Monday, February 23, 2009

Do editors still exist at the Globe and Mail?

Although I realize that I am encroaching on Stephen Gordon's turf, I still could not let this bit of terrible economic journalism from Canada's newspaper of record slip by unnoticed:

After the downturn of 2009, the B.C. economy will slog through several years of low-grade misery, the economic equivalent of a lingering chest cold. The jobs market is particularly lethargic. The unemployment rate is to peak at 6.2 per cent this year, and then drifts back to down to 5.5 per cent by 2013. By itself, that muted recovery is unimpressive. Four years of economic expansion will not be enough to trim unemployment back to the 4.6-per-cent rate of 2008.
- From "After the deluge, BC faces soggy economy", Feb 20, 2009

Above is a picture of the BC unemployment rate from 1990 to January 2009. I don't think anyone looking at this graph would describe 5-6% unemployment as "low-grade misery", rather it is likely pretty close to full-employment for BC. The 4.6% rate for 2008 was a product of an overheated construction sector that is now unwinding. A skilled (or even semi-skilled) editor should catch that.


Christopher W Earl said...

I'm not sure why so many "journalists" try to make this "crisis" seem as bleak as possible. Is consumer confidence so unimportant that it's prudent to continuously chip away at it?

Shock Minus Control said...

Well, it is pretty bleak, and I don't mind reporting the truth. This was an example of very sloppy journalism that could have been prevented with a simple glance at the relevant data.

Christopher W Earl said...

I hate sloppy journalism. I hate it a lot. But I can't help but wish that they would err on the side of optimism once in a while.

Anonymous said...

"But I can't help but wish that they would err on the side of optimism once in a while."

Why? Why the skew to "optimism". Why not skew to healthy skepticism, which should be a journalist's role.

I'd say there's a much greater skew to optimism generally. Why are rosy forecasts from the Canadian Real Estate Association accepted at face value, for example? And where was the skeptical reporting of the state of the economy prior to November? Nowhere.

Anonymous said...

I find it frustrating that reporting is premised on having zero historical memory. Everything is about today's horse race. Yay, the stock market gained 50 points today (a meaningless brief uptick in a bear market reported as meaningful). Uh-oh, real estate prices are down 2% (after climbing 100% in 4 years).

Surely the editor has a direct recollection of unemployment rates from more than 3 years ago. Hell, I can remember when I graduated the unemployment rate for where I was living was like 14%! Now that's a sucking job market. This, not so much.

I also hate just random big numbers used in reporting. The deficit will be x billion. Well, that sure is a big number. Big enough to make our little brows furrow in concern. But expressed as a percentage of GDP, or of govt revenues, how bad is that compared to, say, the 80's?

Context, perspective and some limited analysis, please!!!