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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Post Does Mind Reading at the European Central Bank

The Post Does Mind Reading at the European Central Bank

Thursday, 29 September 2011 06:28

The Washington Post explained the reluctance of European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet to support a large write down of Greek debt that would force creditors to take large losses by saying:

"Trichet and others worry that a default or even a steep devaluation of Greek bonds would wreck the euro zone’s credibility and make it harder for countries, banks and companies to raise money."

Actually, the Post doesn't know what Mr. Trichet and others are worried are actually about, it only knows what they claim to be worried about. It is possible that Mr. Trichet and the unnamed others are actually worried about the euro zone's credibility, but it also possible that their main concern is to protect European banks from large losses. The Post should just report what people say and do and not try to claim knowledge of their motives.

Comments (2)Add Comment
Sentence, in work, of need, to correct, grammer your
written by Jay Riddle, September 29, 2011 8:34
"...Mr. Trichet and others are worried are actually about,...." That sentence needs some work.
Words and Deeds
written by Ron Alley, September 29, 2011 10:16

The Post (and the Times, NPR and virtually all the mainstream media) treat words and deeds differently in various categories of news stories.

In reporting political stories, they dutifully report, and then repeat, the self-serving statements uttered by politicians, and particularly Tea Party conservatives, without questioning the motivation of the speaker. If the motivation of the speaker is even discussed, the reporter will pander to the politician by imagining a logical explanation consistent with the self-serving statement. When I read those stories, I feel assured that there is a Santa Claus.

In business stories (and particularly stories reporting market action), the reporter invoke wild imagination to explain market action as logically consistent with current events. The reporters do not feel constrained by reality. On any day, the explanation for a drop in the stock market may be attributed to concerns about the euro crisis. Even though the euro crisis continues unabated on the following day and the market rises, the reporters feel no need whatsoever to explain, or even review, the inconsistency in their story. When I read these stories I wonder who might find such reporting credible.

Stories on the economy, and particularly on government action affecting the economy, receive the worst treatment. Reporters report any self-serving statement by a government official or spokesperson without question and then feel not only free, but apparently compelled, to attribute motivation that is consistent with the self-serving statement. Any questions as to the consequences, even the clearly foreseeable ones inconsistent with the self-serving statement, are ignored. Any logical inconsistencies between the statement and observed reality are almost alway ignored. When I read such stories I wonder whether there are any skeptical reporters in the media.

These characteristics of reporting are virtually universal. I am puzzled by just how strongly ingrained they have become. They have risen to the level of journalistic conventions. The Times has Paul Krugman who discusses economic issues in his column as well as his blog. He presents logical explanations and arguments supported by data. His analysis and insight seem generally consistent with reality. Yet when you read the "news" and "analysis" economic events in the Times, you wonder whether the reporters have even read Krugman and thoughtfully considered the merits of their reporting on economic issues. I am not suggesting that the Times reporters and editors should be guided by Krugman. Their voices should by strong and independent. Unfortunately their voices seem to be constrained by journalistic conventions rather than a desire to report accurately and insightfully.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.