BBC Newsnight’s economics editor, Paul Mason, compared journalists reporting on the financial crisis to “Catholic papal reactionaries”, at a conference at the London School of Economics (LSE) last week.
His comments were part of a discussion with Linda Yueh, Bloomberg Television’s economics editor, about the challenges of covering the financial crisis. The two journalists were participating in the LSE’s POLIS conference Reporting the World.
Mason criticised what he described as the neo-liberal model of economics, saying that the media refused to accept that it was dead. He said: “The problem we have here is it’s like being a journalist reporting on the scientific revolution when most of the journalists and all of the establishment are Catholic papal reactionaries.”
He recalled how, after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, a press officer at the American Embassy described the crisis as “just a blip”.
He also emphasised the importance of social media such as Twitter for breaking news.
The difficulties in explaining complex financial terms and the lack of transparency in the financial industry were also examined.
Yueh said that time pressure on economics journalists could lead them to resort to over-simplistic reporting and caricatures: “How do you tell coherent stories in short periods of time?”
She suggested that the best way to explain financial debates was to tell the story behind it and that when bankers used vague phrases such as moral hazard, journalists should show audiences what the term implied. She said: “It’s not what they’ve said, it’s what they mean.”
Video and text by Julia Rampen
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