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No news: Good news, but bad journalism

You simply can't escape the rampant conjecture about the health of the economy these days. But what's amusing is that, unlike earlier in our present down-cycle, journalists feel compelled to identify it as just that — conjecture — even as they continue to write and print it.

Today the print edition of the New York Times contained a special section on the economic outlook. The stunningly compelling title of the cover story? "A Bruised Economy Leaves Everyone Guessing." That's right, their biggest story is, they can't tell you anything.

I mean, sure, if we were studying the history of economics, the fact that none of our "experts" had any conclusive argument about what's coming next would be notable. But the fact is that this story, and a million others like it, are wastes of ink and paper (even if it is recycled). In a news story, there's no opportunity to explain any of the analysis a reader would have to understand in order to appreciate economists' predicament today, and the reader is given no way to decide what to believe. It's just not worth reading.

But since the economy itself is considered big news, rather than waiting until they have something to report, media outlets print these stories again and again, even as they tell us less and less.

(Of course, if you read enough business news, you soon learn that special sections are rarely useful; the information that's important to your business — the things you need to know to stay ahead of the game — almost invariably appears on the main business pages themselves.)

It was funny, too, to discover that, on NYTimes.com, the economy wasn't just bruised (as it was in print), but "badly" bruised. It's good that they give their web editors the freedom to re-tune headlines that are more space-constrained in print, but perhaps they should tell their readers.

December 17, 2001 8:55 PM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

In what can only be an attempt to outdo itself, the Times runs an article entitled: "The Economy May Be Facing More Hurdles".

Say it ain't so!

(http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/22/business/22RECO.html )

Posted by matt on December 22, 2001 4:49 PM


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Copyright ©2001-2003 Matt Pfeffer

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