OLD Media Moves

The country's best economics reporters

November 21, 2005

As David Warsh, editor of economicprincipals.com, so eloquently puts it, “It may not be a golden age of economic journalism. The traditional means of support — advertising — has been too undependable for that, thanks to a cataract of technological change. But there are plenty of new rafts on the river. There’s even reason to hope that, before long, the worst of the turbulence will be past.”

Who are these new rafts in the river? Warsh names four reporters who currently cover the economy as being particularly strong. They are:

1. James Surowiecki of The New Yorker. Surowiecki, according to Warsh, can “blend background knowledge and skepticism in just the right degree.” I am a big Surowiecki fan, and require his anthology on business crime reporting to be read by my Business and the Media seminar course. Surowiecki, in the interest of fair disclosure, is a UNC grad, where I teach.

2. Steven J. Dubner is a former writer for the New York Times Magazine, but he is better known as the co-author of Freakonomics with noted University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt. Dubner is more a big-picture writer about economics.

3. Daniel Altman of the Times has also worked at The Economist. His focus has been on writing about the neoeconomy, and he is at the forefront of that movement. Said Warsh: “What exactly is a “neoconomy?” Apparently one in which government policy can affect the growth rate. (Like China, perhaps?)”

4. The last one is Jon E. Hilsenrath of the Wall Street Journal. According to Warsh, “nearly four years, Hilsenrath, 38, has put a steady stream of stories about technical economics and economists in the paper, large and small, short and long, growing steadily more acute — a powerful demonstration of the utility of covering the beat.”

Warsh’s evaluation of current economics reporters also says that the WSJ’s Greg Ip — what a great byline — has become the journalist whose coverage of the Federal Reserve is watched the closest, replacing John Berry, formerly of the Washington Post and now at Bloomberg.

Warsh’s review of the current situation on economics reporting is perhaps the most detailed I have seen on the subject in the past 50 years — and I just finished doing some research into the subject and how it has been portrayed. Warsh is right. We have gone through a time period in journalism where economics reporting has been on the downswing in terms of importance. But maybe we’re on the upswing now. Warsh’s entire article can be read here.

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