Krugman’s blog

Just as I’m praising him to the skies, uberjournalist Paul Krugman, not content with two fantastic columns a week, gives us a blog as well. And having discovered it, what is the first post I read on it? Krugman summarising the very point I drew attention to. That he has a subject – the facts and/or arguments about what they are, the truth or falsity of what important people are saying – rather than how what they are spinning is going down.

That’s why I called him an uberjournalist, rather than an uber-economic-journalist. Because so few of the journalists do anything other than comment on how the spinmeisters are spinning.

Here’s a slightly edited version of the post.

1ome of my journalistic colleagues seem to want to be in another business namely, theater criticism. Instead of telling us what candidates are actually saying and whether its true or false, sensible or silly they tell us how it went over . . . . During the 2004 campaign I went through two months worth of TV news from the major broadcast and cable networks to see what voters had been told about the Bush and Kerry health care plans; what I found, and wrote about, were several stories on how the plans were playing, but not one story about what was actually in the plans.

2his sort of coverage often fails even on its own terms, because the way things look to inside-the-Beltway pundits can be very different from the way they look to real people.Which brings me to the Petraeus hearing.

To a remarkable extent, punditry has taken a pass on whether Gen. Petraeuss picture of the situation in Iraq is accurate. Instead, it was all about the theatrics about how impressive he looked, how well or poorly his Congressional inquisitors performed. And the judgement you got if you were watching most of the talking heads was that it was a big win for the administration especially because the famous MoveOn ad was supposed to have created a scandal, and a problem for the Democrats.

Even if all this had been true, it wouldnt have mattered much: if the truth is that Iraq is a mess, the public would find out soon enough . . .
But heres the thing: new polls by CBS and Gallup show that the Petraeus testimony had basically no effect on public opinion . . . The whole story about how the hearing had changed everything was a pure figment of the inside-the-Beltway imagination.

What I found striking about the whole thing was the contempt the pundit consensus showed for the public it was, more or less, Oh, people just cant resist a man in uniform. But it turns out that they can; its the punditocracy that cant.

Follow his first link and get thoroughly depressed about the state of things.

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16 years ago

Krugman is not being totally honest here.

polls have been showing support rising for the war over the past few months. If he wasn’t spinning it he would have mentioned this himself. Moreover it’s not as though the contents of the report weren’t basically known weeks in advance. It would have been a surprise if there was a surprise in that things are getting better on the ground since he took charge.

Let’s hope it continues depsite Krugamn.

16 years ago


He has a discussion on inequality in his blog which in my opinion is either dishonest or he doesn’t understand economics.

He suggests that inequality has risen in the US. Well actually that’s true for the bottom quintile of the unskilled working population, which represents about 20 million workers. However he fails to mention the old bull elephant in the cupboard- the 10-11 million illegals that have put downwards pressure on wages at the bottom. If Paul made allowances for them, it would possibly help him see things in an entirely different light.

In fact he ought to be praising the US economy’s ability to absorb so many people while still maintaining a low unemployment rate. Instead we get a pessimistic gasbag that has become his style.

Ken Lovell
16 years ago

The same observations apply to most political journalism in Australia. The main story is usually about polls, or how person A responded to person B’s announcement, with little attention paid to issues of substance. The journos encourage it, using press conferences to ask variations of the question “What’s your reaction to Mr Howard/Rudd’s statement this morning that …?”

The end result is that political reporting becomes concerned mainly with perceptions of who’s winning the argument, or as you put it, ‘comment on how the spinmeisters are spinning’.

It’s revealing that the ABC calls its premier political analysis show Insiders, implying that there are people who know what’s really going on and then there’s the rest of us. It’s watched by how many, a few hundred thousand people at most? Yet the political tragics pore over the blatherings of journos as if they are holy writ.

I suppose the interesting question is whether anything would change much if analysis were to concentrate more on substance. Would more people pay attention to the MSM? I suspect not. In fact if front page stories started to cover the actual detail of policy instead of what the politicians said about it, even less people might read them than is the case now. Industrial relations laws for example get pretty eye-glazing once you try to explain stuff like the common law contract of employment.

Regardless of its content, print media would seem to have a limited future life.


[…] rather more common than I would like and which is certainly not confined to Australia alone.