Tag Archives: Economics reporting
David Wessel, who oversees The Wall Street Journal‘s economics coverage, is looking for a new No. 2 to help him.
In an e-mail to the paper’s staff, Wessel writes that the deputy bureau chief for economics will help “edit and manage a lively and productive team of reporters in New York and Washington who cover a wide range of beats from the daily ups and downs of the macro-economy to the Federal Reserve to consumer bankruptcy trends to the immediate and long-lasting changes caused by the worst financial crisis in half a century. The bureau tends the Outlook column as well as the Real Time Economics site on WSJ.com.
“It works closely with Dow Jones Newswires reporters and WSJ bureaus in the US and overseas. The deputy is encouraged to write as well as edit The successful candidate will either have a background in economics or some editing experience, and preferably both.
“The global economy, always core coverage to the WSJ, is a particularly important and interesting right now.Â It’s a beatÂ full of news and stories that matter to our readers that run in all parts of the print paper and wsj.com. It’s a great mix of urgent news and in-depth analysis features, as the bureau’s recent output demonstrates. It’s a beat that rins from global forces in marketsÂ to the worries of CEOs and top policymakers to the circumstances of workers and families.
“A more detailed job description follows. If you’re interested and want to know more, contact David Wessel or Mitra Kalita, who is moving to another assigment with the wsj, and respond to the on-line job posting when it’s up.”
Brian Stelter of The New York Times writes about how the Treasury Department has reached out to financial bloggers in the past week.
Stelter writes, “Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University who has written at the Marginal Revolution blog for six years, said it was the first time he had heard from any Treasury official.
“The meeting ‘shows that the Obama administration is working very hard on outreach to a lot of different media sources,’ he said.
“The Treasury invited about 20 bloggers. Eight attended â€” at their own expense â€” including some ardent critics of the department. Michael J. Panzner, who writes the Financial Armageddon blog, said the invitation ‘was totally out of the blue.’
“Andrew Williams, a spokesman for the Treasury who assembled the event, said that Mr. Geithner had ‘long valued the blogosphere’ and mentioned that during Mr. Geithnerâ€™s tenure as the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, he had requested a daily compendium of relevant blog posts.
Read more here.
John Carney of The Business Insider wonders why Obama economic adviser Paul Volcker walked out in the middle of an interview with CNBC anchior Maria Bartiromo.
Carney writes, “In case you missed it, here’s what happened. Volcker sat down with Bartiromo for an interview. But a few minutes into the interview he cut it short. He actually got up while the cameras were still rolling and walked away. You can watch the ending right here.
“It was the only time we remember someone walking off in the midst of a CNBC interview while the cameras were still rolling. And, in retrospect, the entire tone of the interview was off. At one point, Volcker started talking about what Bartiromo was wearing.
“Here’s our working theory: Volcker is a deficit and an inflation hawk trapped in an administration whose economic policy is built around deficit spending and loose money. He’s a team player, however, and doesn’t want to bad-mouth the administration’s policies. But he also won’t voice support for policies he thinks are destructive. So it was easier to dodge the questions and, when they could no longer be dodged, simply end the interview.”
Read more here.
PBS ombusdman Michael Getler takes issue with a recent “Frontline” show that claims to have unearthed the hidden history behind the economic crisis.
Getler writes, “It was called ‘The Warning.’ It was about the smart, courageous but unheeded former chief of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Brooksley Born, who warned, in the late 1990s, of a coming economic disaster because of the hidden and unregulated markets in derivatives and other not well understood securities.
“This was, in my view, an excellent and powerfully presented program, shedding light on a rare and what turned out to be extremely high-stakes confrontation at the highest levels of government during the Clinton administration in which the woman who lost, Ms. Born, might have helped avert our recent financial calamity had the outcome been different.
But there was one slightly troubling thing about this, less about the broadcast itself than about its promotion and description by Frontline. In introducing this film online, Frontline says this: ‘In The Warning, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk unearths the hidden history of the nation’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the center of it all he finds Brooksley Born, who speaks for the first time on television about her failed campaign to regulate the secretive, multitrillion-dollar derivatives market whose crash helped trigger the financial collapse in the fall of 2008.’
“It’s the ‘unearths the hidden history’ part that I take some exception to, and that’s because anyone who reads The Washington Post may well remember a major, triple-bylined, 4,400-word front-page story exactly one year ago, on Oct. 15, 2008, headlined ‘What Went Wrong.’”
Read more here.
John Hanrahan of Nieman Watchdog writes about the lessons for reporters and editors in their failure to identify the housing bubble before it burst and created chaos and collapse in the economy.
Hanrahan writes, “With rare exceptions, the press, too, ignored the issue, taking their cue from Greenspanâ€™s statements that rational, explainable market forces were at work driving up housing prices. Occasionally, Baker said, Yale University economist Robert J. Shiller would get quoted in the press about the housing bubble in years leading up to the housing market crash, but usually his comments were deep down in stories extolling the housing boom.
“Shiller, Baker said, had gone back even further — all the way to the 1890s — to examine data and found that for the next 100 years the price of housing had kept on the same pace as the overall rate of inflation, until it began to run wild in the 1990s.
“Baker said the failure of most economists and the press to spot the housing bubble before it burst is a prime example of how reporters ‘need to evaluate the arguments for themselves’ and not just uncritically accept the opinion of a few authority figures — such as Greenspan — as being the only word on the subject.
“Baker said reporters should probe more deeply for information to back up assertions by officials and economists, as well as talk to other economists who have strong arguments supported by data that run contrary to the common-wisdom position. That way, perhaps, the news media will warn of the next economic bubble before it bursts.”
Read more here.
TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
The Dallas Morning News began a new feature Monday in its business section called the Local Economic Snapshot.
This week’s was about unemployment, and it included statewide job data, statewide unemployment rates, employment by industry and comments from economists on where they think the Texas unemployment figure is headed.
Dennis Fulton, the paper’s business editor, said the weekly feature came out of brainstorming done by the biz news desk staff during its regular meetings.
“We kicked around ideas for new features that might be useful to readers,” said Fulton. “We write a lot about the local economy, but we haven’t done a good job dissecting the numbers visually.
“Management liked the idea and gave us some extra space in our Monday section to accommodate it,” added Fulton. “We’ll rotate the topics, spreading the research burden among several beat reporters. Today was on the local job market. Other themes will likely be the local housing market, consumer spending/retail, venture capital, auto sales and the view from the Dallas Fed.”
Monday’s “Economic Snapshot” was researched by Brendan Case, the paper’s economy reporter. He’ll also be responsible for the one about the Dallas Fed, but other beat reporters have been assigned to research the Snapshot for other weeks — retail, autos, etc.
The paper’s graphics department has dedicated an artist to produce them, said Fulton. “Once we’ve produced one on each topic, updating them shouldn’t be as labor intensive,” he added.
Here is what it looks like:
Eddy Elfenbein, writing on Crossing Wall Street, gives Forbes magazine his economic illiteracy prize for comparing the net worth of the richest individuals to the gross domestic product of countries.
Gross domestic product (GDP) is the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time.
“In other words, net worth = stuff you have; GDP = stuff you make. Itâ€™s like confusing the price of the stock with its earnings.
“The net worth of a country is far larger than what it produces in a single year. Not only is Costa Rica wealthier than Bill Gates, itâ€™s a lot wealthier. Furthermore, the comparison between a western billionaire to a developing country is heavily skewed due to the Penn Effect.”
Read more here.
Attorney Henry Banta writes on the Nieman Watchdog site about how coverage of the economic crisis can be improved.
Banta writes, “The real story, about why so many believed in the efficient market theory and why it caused them to make colossal mistakes, has not been driven home to the general public. Of course students of economic policy know how profoundly the shock wave from last year has shaken the foundations of conventional economic thinking. But save for the analysis of a handful of writers, the story has never made it into the news. Yet, without that story, it is impossible to have a rational political debate about what do to get out of the trouble we are in and prevent it from happening again.
“Talking about this issue will offend a lot of people and challenge many deeply held beliefs. The rational efficient market theory underlies the political values held by many people who have never given the theory a second thought but who simply like the conclusions it supports. To point out that the economic support for their convictions has met a violent end will not be well taken. The efficient market theory had many followers, not because it was so compelling â€“ many of its assumptions offended common sense â€“ but because it fit neatly into the agenda of powerful interests. But if we cannot deal with the mistakes of the past how do we deal with the future?
“If bad economic theory got us into this much trouble, shouldnâ€™t we be asking our current policy makers about their economic assumptions? Shouldnâ€™t we be asking about the theory underlying current decisions? And why should such discussions be left to a few experts?”
Read more here.
Daniel Indiviglio of The Atlantic says that the study from the Pew Research Center’s Project For Excellence In Journalism on economic coverage simply states the obvious — the big media only cover the big stories and ignore the consumer.
Indiviglio writes, “Journalists have a natural inclination to cover the cause and solution of a problem. In this case, the cause was the financial crisis. Thus, a lot of banking coverage makes perfect sense. The solution was the bailout and stimulus; so again, it’s sensible that this would be covered. The auto industry was a part of the bailout, and the two big bankruptcies were pretty newsworthy for obvious reasons. Again, new outlet’s attention to this should not shock anyone.
“So why not more on unemployment? Well, there isn’t a lot you can say about it. You can analyze the trends a little, but at some point all a journalist can do is shrug. When the economy is bad, unemployment follows. That’s economics.
“Why didn’t they dig into more human interest stories related to unemployment? For the same reasons the big national news outlets cover Congress in favor of state legislatures: that’s local news territory. Pew’s sample focused on major news sources. But even the local news outlets will have trouble with in-depth coverage of local issues these days, since their staffs are dwindling. They’re also relying more heavily on the Associated Press, which gravitates towards national coverage. This same logic applies to why ‘Effect on State and Local Govt’ and ‘Average Americans’ wasn’t higher.
“So what about housing? That was a cause of the recession, yet it didn’t come close to some of the other big ones. I’d argue that there probably wasn’t a whole lot new to report on this during the first half of the year — when the study was done. By January, the housing market was already scrapping the bottom. It has shown some signs of life lately, but there hasn’t been that much news to really report on that front. The housing story was really 2007-2008.”
Read more here.Â
A study of financial news coverage this year found that government, Wall Street and a small handful of story lines got the bulk of the attention while much less was paid to the economic troubles of ordinary people, writes Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times.
Perez-Pena writes, “The study, by the Pew Research Centerâ€™s Project for Excellence in Journalism, also found that when the stock market rebounded from its lows and pitched battles in Washington ended, the news media turned their attention away from economic coverage.
“Reviewing almost 10,000 reports from Feb. 1 to Aug. 31 in newspapers, on news Web sites, on the radio and on network broadcast and cable television, Pew found that almost 40 percent of economic news reports dealt with the trials of the banking and auto industries, and the federal stimulus bill passed in February.
“Unemployment and the housing crisis accounted for 12 percent. And, the study said, ‘stories that tried to explicitly examine the broader impact of the economic downturn on the lives of ordinary Americans filled 5 percent of the economic coverage.’
“Three-quarters of the reports originated from Washington or New York, and a similar number were based on the actions of government and business leaders.”
Read more here.