Business journalists and a code of ethics for economists
Felix Salmon of Reuters was interviewed by Craig Silverman about a proposed code of ethics for the American Economists Association and how that might affect the relationship between economists and business journalists.
If you were aware of it, I’m wondering if you have thoughts on whether this presents a problem for journalists interviewing economists?
There’s definitely a problem here. For instance, Ric Mishkin was a natural interview on the subject of Iceland, seeing as how he’d written an in-depth study of the country. The study didn’t mention that he was paid a six-figure sum to write it, however — and journalists talking to him could easily be excused for not knowing that fact. What’s more, journalists shouldn’t feel the need to ask about conflicts and payments every time they talk to an economist — it makes interviews unnecessarily adversarial.
In general, do you think a professional code of ethics can have an impact on the way someone — economist or otherwise — conducts themselves with a journalist?
I’d like to hope so. All too often economists and other professionals feel comfortable with lies of omission when talking to journalists, simply not mentioning a fact that they know is germane. A good code of ethics should address this: even if there’s a disclosure somewhere about a conflict, the onus should not be on the journalist to find it, but rather on the economist to proactively mention that conflict to the journalist.
Read more of the interview here.