Alec will be in conversation with Columbus Business First Editor-in-Chief Doug Buchanan.

Registration is on Eventbrite. A general admission ticket to access the event is $5; a ticket that includes FULFILLMENT waives the admission fee and is $30 with tax. Registration closes at 5:00 pm on the day of the event.

Columbus Business First is Gramercy’s Community Partner for this exclusive conversation.

In 1937, the famed writer and activist Upton Sinclair published a novel bearing the subtitle A Story of Ford-America. He blasted the callousness of a company worth “a billion dollars” that underpaid its workers while forcing them to engage in repetitive and sometimes dangerous assembly line labor. Eighty-three years later, the market capitalization of Amazon.com has exceeded one trillion dollars, while the value of the Ford Motor Company hovers around thirty billion. We have, it seems, entered the age of one-click America—and as the coronavirus makes Americans more dependent on online shopping, its sway will only intensify.

Alec MacGillis’s Fulfillment is not another inside account or exposé of our most conspicuously dominant company. Rather, it is a literary investigation of the America that falls within that company’s growing shadow. As MacGillis shows, Amazon’s sprawling network of delivery hubs, data centers, and corporate campuses epitomizes a land where winner and loser cities and regions are drifting steadily apart, the civic fabric is unraveling, and work has become increasingly rudimentary and isolated.

Ranging across the country, MacGillis tells the stories of those who’ve thrived and struggled to thrive in this rapidly changing environment. In Seattle, high-paid workers in new office towers displace a historic black neighborhood. In suburban Virginia, homeowners try to protect their neighborhood from the environmental impact of a new data center. Meanwhile, in El Paso, small office supply firms seek to weather Amazon’s takeover of government procurement, and in Baltimore a warehouse supplants a fabled steel plant. Fulfillment also shows how Amazon has become a force in Washington, D.C., ushering readers through a revolving door for lobbyists and government contractors and into CEO Jeff Bezos’s lavish Kalorama mansion.

With empathy and breadth, MacGillis demonstrates the hidden human costs of the other inequality—not the growing gap between rich and poor, but the gap between the country’s winning and losing regions. The result is an intimate account of contemporary capitalism: its drive to innovate, its dark, pitiless magic, its remaking of America with every click.

Alec MacGillis is a senior reporter for ProPublica and the recipient of the George Polk Award, the Robin Toner prize, and other honors. He worked previously at The Washington PostBaltimore Sun, and The New Republic, and his journalism has appeared in The New York Times MagazineThe New YorkerThe Atlantic, and other publications. His ProPublica reporting on Dayton, Ohio was the basis of a PBS Frontline documentary about the city. He is the author of The Cynic, a 2014 biography of Mitch McConnell. He lives in Baltimore. 

As Editor-in-Chief of Columbus Business FirstDoug Buchanan has been reporting on the local business scene for more than 20 years. He began as a banking reporter at Business First in 1998. During Doug’s tenure, his publication has won numerous statewide journalism awards. In early 2019, Doug conducted an intimate conversation at Gramercy Books with legendary banker and Bank One innovator John B. McCoy regarding McCoy’s memoir, Here’s The Deal. Later that fall, Doug interviewed former Amazon advertising executive Steve Susi, author of Brand Currency, to get an insider’s perspective of Amazon’s secrets to success.  Prior to getting into journalism, Doug lived in Japan for three years after graduating from Wittenberg University. He also holds a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State University. He has two adult sons and lives in German Village.