OLD Media Moves

The voice of business journalism needs to change

March 31, 2009

Adam Davidson, international business and economics correspondent for National Public Radio, talks with Zachary Seward of the Neiman Journalism Lab about how he and colleague Alex Blumberg cover business news differently than the rest of the media world.

Here’s an excerpt:

Davidson: I mean, I’ve been thinking, I wanna do like a story or something. I feel like the voice of business journalism, in particular, needs to change. I mean, probably the voice of all journalism, maybe. ‘Cause it’s very similar — I was in Iraq for a long time, and it was very similar there, where the more certain someone was, the more you knew they were wrong. My wife used to joke — she was in Iraq with me — and she used to joke that you can tell how long someone has been in Iraq, a reporter, by how certain they are about things. The more certain they are, the less time they’ve been in Iraq. And the same with this financial crisis. Nobody saw it coming. Even the people who saw bits and pieces of it, did not see the whole thing. And nobody, I don’t think a single person, had the background to understand all the financial instruments, all the interconnections. The world just doesn’t work that way. These were, you know, very specialized areas of finance that suddenly became linked by this global chain.

So, the voice — I feel like the voice of business journalism is sort of, it’s an authoritative voice of God. “Today, the stock market rose 3.8% on news of unemployment rising and anticipation of the Fed cutting its interest rates.” And, you know, I know before I was a business journalist, as a consumer, I didn’t know much about business, and there’s a guy in a suit, who seems like he knows what he’s talking about, and he’s saying things with a very strong, authoritative voice, and what this crisis taught us is all those people were missing the most fundamental things. Those people — Like, it’s almost absurd! Like you could do like a skit about how silly it was. And there is no voice anymore. There is no authority. I mean, there are better ideas and worse ideas; there are people who are closer to the truth and further away from the truth. But there is — I don’t wanna say it’s all up in the air, everyone believe whatever you want. I think people can believe some dangerous and stupid things. But there is no authority. It’s a process. It’s a constant process. I change my mind hourly on this crisis, and I fundamentally revise my thinking all of the time. And everybody does. I mean, the smart academics I talk to, the smart business people I talk to — everyone is trying to figure this out, to begin with. And I would like to find a way — I think we’re starting to find a way to represent that.

Read more here.

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