Econospinning: How to Read Between the Lines When the Media Manipulate the Numbers

Econospinning: How to Read Between the Lines When the Media Manipulate the Numbers

by Gene Epstein
     
 

The way the economy is interpreted can influence many things, from economic policy and business decisions to investment planning and trading strategies. Yet with general interest magazines devoting ever more space to economic issues, with books on these issues routinely making the bestseller list, and with hundreds of media outlets providing 24/7 coverage of

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Overview

The way the economy is interpreted can influence many things, from economic policy and business decisions to investment planning and trading strategies. Yet with general interest magazines devoting ever more space to economic issues, with books on these issues routinely making the bestseller list, and with hundreds of media outlets providing 24/7 coverage of economic data, it is harder than ever to separate the substance from the spin.

That's the finding of Gene Epstein, who should know a thing or two about the economy, having covered the subject for Barron's since 1993, when he became the Dow Jones financial weekly's first Economics Editor and began writing the regular column, "Economic Beat." Now, in Econospinning, Epstein cuts through the veil of economic misinformation commonly reported in today's media. Each chapter of Econospinning is structured around fairly simple propositions about the economy or about specific economic data—from tracking employment numbers to measuring corporate profitability—that are then contrasted with the distortions of today's media coverage.

Along the way, Epstein exposes loose reporting by focusing almost strictly on the elite media, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, and The Economist.Wherever relevant, Epstein expands on criticisms originally leveled against the reportage of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman by the paper's then-public editor Daniel Okrent. At the time, Okrent touched off a firestorm of protest from bloggers and credentialed professionals eager to defend their champion, even when his criticisms were more than transparently valid, as Epstein shows in painstaking detail.

Econospinning also devotes separate chapters to the coverage of outsourcing and globalization by CNN newscaster Lou Dobbs, whose slant on these topics Epstein finds to be jingoistic at bottom; to the bestseller Freakonomics, whose better-known arguments—on the connection between abortion and lower crime rates, and on the deleterious role of real estate brokers—are exposed as groundless; and to the semi-classic Nickel and Dimed, whose core thesis—that hard work by the working poor is a sucker's game—is easily disproved. The book also critiques coverage of the employment numbers by the CNBC-TV show Squawk Box.

As a corrective to certain key misconceptions about the economy and economic data, and as a series of lessons on how to discriminate between spin and substance, Econo-spinning is an informative, entertaining, and unforgettable read.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Econospinning has everything going for it. The book's focus - how economists and publications mislead readers, often to buttress their ideological positions - is inherently important."--Australian Financial Review

"There is lots more to Epstein's book and it is all of the highest quality."  (Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Winter 2007)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780471735137
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
08/04/2006
Pages:
246
Product dimensions:
0.63(w) x 9.21(h) x 6.14(d)

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