Santa Claus isn’t coming this year! Global shipping has collapsed! Big ships are stranded as the companies can’t even pay the docking fees!
Clearly, it’s time to panic. The bankruptcy of Hanjin shipping has created a wave of horrifically bad stories predicting the end of international trade as we know it. Recession must be just around the corner as the global system collapses, right?
Um, no. Not even close. The story we have been told is a good example of two key features of financial reporting today. The first is that no one has the slightest idea what they are talking about and the story is completely free of the context anyone might need to understand it. The second is that the only big news is bad news – probably in part due to the first problem.
“Everyone is an idiot, not just the people with low SAT scores. The only differences among us is that we’re idiots about different things at different times. No matter how smart you are, you spend much of your day being an idiot.”
– Scott Adams, “The Dilbert Principle”
We all know someone who just can’t handle something we consider part of daily life. The guy who simply doesn’t “get” facebook, the woman with no interest in a cell phone, and in urban areas like St Paul even people who refuse to drive. These are all complications that are a bit too much for their simple life.
There are limits for everyone in this world of increasing complexity. We all hit them constantly, too. For many people, however, life itself just gets past them.
Nate Silver has left the biz. The most celebrated political reporter in a long time jumped from the New York Times to become a sports reporter at ESPN. It’s not really a mystery, given Silver’s love for sports and outsider status at the fossilized Times. As Public Editor Margaret Sullivan put it, “A number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work. … They were also tough on me for seeming to endorse what he wrote, since I was suggesting that it get more visibility.”
Not long ago that political reporters were more or less the top of the journalistic heap and sports writers were at the bottom. Silver’s new gig turns that upside down. It’s not a mystery given how much political writing is horserace driven and sports reporters have become the true celebrities of the biz. But there is much more to it than that. I believe Silver’s popularity brilliantly displays what journalism must be for a new generation.
Here is my obituary praising Silver’s career as a political journalist, written not as the end of Silver but as the end of good political reporting – for now.