Economics, somebody once said, is the painful explanation of the obvious, and for some it seems, economic journalism isn't any less painful. Why is so much economic journalism -- in magazines, newspapers and, yes, blogs -- often so hard to read? Are financial writers failing at their (my) job?
The financial crisis has thrust economics into the political world, into the mainstream. But for many readers, the dark arts of Wall Street are no more perceptible. On The Awl blog, Choire Sicha makes his case in a post bluntly entitled: The Finance Press Becomes Ever More Willfully Obscure, Clubby And Unhelpful. This salvo stabs the issue pretty firmly in the heart:
Finance writers and bloggers are often willfully obscure, tradey, impenetrable and even at times useless to any audience who actually isn't working at (or recently laid off from) a bank. Why are they so willing to abandon us when they should be explaining things to use more than ever?
I'll answer the second question first. I imagine that many finance writers don't consider themselves willing to abandon mainstream readers -- they feel that mainstream readers ignored them for too long. The same way it took 9/11 to galvanize a generational interest in the Middle East, Islam and foreign policy, I suspect it took a financial crisis to galvanize an interest in finance as NEWS. Maybe Sicha shouldn't be so quick to scream about abandonment if he's only recently started following the debate, especially if he's mostly reading blogs. If blogging is a broadcast (as Andrew Sullivan likes to say), new devotees of financial journalism are tuning in in the middle of a segment. Of course they feel a bit behind.
The answer makes some sense to me, but it's also terribly insufficient. Journalism shouldn't require footnotes, it should just explain, and explain well. So to Sicha's first question: Why is financial journalism so much more inscrutable, confusing and, well, boring than political journalism, even if we can agree that it's often as important?