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Trying to argue in real-time is hard, and is much harder on TV. Superficiality and howling wrongness are endemic to talking-head debates, even among smart people. (And it's one reason I can't stand them: both CBC's economic panel and their at issue panel. So dumb and superficial.)

Traditional news gathering or in-depth reports and specials would be a better idea. Now, all over (print and tv), those crafts are in disrepair, or have been stamped out by budget cuts, but they still are better than the dueling pundits that have eaten so much into their time.

At least there are blogs and magazines.

In the CBC segment, I suspect the producer cared more about 'right left' balance than 'knows stuff' v doesn't. That's the way these panels are constructed.

Stephen is on the mark about policy in Canada being a small cozy world mostly behind closed doors. It is true that the smallness of the country likely matters, but this is amplified by the Parliamentary system. In the US you have to convince many individual legislators, one at a time, to get something passed. In our centralized parliamentary system you just have to convince whomever has the ear of the minister (or the prime minister with recent governments).

Finally, the return to academics from blogging is almost zero. You get paid nothing. The professional return is zero--you don't get tenure or grants or salary from a blog--no matter how kick-ass your commentary may be. Why this is the case is maybe the right question. (I think it is because most people would attribute the average quality of internet musings (ie zero) if they saw blog stuff on your CV. We know that an AER is likely of high quality without having to read it. We don't know the quality of an internet comment without actually reading it).

Of course, I have been lightly blogging for a few months about the PBO but that is a micro-mini-niche blog so it isn't the same as what Stephen and Nick do here.

There may be a big social return to academics blogging, but until the private return rises above zero most will choose to devote the marginal hour to teaching, research, or family--except for the unbelievably generous people like Stephen and Nick.

Actually, the solution is embedded within my last paragraph--get SSHRC to pay straight up salaries to bloggers. Good luck with that. ;)

I'm putting your name down as a reference next time I apply!

Most journalists (especially tv ones) by way of laziness and time contraints, choose the usual suspects in their rolodex. If its a defence issue, just get Lewis McKenzie, something having to do with Alberta - Roger Gibbins, parliamentary ethics/scandal - Duff Conacher, national security - that guy who apparently worked for CSIS years ago, etc.

Forget the mid-term macro. My 85 year old mother, who’s never worked anywhere near the financial markets, has a far better grasp of foreign exchange dynamics than Patricia Croft. This is the absolute bottom side of mediocrity and denseness from someone who’s worked as a Bay Street economist for nearly 30 years - unbelievable.

CBC now has Amanda Lang on Board, who is a good financial journalist and bright woman, but probably not up to the task of the required technical inquiry.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the Canadian economics blogosphere. The American one doesn’t get any play on network or cable there either.

The answer: you’ve got to want to do it.

The problem: as a community, the academic economics profession is too comfortable.

The deeper problem: really smart people are lazy in a certain kind of way – the kind of way in which they think they shouldn’t have to demean themselves in order to get a deserved hearing, on the basis that they are smart and they do know these things – that’s not a criticism; that’s simply the way life is. You’ve got to really want something and raise some shit about it in an impactful way in order to make a difference. Or conversely, like Croft, you have some innate inability to become a sort of Stepford-like robotic Bay Street marketing support machine, cranking out mediocre media appearances, explain economics in an incredibly bad way. If you really want to do it, there's a way of getting in the door.

Here’s one example of what’s required from a university platform; Google may have some video somewhere on him:


That’s tenacity and bull headedness. He gets a lot of American cable play, for a university professor.

There is this odd belief in journalism that all points of view are equally valid. Never will you see an academic macro economist without a shill from a business school to balance information with fallacy of composition.

But the really dangerous development that everyone is too afraid to talk about is how the pro-relativity movement has stiffed decent by bullying everyone with theory confirmed with experiment. When will the MSM stand-up to the scientists who are just scaring us with a universal speed limit to pad their own pockets with five figure salaries and 80% dental benefits (max $2000 per year).

What, oh what, has become of our democracy?

ugh - of course that is 'stifled dissent'.

I should never take off my tin foil hat.

I'm surprised that readers seem to think the returns to blogging are so low. If you can get a blog with a large enough following, I would think it would increase your individual profile, which would be valuable in salary negotiations as a prof and create outside opportunities such as book deals. When you look at some of the big econ bloggers (I'm thinking Levitt, Mankiw and Krugman), they're high-profile people who probably have a very high value attached to their time. If blogging is so profitless, I'm surprised they do it. I think they recognize that blogging increases their profiles; it helps Mankiw sell more texts, Levitt sell more Freakonomics and Krugman get a Nobel Prize.

I'd be curious to hear if Stephen and Nick think I'm way off base here; I'm guessing the blogging itself doesn't bring in much if any revenue, but I'd be surprised if their calls from media (which I think would be correlated with their public profile in general) haven't increased since they started blogging.

Obviously, blogs are free and so there's a public goods component to them, but that doesn't necessarily mean there are no private benefits from blogging.

"It wasn't until the clip from an interview with Mark Carney that viewers were presented with a clear description of the options available to the Bank of Canada."

How about a list of those options here on the blog?

Blogging scales. Any returns from blogging are absorbed by the top bloggers.

David: from what I have seenm, having a large public profile does not help much with your professional rep.

There is a certain snobbery about playing to the crowd instead of to who is supposed to matter--your academic peers.

Maybe that's good or maybe it's bad, but it's there.

"I wouldn’t worry too much about the Canadian economics blogosphere. The American one doesn’t get any play on network or cable there either."

I disagree, from my own personal experience.

I have been asked, maybe 15-20 times since I started at About.com in 2002 to make a media appearance (usually radio) to discuss exchange rate issues. Of those 15-20 times, exactly zero were requests from the Canadian media. Despite the fact that I'm Canadian and teach international trade at Ivey. (In fact, I gave a lecture on this exact subject at Ivey YESTERDAY). All my calls come from the U.S., for some reason.

"Most journalists (especially tv ones) by way of laziness and time contraints, choose the usual suspects in their rolodex."

Agreed. And since there are so few media outlets in Canada, it's the same people who get called on again and again.

On a personal level, I don't mind not being called at all. As a viewer, though, I really want to see some new faces with something to say.

Good post and re-post. I would add from personal experience that radio or TV interviews may only last a couple of minutes once put on the air but the time spent in preparation, sometimes travel is horrendous. Worse, once journalists like you, they want you to extend to areas well beyond what one might be currently working on. Moreover, for academics and wanna-be academics, growing too fond of the media spotlight can be the kiss of professional death. Lott, Jr.? Anyone? [Well, maybe he should have been a little more careful with his numbers.]

Don't want to pile on poor Ms. Croft but I should point out that she missed the entire bull market in natural resource commodity markets earlier this decade. Her firm's offices are located in Vancouver, British Columbia, ground zero for the natural resource capital venture markets. (Actually No. 2 after Toronto, but sssshh!)

Then there is the CBC.... not exactly the bastion of sophisticated economic thought. A bit of a late comer to business and economics programming. Improving I think.

Some of the business profs give a reasonably good media performance IMO. Jack Mintz at Calgary usually says intelligent, helpful things.

The points people have raised about the low returns from spending time blogging or talking to the media are good ones. But there seems to be a basic presumption here that your average academic economist could explain, in a simple way that an average CBC viewer could understand, exchange rate dynamics. I couldn't, and I'm pretty sure the majority of my colleagues couldn't either.

Success as an academic economist is orthogonal to ability to explain economic phenomena in simple sound bites?

I think the CBC looks for male/female and east/west balance as well as left/right.

I would certainly agree that all academics are not equally at ease at discussing whatever topic journalists might ask of them. (I still can't understand how I appeared on Politics as an expert on EI.) And there may be other considerations at work in the choice of panelists.

But the point still is how such a horrible clanger could be made - in a tone of absolute confidence! - on a show such as The National. I think that this sort of thing would be less likely to occur if people who actually knew what they were talking about made it a point to participate in public debates about economics.

It's the idea that you prepare for such an interview, knowing that the Canadian dollar is going to be a topic - then spout impressive sounding statistics on the size of the foreign exchange market, and on the size of the Bank's foreign exchange reserves - and then get the entire thing perfectly backwards in terms of possible strategy. How is that combination of premeditation and fundamental error even possible for any professional?

I suspect Patty's comments have more to do with promoting a public dialogue oriented towards 'the loonie is inevitably appreciating and we are helpless' POV.

A huge multi-national Canadian bank has a lot to gain from a higher Canadian dollar as well as a currency that moves in a steady, predictable fashion.

Canadian banks get hurt when translating foreign currency earnings.

Well OK, Smarty-pants - I haven't had the pleasure of your 2nd year course so give me - the newspaper reader - a succinct explanation! (And one reason you may not get the "play" you THINK you deserve is all of your academic reports are stuck in the french ghetto at the U of Laval. What is the point of two flags? Both are still in french. Have you heard about Google translate? Tell me when submit to AER, do you do so in French? Maybe that is why no one reads you - sorry.)

The average "dude" has no understanding of, or interest in economics. In Canada, we also have a cultural acceptance that our economy is linked to that of the US. Finally, we have a broad strokes media here in the north that remains dedicated to simple news and analysis - without the ideological hyperbole of our southern friends. Together, this spells death for the economic populist, and explains why idiots can appear on any panel unchallenged. Nobody cares, or at least so few that they qualify as statistically nobody.

Star power in any media is still driven by US markets, however the surging nature of the blogosphere holds out hope that frozen Canadians may some day be able to address other frozen Canadians without that blare horn filter to our south. Until then, corporate shills and dusty Rolodex dog ears can fill the lonely air time of Canada, secure in the knowledge that they are not Glen Beck and thus, free to yabber as they see fit completely unchallenged. Mybe Glen beck was a bad example, but you get the point.

A lonely Canadian Economic Blogger.

That's true anon. I haven't looked at their quarterlies in about a year, but from what I recall, compared to earnings at Canadian banks, their U.S. operations are very small. What earnings they do make are usually not repatriated but instead reinvested.

Canadian banks swimmining in cash and looking to make acquisitions in the U.S. have a lot more to gain from a lower greenback. The higher C$ and, to some degeee, associated 'prestige' gives them a lot more clout in international financing deals. Precisely the area of RBC Patty works in.

David: "I'd be curious to hear if Stephen and Nick think I'm way off base here; I'm guessing the blogging itself doesn't bring in much if any revenue, but I'd be surprised if their calls from media (which I think would be correlated with their public profile in general) haven't increased since they started blogging."

I've had a few more calls from the media. I usually respond to media requests (unless it's way out of my area) because it gives some free advertising to my employer, Carleton University.

But blogging is not a good career move, as far as I can see. Spending the time to get a few journal articles published instead would be better.

It's certainly satisfying, intellectually. And I do love the quick feedback, with good comments. It brings a minor fame, but not even a tiny fortune. But it feels like the right thing to do, for me.

Out of curiosity, do you track traffic on your site? How has traffic changed over the past year?

Maybe we can have the economists talk to Haitian Voodoo priests and the public can vote (now with SMS too) on who is making more sense.

Look, I understand that we think of ourselves as scientists who study an observable thing (the "economy") but camon. Let's be honest. We really have no idea what we're doing. I'm required to read utter bullsh@t in equation form almost daily. We're making it up as we go along.

We can't "increase understanding" of something we don't understand.

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