What I Learned About Journalists This Summer
Arnold’s very down on journalists:
When you get an answer that works with five-year-olds, you can move on to try and explain it to journalists. For journalists, the market only exists to cause problems (it’s like Matt Ridley’s complaint that the press makes it sound as if your genes are there to cause disease.) What solves problems, in this view, is the wisdom and good will of leaders.
He’s not alone – how often have I heard economists say “Journalists!” and roll their eyes?
After a whole summer of experience with the media, however, I come to wonder what all the fuss is about. I’m impressed by how reasonable, fair, and honorable the journalists I’ve dealt with have been. Even though I’ve written a controversial book, journalists have, by and large, been not only pleasant, but attentive.
The average journalist I talked to would make a very good economics student. In fact, if they gave me a semester of their time, I think I could make most of the journalists I’ve talked to models of economic literacy.
Yes, there have been a few missed appointments, and last-minute cancellations, but a lot fewer than I would have expected. And while some were quite critical, hostility and “ambush tactics” were virtually non-existent.
Now you may protest: Selection bias! You wouldn’t be entirely wrong. There’s a right-wing slant in my list of appearances. But there was still a good mix, and I can’t say that the mainstream liberal media treated me badly.
So what’s the deal? My best guess is that media hostility is a two-way street. If you have a big chip on your shoulder, the media pick up on it and respond in kind. But if you defend controversial, politically incorrect ideas with a smile, most journalists will return the favor.