Why do journalists get economics so wrong?
Guest post by Vedran Vuk of Casey Daily Dispatch
Over the years, I've heard many people gripe about the media. It's always so anti-free market and economically illiterate. When there is some favorable mention of markets, it's usually a trained economist or financial person. Insightful commentary from a journalist on economic matters is, sadly, a rare commodity. In my opinion, the root of the problem comes from the sort of person who wants to become a writer.
As an analyst and a financial writer, I meet a lot of people who want to be writers. It's quite a strange aspiration. Personally, I enjoyed studying economics and finance and kept having ideas which I wanted to share with others. Hence, I started writing about them. A few twists and turns later, and here I am.
The problem with journalism is that most journalists come from the exact opposite approach. They decided to write long before having any background knowledge to write about. The vast majority of college freshman enter their first journalism or English class without anything important to say on the matters of economics and politics. Despite their ignorance in the ways of the world, they still want to write about it anyway. Reflect for a second on what an odd concept that is.
It's kind of like wanting to open an art gallery just so that you can sip wine with artsy people. Shouldn't the point be to use your art as medium to express an idea or emotion or something else significant?
Call me biased, but I'm of the persuasion that one should know something about a topic before writing on it. Otherwise, writing is just screaming at a mountain to hear one's own voice. There's no point to it.
Unfortunately, after four years of reading poetry and the classics, the young aspiring writer is no better prepared for his or her future role of commenting on economics, politics, and science. After college, you've got a very dangerous weapon on your hands – a person who can write persuasively but doesn't really know much about anything. It's quite irresponsible of colleges to let such people loose on society.
These journalists aren't spending their waking hours studying economics to compose the best-informed articles. Instead, they'll just formulate some half-baked idea from the top of their heads with little background knowledge to defend their assertions. Their goal is not to become the most knowledgeable economist, physicist, or historian. It is not the search for truth or important ideas which motivates most. Their goal is simply to write – and the bigger publication, the better. With this as the inspiration for many writers, why are we surprised to see so many economically illiterate articles in the media?
Vedran Vuk is an analyst at Casey Research and the author of the ‘Casey Daily Report.’