Saturday, June 25, 2011

About the bastardization of news

Earlier this week, I have has the "opportunity" to spend significant time in a US hotel room. The town being of little interest, I used my time to get some work done and to watch some TV. There was the opportunity to see two interesting events, on the same day: the press conference of Ben Bernanke and the statement of Barack Obama about the war in Afghanistan. What a huge disappointment both were.

This is not Bernanke's or Obama's fault, though. The big news channel were treating this like an American Idol contest, with personalities (or journalists, what is the difference now anyways) doing instant ratings on how well they perceived the speakers. Which was then followed by an analysis of some random tweets.

The sad truth is that people will form their opinion from this circus. Never mind that Bernanke and Obama are experts in their field, have thought very hard about their issues with a lot of expert advice, these journalists know on the spot what is best and will dismiss without justification any argument by the push of a button.

This brings me back to the idea that Economics needs some way to certify people to separate those who pretend to know something about Economics and those who do. The latter are mostly unwilling to talk in sound bites and instant opinion, thus the media rushes to the pretend economists. And I wonder how many of the journalists I saw judging Bernanke have any degree in Economics, let alone a graduate degree.


Anonymous said...

I do not think certification would help. The public needs to understand that journalists are not more credible than professionals who thought really hard about an issue.

Charles N. Steele said...

Good luck.

Journalists do not care about 'experts' actual competence, and rarely are competent to judge arguments themselves. They want simple answers that their audiences will buy.

This is a bigger problem than just economics -- all kinds of science "news" is generated by people without competence but with an agenda.

A good graduate degree in economics is certification -- but journalists tend not to believe in real economics anyway, e.g. James Fallows.