Mankiw and Economic Journalists

Greg Mankiw writes:

Having broad interests works well for bloggers, undergraduate textbook authors, and White House policy advisers. All three jobs require breadth, compared to most academic research, which is often deep but narrow in scope.

If I had been much broader than I am, I would have been so shallow that I couldn’t have managed an academic career at all. I suppose I could have been a journalist.

This made me smile…Greg probably meant that as a bit of a dig, but I have to say that I agree with him. I left academics for journalism, in large part, because I decided I enjoyed covering a broad range of topics. On any particular story, I may dive deep, for a month or a year. For example, by the time I finished with the outsourcing cover, I knew more about the import price statistics than all but a small handful of experts (and I had pretty much talked to them all). That knowledge will help me write future stories (and I already know what the next one is!). But I will likely never write another story purely about import price statistics again.

However, I do work within broad themes over time. During the 1990s, I had a two-part theme: Technology-driven economic growth is faster—and more volatile—than economists realize. That worked out very well.

Now I’m developing a new theme. The first part is that globalization is distorting the domestic economic statistics, and making domestic productivity growth look stronger than it really is. The second part? Well—that’s coming soon.

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