We met up with Ben Chu (The Independent) to ask him about economists, the media and their responsibilities to the public.

 

You can find the full interview here, or watch these shorter clips and read his summary below:

 

 

 

 

1) Don’t get confused by False Balance

 

The BBC recently presented an outlier study claiming that Hard Brexit would be good for the UK economy as though it was equally as representative among economists as the view that it would be bad. Ben called this a mistake brought about more by laziness and political cowardice than by some kind of sinister plot, and says that as a public service the BBC needs to have the courage, competence and rigour to present issues the way the research describes it, rather than showing a Punch and Judy show of one side versus another.

 

2) Economists need a stronger voice

 

Even with so much variety of opinions, economists will occasionally come up with a clear consensus on issues like Brexit and trade. By banding together they can make most reporters and journalists pay attention and think more about how they present an issue – we’ve seen the same thing with climate scientists, who managed to shift BBC guidelines on presenting climate change.

 

3) Don’t be afraid of dumbing down your research

 

Journalists love it when you “dumb down” your research, it makes their job far easier. It’s much worse to leave your research unclear and jargon-heavy than to make it “dumbed down” – anyone covering it will inevitably have to translate it for a broader audience, and none of them will be offended by having a heavily simplified explanation.

 

4) Take up any chance to talk to the media

 

Don’t turn up an opportunity to explain your research to the general media – people are more interested in economics than they’ve ever been, and you should seize any opportunity to help them learn. Otherwise, high-quality research will be pushed to one side in favour of lower-quality, more opportunistic examples.