The Science of Journalism

If I Had My Way
One Man's Opinion -- for what it's worth.


To: Margaret Sullivan - public@nytimes.com

Cc: Paul Krugman - pkrugman@nytimes.com

From: Doug Skoglund - skoglund@pdmsb.com

Date: 18 May 2014 06:30 am CDT

Subject: 2014012 - A Case of Hypocrisy...

In one feld swoop, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., has turned the New York Times into a hotbed of hypocrites - especially you, Ms. Sullivan. It's pretty hard to work for an individual like that and then claim innocence when the shit finally hits the fan. You wrote:

Publishers, like owners of baseball teams, get to make these decisions -- and they continually do. When editors and publishers disagree, when the tension gets unbearable, realpolitik prevails: It's the editor who is gone, not the publisher.

Obviously, you know the limits -- and you know where the problem lies, which make you a contributing hypocrite; however, I am more concerned about the hypocrisy of Paul Krugman. I want to reproduce his column of April 20, 2014 in it's entirety.

Chris House replies graciously to my critique of his critique. However, I have some further thoughts here. The crucial question, it seems to me, is what econobloggers -- and in particular, those who happen to be political progressives -- are doing, and what they should be trying to do.

House sees the kind of blogging I and a number (but not a large number, which is important) of other people are doing as a matter of preaching to the choir, talking in the echo chamber, whatever. And he therefore argues that we should bend over backward to avoid reinforcing our audience's prejudices.

But I see myself, and Mark Thoma, and Brad DeLong, and Mike Konczal, and Simon Wren-Lewis, and a few others as something quite different -- as voices in the wilderness.

Now, you may say that it's a pretty cushy wilderness -- and in my case it definitely is; not just monetarily, but my spot at the Times is a dream gig for many journalists, I have a million Twitter followers, etc. etc. You may also say that there is indeed a choir that hears my preaching -- and for sure there is; plenty of liberals read me for reassurance in what they already believed.

But other people also read me -- often with distaste, but still they do hear what I say. What I and other econobloggers write is heard at the ECB, the IMF. the European Commission, CBO, the White House, Treasury, and so on. So there is some outreach.

And on the other hand, while it may be a comfortable wilderness, it's a wilderness all the same. Politics and policy are overwhelmingly dominated by what I call the Very Serious People -- people who insist that deficits are our most pressing problem, that high unemployment must be a matter of inadequate skills, that low marginal tax rates on the rich are essential for growth. Behind the conventional wisdom of the VSPs lies a vast mass of power and prejudice. As Ezra Klein once pointed out in connection with Alan Simpson, the influence of the deficit scolds is so great that by and large the press abandons any notion of objectivity and simply assumes that the VSPs are right and what they want is good.

And against all this power of conventional wisdom -- which is often, by the way, at odds with basic economic analysis and the preponderance of evidence -- you have ... a handful of progressive economics bloggers. Some of them -- well, mainly me -- have prominent perches. But it's still a very unequal match.

So I see no reason to bend over backwards to annoy my most loyal readers. I won't ever say anything I don't believe to be true, and I try not to sheer away from saying things my fan club will dislike. But shocking the liberal bourgeoisie is not how I see my job.

Substitute "publisher" for "loyal readers", "fan club", and "liberal bourgeoisie".

I have been an ardent follower of Paul's for a number of years now, collecting most everything I could get my hands on. I have sent some copies of my posts to the address above as well as participated in his comment section -- and while he has failed to respond I have given him the benefit of the doubt and blamed ignorance for his lack of accomplishment. 

That last paragraph says tons to a rabid reader of Paul Krugman. He uses the term, "Very Serious People" to identify the opponents, yet he refuses to identify any opponent by name -- for obvious reasons -- he treasures his position with NYT. Paul Krugman absolutely refuses to elevate the problem to a level where something can be accomplished.

Paul's credibility went down the tubes last week -- as did the credibility of the entire news business, especially, the New York Times.

Journalism's credibility is on the line -- what's it going to be -- just another bunch of hypocrites??

To be continued (I hope) 

Doug Skoglund skoglund@pdmsb.com

I don't provide for comments since that is a system designed to control the communication process -- I do provide an e-mail address!! (Please put a [MYWAY] in your title to get my attention)

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