Journalists are suckers for good economics metaphors

Bloomberg Businessweek

Journalists are suckers for good economics metaphors because economics like to use them to explain what is going on with the economy, said a prominent economics reporter on Saturday.

“I happen to believe it’s not just a rhetorical truck to use a metaphor,” said Peter Coy, economics editor of Bloomberg Businessweek, at the History of Economics Society at the meetings of the ASSA in San Diego. “I believe that economics works that way. We journalists are in good company when we use metaphors.”

Coy was part of a panel that discussed economics coverage.

Coy used the most-recent Businessweek cover story as an example of how metaphors are used in business journalism to illustrate an economic point.

The cover has the title “Babies” and a picture of Congress showing toddlers in all of the seats to illustrate the politics of the fiscal cliff deal. Coy said the cover was the idea of editor Josh Tyrangiel.

Inside, with Coy’s story, is a picture illustration that shows the Congress building dressed as a clown.

In Coy’s article, he explores the idea of economics, arguing that the “economy-as-family” metaphor as incorrect. He argues for a different metaphor, of an economy stuck in low gear that needs a mechanic.

He originally wrote that the economy was like a machine that was being underused. But he finetuned that description while working with Tyangiel on the article.

“Economists are suckers for a metaphor, and I don’t have a problem with that,” said Coy.