February 03, 2004

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?: Agreement From an Unexpected Quarter

From an unexpected quarter comes agreement that we need a better press corps.

In my inbox this morning is an email from Jonathan Weisman about his Washington Post story yesterday--the one that covered the Bush budget as the story of a brave president and administration making tough choices to bring the deficit under control, the one that read as though 90% of it came from a rewritten White House press release as it was hastily slapped together.

Weisman writes*:

...The first piece put on the web is slapped together as quickly as possible...

I.e., it reads like 90% of it is a rewritten White House press release because 90% of it is a rewritten White House press release.

...Here's my analysis: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6881-2004Feb2.html...

I.e., don't read that hastily slapped-together story. Read this instead.

Unfortunately, I don't think this is fully satisfactory. IIRC, for most of yesterday Weisman's rewritten White House press release was the lead story, the first story in the news column on the Post's website. For all the people out in Internetland who get their Post via electrons rather than dead trees--and that's a very large chunk of the media/journalist/analyst/politician community--it is the piece that was hastily slapped together tjhat gives them their first view of the budget. And, as I wrote, the view that Weisman and his colleagues gave was a profoundly misleading one.

Moreover, there was very little in the budget that was a surprise. The story did not have to be "slapped together as quickly as possible." Virtually all of it could have been written in advance--in many places long in advance. There is no reason why the key things that Washington Post readers need to be told about the Bush budget:

  1. The Bush budget number for 2009 omits about $160 billion in costs for programs that the administration wants enacted.

  2. The Bush budget limits itself to five years--to 2009--rather than the ten years of Clinton budgets because the Bush administration doesn't want journalists to pay attention to the effects of its policies in 2010-2014, and thinks that the press is so gullible and lazy that if it doesn't report 2010-2014 effects the press won't write about them.
  3. Extending the Bush tax cuts would blow an annual $250 billion hole in the budget in the 2009-2012 presidential term.
  4. $400 billion in 2009 and $700 billion by 2014 are better forecasts of the deficit that would be produced by the policies the Bush administration advocates.
  5. Long-run budget projections show clearly that the [federal] budget is on an unsustainable path.

couldn't have been included high up in the "slapped together as quickly as possible" article.

Of these, only point 3 made it into yesterday's article--and only in paragraph 26. More worrisome, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6881-2004Feb2.html isn't much better. Points 1, 2, 4, and 5 are still missing.


*The full text of the email, with "***" replacing "uck":

Subject: Re: Comment on the Bush Budget article
To: Michael Ham
Cc: delong@econ.Berkeley.EDU
From: Jonathan Weisman
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 09:57:46 -0500
Status:

F*** Brad DeLong. The first piece put on the web is slapped together as quickly as possible, and the guy for some reason doesn't like me. Here's my analysis:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6881-2004Feb2.html

Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post economics writer

(202)334-7745

Posted by DeLong at February 3, 2004 11:16 AM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
Comments

Don't some of the "Programs the Administration
wants enacted" include continuing the qWagmire that is Iraq??

And why does Weisman suggest that you hate
him? What is personal about hoping that the
WaPo tells the truth about the aWol
administration?!

Posted by: Bartolo on February 3, 2004 11:31 AM

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I don't read newspapers to get slightly marked up White House copy. (Or for that matter, IBM press releases turned into stories and such.)

At least when they quote from a source it should have "" around it.

rbb

Posted by: MobiusKlein on February 3, 2004 11:38 AM

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To Mr. Weisman, if he bothers to visit this site and learn something.

Fuck you too.

You have one of the most powerful unelected jobs in the world, but you peddle your real estate to the administration mouthpieces in order to maintain your illusion of access. You have become so obsessed with being able to obtain quotes from "senior administration officials" that you have forgotten to do your job.

You, apparently, construe your job primarily to be an editor of white house press releases.

Others would disagree. There is such a thing as objective truth, even in the world of Washington budgets. Some would say that your job is to report on the relationship between the administration's press releases and the truth of the matter.

I note that you are, in fact, capable of writing a declarative sentence analyzing the budget without sourcing it. You do so, but not until para 11.

Why publish a piece that is slapped together as quickly as possible? Why not just publish the press release? Is there no room left for integrity at your job?

Francis

Posted by: FDL on February 3, 2004 11:45 AM

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Wow, what a mature and professional response. I am beside myself with the masterful and literate method in which he dissected your arguments and responded to all your concerns.

Truly, this man is deserving of a Pulitzer.

(loud crashing noise as every sarcasm detector on the internet pegs at max.)

Posted by: Thane Walkup on February 3, 2004 11:46 AM

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In his response, Mr. Weisman says "the guy for some reason doesn't like me."

Just what the nation needs -- yet another journalist who wants to be "liked." If the members of the press were a little less worried about being liked by the current administration, maybe they would be willing to cover the Bushies with a more critical eye.

But nope, more than they want to do their jobs, they wanna be liked.

Posted by: Austin Mayor on February 3, 2004 12:06 PM

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Poor Jonathan Weisman. First he gets all in a hissy fit because he feels he has been unfairly judged for something which he feels was a pre-publication draft. Then he puts his heart and mind into a 'good' piece that he proudly struts as an example of fine journalism. Then Brad shows him again that it is still little more than sycophantic adulations of the hands that feed him. Perhaps he really believes that he is doing a good job as a journalist. That would be the sad thing. What else could explain his sudden fit of anger about what is obviously one of his sore points.

Posted by: non economist on February 3, 2004 12:11 PM

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I would hope that the editors of the Washington Post would review his writings with the same scrutiny. And I trust his reaction would not be to say f*** you to his own editors.

Posted by: Harold McClure on February 3, 2004 12:16 PM

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>>And why does Weisman suggest that you hate him? What is personal about hoping that the WaPo tells the truth about the aWol administration?!<<

That's what I think. I just want him to do his effing job. But he thinks differently. I remember being extremely disappointed about a story he wrote a year ago in which he did not so much misrepresent as fail to present at all my views and Glenn Hubbard's. His response: "Though I must say, for someone who got the longest quote in my Hubbard profile, you mercilessly slammed me on your website."

I did (and do) think that's out of line: I'm not in a gift-exchange relationship with Washington Post reporters in which I am happy as long as my name is mentioned. I'm on an educate-the-public mission.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on February 3, 2004 12:18 PM

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Judging by the Weismann e-mail you copy, he did have to offer explanation to one "Michael Ham" and had to do so because of you. If yes, and if Ham is WaPo editor, then there is still... hope, I guess.

Posted by: bulent on February 3, 2004 12:31 PM

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Weisman as a professional journalist should be responsible (not to mention ethical) enough to not simply regurgitate White House budget PR. Blaming it on a hasty web deadline only tells me that the story should have been delayed until a more credible report was written. Economists don't get excused for sloppy analysis because they just *have* to report something ASAP, and I don't excuse journalists either.

Posted by: David W. on February 3, 2004 12:40 PM

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This guy deserves to be fired, flat-out. The Post has no credibility if it allows this type of "reporting".

Brad, your intellectual honesty is not recognizable to these corrupt D.C. sycophants.

Posted by: noam chimpsky on February 3, 2004 12:42 PM

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How funny. I do data work for a number of different organizations, and they often publish things that rely on my work. I guarantee that if an outside critic challenged my work, and I responded with a "F*** you", I'd be fired. What is it about media whores that makes them think that they are stars? There's something about their delusional sense of entitlement that may explain why they parrot the Republican line. Maybe they think that any concern about wages, budgets, and so on is for the little people, not the big shots like themselves.

And they're unusually talentless too. After all, how hard is it to type up a press release?

Posted by: Rich Puchalsky on February 3, 2004 12:46 PM

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That dude should be canned. Period.

That is NOT how you respond to readers as a reporter.

Brad may not "like" him, but so what? We don't read your shit because we "like" you, chief. We read your crappy paper because it's a little bit less crappy than the alternatives.

A little bit less crappy.

So Sayeth Monkey

Posted by: Monkey on February 3, 2004 12:53 PM

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Well this explains a lot about Weisman's and the Post's coverage of fiscal policy. What a dick. Glenn Frankel was much better.

Posted by: Mysterious Handsome Washington-Based Economist on February 3, 2004 01:05 PM

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I received the "F*** deLong" reply also. I thought it was more offensive than a boob, and from a boob.

Posted by: annoyed on February 3, 2004 01:06 PM

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"To Mr. Weisman, if he bothers to visit this site and learn something...."

Please, the guy has no interest in learning what so ever. I agree with the retort. Poor dear we-porter. What a hack.

Posted by: lise on February 3, 2004 01:07 PM

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Well, this dude has to be a dumbass. Did he not check his CC: line before he e-mailed Michael Ham back? What a douchebag.

Posted by: Alcoholic Anonymous on February 3, 2004 01:12 PM

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I like Jonathan Weisman! I really do. Just because he's done his job like a third-rate hack, that doesn't mean that we can't like him. He can turn it around! I know he can do better next time.

Posted by: Walt Whitman on February 3, 2004 01:18 PM

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Are we sure this is really from a Post reporter and not some elaborate hoax? 'Cause it sure isn't professional.

Posted by: MDtoMN on February 3, 2004 01:35 PM

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Hint to Weisman:

If you don't think it meets your own journalistic standards, don't put your f***ing name on the article in the first place!

Posted by: p mac on February 3, 2004 01:44 PM

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Wow. What a class act.

I almost can't believe a reporter would be dumb enough to send out an email like that. But then again, it just goes to show that there's no point in trying to shame people who have no shame.

That's the evil genius of Bushco. They know it's much easier to get what you want out of the Washington press corp by appealing to human weakness. Reporters can be lazy, so do their work for them by writing press releases that can easily slip into a "news" story. Reporters can be vain, so flatter them with cutesy nicknames and the like. Revolting but effective, I'm afraid.

Posted by: Dinky on February 3, 2004 01:45 PM

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On what planet is "I just slapped it together" a good defense against criticism?

Unbelievable.

Posted by: G. MacMorna on February 3, 2004 01:52 PM

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Weisman should be pissed at BushCo for handing him a press release full of unmitigated crap. He should not be mad at Brad for setting the record straight. If Weisman was a good reporter he would highlight the errors in the WH press release, hand it back to them and tell them not to bother if they cannot hand out an honest document. I would think the WH press dept. would want to know that people are on to them.

Posted by: bakho on February 3, 2004 01:59 PM

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maybe we can get paul krugman to take up the story in his column. would love to see the WH press corps have to start answering why it simply rewrites WH press releases on matters where the truth is far different or perhaps just more complicated.

Posted by: kit on February 3, 2004 02:15 PM

____

maybe we can get paul krugman to take up the story in his column. would love to see the WH press corps have to start answering why it simply rewrites WH press releases on matters where the truth is far different or perhaps just more complicated.

Because they can't let anyone else have the story first. They've been doing this for much longer than Bush has been in office. First is more important than right.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 3, 2004 02:22 PM

____

Sounds to me like the common disdain of weblogs and "alternative" media outlets online that's quite common with "established" (big media) journalists.

Here's a bit from the chair of NYU's J-dept on his trip to the WEF in Davos:

After several days of discussions, I realized how hard it was to describe for people in the established news media the significance of the weblog form. For the question they seem more interested in is: will weblogs "take over" the territory of the news media-- in other words, are they a threat to the news franchise? And are webloggers somehow outdoing journalists? (Or, as the official program in Davos had it, will the media co-opt the weblog?)

Not surprisingly, established journalists feel the answers are NO. And what many of them mean by a "discussion" of weblogs is simply the opportunity to ask and answer their own question: Weblogs a threat? I'm not worried about losing out to them! It matters not whether anyone has argued that amateur weblogs are "taking over" from professionals or "doing journalism better than journalists" (points I do not make.) The question is there--at least, it is for journalists--and the answer will be given. And given again. --from Pressthink

http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2004/01/25/davos_sketch.html

As the site's title implies, it's press navel-gazing. But that's the point so don't be suprised or complain (like people there sometimes do).

Course none of this excuses or fixes the situation - which may be a procedural problem at a large newsroom like WaPo, no? The tone of Mr Weisman's reply may be an example of the above excerpt though.

Posted by: TG on February 3, 2004 02:28 PM

____

RE: Weissman,

This is the same journalist who admitted on a poynter forum to having allowed White House staff alter quotes *after* *the* *fact*. Buzzflash, a highly partisan site, wrote about this last year and here is what google offered of that buzzflash analysis:

http://lists.gp-us.org/pipermail/texgreen/2003-March/001403.html

Unfortunately, the original Weissman story has since been removed from the Washington Post website. The story was about R. Glenn Hubbard, former member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, his supply side theories, and how they relate to then Bush administration policy. At the time I wrote a small article regarding this matter on Kuro5hin.org. Included in the article is a comment containing the original poynter discussion text where Weissman admitted to having allowed White House staff change an attributed quote after the fact. Wish I had saved the article text too.

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/3/14/13398/1467

Most distressing that his willingness to bend for the administration continues...

--Maynard

Posted by: J. Maynard Gelinas on February 3, 2004 02:43 PM

____

By the way, for anybody keeping score—reporting today in the Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/03/politics/03BUDG.html), from Richard Stevenson, isn't much better for analysis, at least in terms of the points Brad mentions. And yet, since this is apparatchik reporting, tone and structure are at least as important as content, and the tone strongly suggests, to my ear anyway, that the Times is finally starting to climb down off the Bush-sycophancy wagon. Time will tell, I guess.

Reading A1 (http://blogs.salon.com/0003364/), the NY Times front page project.

Posted by: Michael on February 3, 2004 02:43 PM

____

FWIW, there is no Michael Ham listed in the Washington Post directory (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/interact/longterm/stfbio/wpemail.htm#H)

Posted by: Marcus Sitz on February 3, 2004 02:57 PM

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Guys, I think you're missing something: it seems like it's the *editors* that are pushing for things to get thrown up all slapdash like this.

So while Weisman is certainly to blame for rehashing a WH press release, I'd also put a fair amount of onus on his boss. Perhaps Weisman's email outburst reflects his own frustration.

Posted by: praktike on February 3, 2004 02:58 PM

____

Rich Puchalsky: "What is it about media whores that makes them think that they are stars?"

Brad:" I'm not in a gift-exchange relationship with Washington Post reporters in which I am happy as long as my name is mentioned."

These quotes put a finger on the problem. The media really expect deference now. There are repeated stories about media trashing someone who wasn't nice enough to them.

I think that it has a lot to do with centralization of ownership and uncompetitive media. Journalists of various sorts believe that they have been rewarded for their merits by being placed in a position of power, and they expect to be treated appropriately.

All the joshing Bush did with the press was his way of telling them "I'm a big shot, but I know that you are too. So we can just be buddies."

I think that media monopoly has a lot to do also with the fact that the only professional standard is now success, and that "figuring out what the boss wants to hear" has come to be accepted as a key professional skill. Truthtellers who get fired are not heros or martyrs any more, but suckers.

Posted by: zizka / John Emerson on February 3, 2004 03:17 PM

____

The lack of professionalism in the original article speaks for itself. You don't get merit points for being the first person on the block to repeat lies.

The lack of professionalism in the direct response to Mr. DeLong's accurate criticism speaks for itself. "F*** You" indeed.

Who is his editor? Does anyone know who to write? I had been willing to chalk it up to a "deadline scramble" mentality, but it is clear this man is a fool in addition to being an incompetent journalist.

Posted by: Tim B. on February 3, 2004 03:41 PM

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I'm the Michael Ham who got the email, and no, I don't work for the Washington Post. I don't work at all: I'm retired. When I read a particularly good analysis of a reporter's story--either critical or laudatory--I like to inform the paper's ombudsman/public editor and the reporter (if possible) by sending a link. I was surprised that Weissman replied--and quite surprised by the tone--but pleased that he copied De Long. I suggested in my reply to him that it would be cool if stories that were quickly slapped together for a Web site somehow be flagged so that readers would know.

I also send in my own comments and criticisms, of course. Just sent an email to the NY Times today about their apparently serious Op-Ed piece giving an astrological analysis of the Democratic candidates.

Posted by: BayMike on February 3, 2004 03:57 PM

____

Odd that Weisman should suggest he had too little time to do analysis. Daniel Gross managed to get a piece put together a piece, much of it obviously researched before hand, on Bush's tendency to overestimate revenues in his annual budgets. Since these budget proposal thingies are a legal requirement for presidents, it is pretty easy to see them coming.

Here is the Gross piece.

http://slate.msn.com//?id=2094801&

Any chance some (self-declared) print journalists are taking the responsibility to post to websites as an annoyance? That they don't see website stuff as being as serious as hard copy? Primative, I know, but every culture has its unconsidered beliefs.

Posted by: K Harris on February 3, 2004 04:48 PM

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One nice point in Weisman's "analysis" piece. He quotes Stan Collender saying that Daddy Bush was burned by conservative voters staying home in droves. Now, if only that can happen again (heck, I'll take Republican moderates staying home in droves), while the example of Democrat primary/caucus voters turning out in droves continues to the general election, this thing just might work out. So thanks to Weisman for keeping my spirits up, anyhow.

Posted by: K Harris on February 3, 2004 04:57 PM

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K Harris:

"Odd that Weisman should suggest he had too little time to do analysis. Daniel Gross managed to get a piece put together a piece, much of it obviously researched before hand, on Bush's tendency to overestimate revenues in his annual budgets. Since these budget proposal thingies are a legal requirement for presidents, it is pretty easy to see them coming. "

Somebody has pointed out that this budget didn't have much in the way of surprises. Daniel probably had a list of major points to watch for - Bush's standard tricks.

Bush truncated the time period, and left out all sorts of things, including things that he has urged (e.g., the effect of making tax cuts permanent, reforming AMT) and things which he's got to put back in (e.g., funding military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan after Sep 30).


Now, spotting *every trick* would be hard. But any experienced econ reporter for a large national paper/network should have started with a page of major items to look for. In fact, he should have had a couple of columns ready, with blanks to be filled in with the actual numbers.

Daniel Gross probably did.

Posted by: Barry on February 3, 2004 05:58 PM

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Weisman's response was unprofessional. More alarming still is his admission that he's an unprofessional journalist--just a rewrite hack. He should be fired. There are many qualifed writer-economists out there who would be delighted to have his job and who would bring integrity and humility to the task.

Posted by: ellen on February 3, 2004 07:29 PM

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>>Just sent an email to the NY Times today about their apparently serious Op-Ed piece giving an astrological analysis of the Democratic candidates.<<

That was absolutely amazing...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on February 3, 2004 07:30 PM

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One way to look at this is that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can claim parentage of "balanced budgets," as if that were some sort of nirvana. When they were out of power, the Republicans railed against them. Now the tables have turned. Now the Democrats are for what the Republicans can't do either. Go figure. [()]

Lower interest rates are supposed to be the windfall from a balanced budget. What were the interest rates under the Clinton Administration? Aren't they supposed to show the inclination vis-a-vis inflation, and isn't that supposed to be caused by federal deficits? Or too much money chasing too few goods? (Of course it isn't, just reprising arguments from the past here.)

The Clinton administration "balanced the budget" by raising Social Security taxes, then borrowed them and spent them. BushCo did the same thing. What's left in the Social Security "lockbox"? A bunch of IOU's that some future generation will have to make good. IOW, the day of reckoning is left for another day.

The FICA tax is the most onerous tax on the bottom half of the (still) working public today. Did you ever get the feeling that we just might be running out of time?

I have come to the conclusion that all this federal budget stuff is a bunch of bullsh*t, smoke and mirrors.

Sorta like when we discovered that Santa Claus was a mortal.

Whoever it was a few topics back who said that economics needs to be reinvented surely had it right.

Posted by: James Hogan on February 3, 2004 08:00 PM

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Why does everyone here{*} think that a newspaper scribe should be numerate? About 20 months of close examination of the text of the mostly political writers at the major dailies has led me to the conclusion that none of these people grok basic algebra.

If you hold the view that 'numbers' (in a budget, for instance) are just immiscible ascii strings, why wouldn't you just slam things together and present a he said/she said story, and then head home to the TV.

{*} Including our polyglot host.

Posted by: Russell L. Carter on February 3, 2004 09:33 PM

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1. Hey, let's stay on topic. The NY Times astrology piece was not meant to be taken seriously. The atrological analysis of the candidates' characters and likely near term futures was obviously tailored to produce a sly and very very dry satire.

2. James Hogan's piece surprized me, since he has posted some interesting and thoughtful things here. But this last piece seems produced during a spell of despairing cynicism. What troubles me is that many voters spend a huge portion of their time in slough of despairing cynicism.

3. What is the cure for the state described in item 2? I understand why our valuable macro professor host is posting this material -I suppose it is raising an alarm of some kind. I hope he has time and inclination to include more explanations of what respectable macro theory and experience has to say about the current economy. Maybe he will be teaching a non-major "contemporary economy" or macro for non-majors course before the election and work it into the blog. I've liked the ruminations on long term economic growth and economic history. But he has some internet educating to do, darn it!

4. I really appreciate the fact that he has been posting the macro notes and some of the readings on the blog. And I hadn't downloaded all of it before last year's posts were wiped out. I hope it is still there somewhere. I'll check the academic side of his homepage.

Posted by: jml on February 3, 2004 09:44 PM

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Why can't I type and think at the same time?
In item 4 above, I meant Prof De Long's econ class notes. I want more of those.

Posted by: jml on February 3, 2004 09:50 PM

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Did anyone look at Weisman's "analysis" piece? It was almost as bad -- it pitches the budget as a return to "fiscal responsibility" to satisfy the conservative base. As though this budget was anything like fiscally responsible! He of course admits that Bush is not putting out a balanced budget and that red ink will continue, but there is really nothing in the first half of the article that highlights the fiscal dishonesty of this budget.

I am increasingly convinced that the inaccurate press coverage of the Bush administration is driven by political bias, not stupidity on the part of reporters. Frankly, no one can be that stupid...

Posted by: MQ on February 3, 2004 10:04 PM

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Numbers as immiscible ASCII strings? I agree they should be blended with some thought. There may be something to the theory that the press has become intellectually corrupt in economics reporting. I've heard TV and radio interview shows where politicians (both left and right) have been dismissively cut off by the big star host who sneeringly tells them that the voters are not interested in all those numbers that are SO confusing and boring. Then at the end of the show the big star has a short commentary where he denounces politicians for not dealing in substance (Do you listen to Face the Nation or Meet the Press once in awhile too?). Maybe if short run ratings and profits are the only bottom line now, and a network news division's performance is judged solely on that basis, the bosses just don't care if they hear this cynical and lazy nonsense. And every news star is an overpaid media star now, who earns jigajillions, so what would he/she care about the little people?

I can buy that theory of corruption more than political bias. But it is still corruption. And there is no excuse for it. If the news star hosts and celebrity newspaper writers do not understand the subject well, they certainly have access to people who are glad to help inform them.

But we have to do more than vent outrage. We have to make a case that the average person can understand this material and see through the smoke. That's why I hope Prof DeLong teaches an intro macro course again and posts the notes before the next election. And that there are more general interest macro posts and discussions here that allow the impressive array of macro and finance reader/contributors here to show their stuff.

I am reviewing macro as fast as I can, and maybe even I can post something other than questions on the macro/finance threads soon.

Posted by: jml on February 3, 2004 10:26 PM

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Brad, two words: Michael Getler. He holds down the title of ombudsman. Here's his e-mail address: ombudsman@washpost.com

Posted by: Greg Greene on February 3, 2004 10:26 PM

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But doesn't Mr. Weisman's elegant email clarify everything? He's not an economist; he's an English Major!

Posted by: Dan Ryan on February 3, 2004 11:54 PM

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This Weisman guy on heavy drinking or something? Suffering from some sort of deep anxiety? I mean somebody already suspected that the e-mail was a fake, imposter's job, but it doesn't look like it. The man is perhaps disturbed. If so, maybe he should be allowed a break?

Posted by: bulent on February 4, 2004 03:48 AM

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Dear Mr Weisman, Washington Post 'economics' writer:

In future, please bracket your incisive analyses (even if single lines or phrases) with "quotes" so we can tell where the real "journalism" starts and the "bullshit" ends.

F*** you very much!

Posted by: bushwahd on February 4, 2004 05:00 AM

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"But doesn't Mr. Weisman's elegant email clarify everything? He's not an economist; he's an English Major!"

And he's not a reporter, he's a stenographer.

Seriously, if all you're gonna do is print 90% of the WH press release, why not print it verbatim, and then you don't need this guy on your payroll.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan on February 4, 2004 05:26 AM

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[Mike Ham]
>Just sent an email to the NY Times today about their apparently serious Op-Ed piece giving an astrological analysis of the Democratic candidates.

[JML]
> Hey, let's stay on topic. The NY Times astrology piece was not meant to be taken seriously. The atrological analysis of the candidates' characters and likely near term futures was obviously tailored to produce a sly and very very dry satire.

...although if you look at the letters on the website today, one astrologer writing in appears to have taken it seriously indeed. And as for numbers as immiscible ASCII strings, if the *first* response is by John Allen Paulos the mathematician, author of _Innumeracy_ and _A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper_, and not some other John Allen Paulos, there's a tenuous on-topicness to the astrology thing after all.

Posted by: yhl on February 4, 2004 06:57 AM

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I guess he put you in your place, Brad.

Anyone who dare qWestions the Dear Leader and him loving minions must be motivated only by insane, jealousy-driven hatred!

Posted by: MattB on February 4, 2004 08:00 AM

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Humph, kinda reminds me of the time (10 years ago) I had to give a sample lecture to prove to the teaching "consultants" from the school of education that I could lecture to the undergrads. I did my lecture on the topic of the long term instability of Social Security. After I was done I got kudos for the presentation, and was told that I was a fine lecturer. But the choice of topic was downright disturbing to them (average age about 45 years old), and the message went totally over their heads.
So why tell the common folks anything? Does writing a cogent and usefull analysis provide the public or the leaders any usefull information- or are the internal filters removing any chance that we as economists can influence the polity? I believe the current system will inevitably lead to an Argentine end game as we drown any rational thought by the commons with entertainment and obfuscation. While I enjoy reading commentary on economics on this website, and practice it in daily work, I do not hold much hope for the long run of this country in terms of sustainability. I see our state legislature (and by inference our national assembly) becoming entirely without reason- and that loss is directly driven by ideology that does not match reality. If you think I am being too pessimistic check out the Goldwater Institute webpage- this philosophy is well represented in our elected polity in Arizona. And often by the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and the Cato Institute.

Posted by: Allen M on February 5, 2004 12:21 PM

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A little nothing goes a long, long way.

Posted by: Abe Kaho on March 17, 2004 10:57 PM

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