Announcement: Economic Reporting Review

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Sun Feb 21 18:09:54 PST 1999

Of interest to economists and others, see below.



Does the New York Times Get It Right?

How About the Washington Post?

When it comes to economic reporting, you can find out, with the Economic Reporting Review ( The Economic Reporting Review (ERR) provides on-line analysis, updated weekly, of the economic reporting in the New York Times and the Washington Post. ERR will call attention to both positive and negative aspects of the reporting on economic issues that appears in these papers.

On the negative side, it will note instances where unsupported assertions, misrepresented facts, or outright mistakes appear in the economic reporting in these papers. These papers are extremely important in shaping the national debate on economic issues, so errors in reporting can have serious consequences, and many such errors do occur.

For example, in March of last year a Times article warned of the threat of accelerating inflation due to more rapid wage growth, which may require the Federal Reserve Board to clamp down on economic growth: "the increase for the last twelve months is just over 4.0 percent, a sharp acceleration from a 3.0 percent gain the previous year. (AJobs Juggernaut Continues Surge; 300,000 Find Work.@ by Sylvia Nasar, 3-7-98; A1). According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pace of wage growth was virtually unchanged over this period. The average hourly wage had risen by 3.95 percent (from $11.64 to $12.10) in the previous year.

To take another more recent example, a New York Times article on the introduction of the euro (AEuro Expected to Unleash Bull Market.@ by Reed Abelson, 1-2-99; A5) asserted that Awhile the return on capital achieved by American companies has dramatically improved since the 1970=s, the returns of companies in France, Italy, and Germany have actually declined.@ According to data from the OECD, the returns to capital at the seventies business cycle peak in France, Italy, and Germany were 11.6, 12.3, and 10.6 percent, respectively. By 1997, the returns to capital in these countries had risen to 19.9, 14.8 and 15.3 percent.

These are the sort of errors and inconsistencies to which ERR will call attention. On the positive side, it will call attention to news articles that involve serious investigation or original analysis of major economic issues, citing such pieces as Aoutstanding stories of the week.@

ERR should also be a great tool for teaching. It will help students to recognize the sorts of implicit judgements made by reporters in presenting economic news. The weekly segments are generally short (2000-2500 words) and are accessible to undergraduates.

ERR will be written by Dean Baker, currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Preamble Center, and previously a Senior Economist at the Economic Policy Institute. For the last three years Dr. Baker was the main author (and originator) of Reading Between the Lines, the weekly on-line commentary on economic reporting that appeared on the Economic Policy Institute=s web site.

Dr. Baker has been a key figure in several of the nation=s recent debates over economic policy. He was the most visible opponent of the effort to reduce the annual cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients based on the Boskin Commission=s claim that the consumer price index overstated inflation. His book on this topic, Getting Prices Right: The Battle Over the Consumer Price Index (M.E. Sharpe, 1997), was a winner of the 1998 Choice Book Award for one of the best academic books of the year. He also has been extensively involved in the Social Security debate. In addition to many previous writings on Social Security, his book (co-authored with Mark Weisbrot), Social Security: The Phony Crisis, will be published by the University of Chicago Press in 1999. He also is the coeditor (with Gerald Epstein and Robert Pollin) of Globalization and Progressive Economic Policy (Cambridge University Press, 1998). His work in these and other areas, along with his experience with Reading Between the Lines, makes him exceptionally well qualified to write ERR. The Economic Reporting Review is a joint project of the Preamble Center and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

========================================================= Max B. Sawicky Economic Policy Institute (EPI) Suite 1200 1660 L Street, NW Washington, DC 20036 202-775-8810 (voice) 202-775-0819 (fax)

Opinions reflected above are not necessarily shared by anyone else associated with the Economic Policy Institute. ==========================================================

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