"Australia has very few anarcho-capitalist bloggers like Paul Staines of Guido Falkes [sic] fame, reformed raver libertarians with an eye for scandal (and another on the latest market moves)" writes Christian Kerr. Instead of breaking stories, he says Australia’s political bloggers serve up analysis and talk … "Endless talk."
For those who don’t know already, Guido Fawkes not only blogs on the news — he makes it. It was Fawkes who revealed that Labour blogger Derek Draper was getting anti-Tory dirt direct from No 10. The revelations resulted in the resignation of a Downing Street staffer, Damian McBride.
Talk and analysis may not be as exciting as getting a senior political adviser sacked, but putting facts in context can be important. Some of Australia’s best economic bloggers look to columnists like Paul Krugman for inspiration. Like Krugman they try to make sense of events rather than just report them. As the Washington Monthly’s Nicholas Confessore writes:
The tax cut, Bush’s Social Security plan, Enron, the energy crisis, and Harken–all Krugman hobbyhorses–were widely covered in the media. But he has been the only prominent columnist to attempt to weave all of them into a single, continuing narrative about the Bush administration’s policies, wealth inequality, corporate profiteering, and the ascendancy of crony capitalism.
With economic stories, the data doesn’t always speak for itself. Sometimes there’s an opportunity for a conceptual scoop — a striking new way of making sense of what’s going on. A graph, a metaphor or a bit of historical context can transform lifeless data in a compelling story. In the rush to report the news, this is something newspapers often fail to do. For example, at the Columbia Journalism Review Liza Featherstone explains how the Wall Street Journal is trying too hard to cover the news and in the process:
… the paper has failed to explicate the big questions—what happened and why—ceding the role of authoritative explainer and investigator to, ironically, The New York Times, which has a business staff one-seventh the size of the Journal’s. With all the focus on the factual scoop at the new Journal, says one reporter of his managers, “I don’t think they realize the value of the conceptual scoop, which is so important in business news. When you present a new idea and back it up with numbers and the reader says, ‘Holy crap, I didn’t know that before.’”
Some of the most interesting blogging in Australia today is coming from writers like Andrew Leigh. An academic economist, Leigh loves data. His best posts not only give you the numbers, but make you as excited about them as he is.
In the wake of the global financial crisis, economics is at the centre of politics. So even though econo-bloggers like John Quiggin, Peter Martin, Nicholas Gruen, Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh aren’t getting anyone sacked, they’re well worth reading.
Update: At Core Economics, Joshua Gans responds by drawing up a list of his most influential posts.
The “rainforest alliance-certified, decaff and soy brigade” at Larvatus Prodeo have a few things to say about Kerr’s column. In the comments thread Mark writes:
Ive never heard of the blogger cited – but as Mick said, he seems to trade in Westminster gossip. Why is that necessarily of higher quality than analysis of climate change policy here, Quiggins stuff on the economy, the excellent posts on feminism at many, many places, the great litbloggers, etc, etc?