from the world's big
Ideal Journalism Wouldn’t Have Stopped the Crisis
Question: Did the FT’s news coverage help shape the way the crisis was perceived, or did the FT influence come primarily from its columns and blogs? (Felix Salmon, Reuters Finance)
Chrystia Freeland: I think the influence that the Financial Times came both through our new coverage and through our opinion pieces. They do very different jobs. Our reporting before, during, and I don't know if we want to say that now it's after the crisis, but at least in the aftermath of the most intense period of the crisis, is really about trying to fly as close to the ground as we can and trying as honestly and as intelligently as we can to tell people what is happening.
Now, that doesn't mean, and I do think sometimes with hindsight, some of us think, well maybe journalists or economists should have known the crisis was going to happen. I think that that notion comes from a very mistaken premise. I don't think the future is knowable, I don't think that anyone has a crystal ball. The best I think we can do is try to report on what is happening, what is knowable. And certainly ahead of this crisis what it was possible to report on was that asset bubbles were starting to emerge. And we did that. We wrote very early about the bubble in sub prime assets. We wrote very early about what was happening in some of the private equity deals, about some of the covenant light loans that were around. We reported quite a lot about global financial imbalances. So, we did have that reporting there and I think that was important.
As the crisis began to snowball, I think what was important, and our strengths really were being able to write about this crisis as a global phenomenon. I think it's our first truly global financial crisis and that meant that the fact that the FT I think is the most global of the big newspaper-based organizations right now, really gave us an advantage in covering it.
Our commentary, I think, was important in two ways. One was, in contrast with some other organizations in our pages, something that we very consciously do is try to have a broad church. We don't have a single editorial line and we don't have voices all speaking in the same, or all singing in the same key. I think with a crisis like this one that is particularly important because one of the things that we've seen is the consensus was often wrong. The consensus was wrong ahead of the crisis and maybe the consensus had moments of being wrong in terms of what to do to address the crisis. So, I think being open to a real diversity of points of view, a global diversity of outside voices has been a real advantage for our opinion coverage.
The other thing that I would like to really sort of single out in terms of the strength of FT's opinion coverage is Martin Wolfe who is our Chief Global Economics Commentator. And Martin was very, very prescient in terms of diagnosing global financial imbalances and the way in which they were skewing the whole global economy. In the United States, I think this crisis tends to be thought of most often, as a crisis in the sub prime market, and that certainly was, if you will, the immediate symptom which emerged, maybe the immediate trigger. I think though, if you look a little bit more deeply at the factors that play these global financial imbalances with China saving too much and the U.S. consuming too much really are one of the most important drivers of what was going on. Martin, in his comment pieces, was very, very early to be writing about that and to be hitting on that.
Question: Could business journalists have prevented the crisis if they’d asked different questions or covered different stories?
Chrystia Freeland: I absolutely do not think that even the most brilliant, insightful, thoughtful, journalism ahead of the crisis could have prevented it. I think actually, that whole question speaks to what I would say is a mistake in mindset about financial crises and about the nature of bubbles in the economy.
One of the things this crisis has reminded us of is booms and busts are endemic. Booms and busts are the way the economy works, the way economic cycles work and one thing that I think has been quite important in terms of intellectual response to this crisis is to appreciate that we are never going to totally get rid of them. I there may have been a train of thought, maybe particularly in the wake of the collapse of communism, when we had this moment of global capitalism really feeling invincible, feeling triumphant. That we could get the economy exactly right and we could have happy days every day forever.
What I think this crisis has reminded us of is that the workings of capitalism, the workings of the market are not perfect and you do inevitably have overshooting and then a response. So, no, I don't think that even absolutely ideal financial journalism, which we didn't have by the way, would have stopped the crisis.
Now, that's not to say that we business journalists could not have done better. Of course we could have done better, and I do hope that in the wake of the crisis, we will do collectively now a couple of things. I think the first thing is not to be scared by complexity. One of the things that we have seen happening with globalization and with the technological revolution is financial markets becoming a lot more complicated and the global economy becoming a lot more complicated. Sometimes I think journalists can be frightened by that complexity, maybe afraid that their readers or their watchers won't be interested in that level of complexity. One thing that I think this crisis teaches us is we have to be really brave about that and really brave about taking on the complexity.
The second thing that I would say that this crisis really teaches us is to be cautious about the consensus point of view and, again, as journalists, we have to be I think modest and humble in what we think we are able to do. So, I think that it's too much to expect journalists to be the lone voice in the wilderness that notices the bubble and calls it, but I think at least what we can do is say, this is the consensus point of view, but here are two or three outlying voices and this is what the outlying voices have to say and these are their arguments, and at least make that descent a little bit more transparent.
The final thing, and I do think this is a little bit less characteristic of FT culture, but particularly in the boom moment of this decade, I think in some parts of the business press there tended to be a certain triumphalism in coverage of business success. Now, I do think that it is the job of business journalists to write about the success stories as well as the failures, and I think our readers are interested in that. They want to know what's working and how to make it work. But I think we have to be a little bit careful, maybe more careful than one tends to be in a boom time, not to blindly lionize the people who seem to be winning.
Question: When the FT presents an economists’ view, how does their past track record play a factor in the credibility assigned to their views? (Dean Baker, Beat the Press)
Chrystia Freeland: I think that's a really good question and I do think that at the level of reporters, and also editors, we are thoughtful about, has the person been right in the past? Is this person someone whose views therefore have credibility?
Having said that, one of the interesting things I think about this crisis is it has shown that just as when we run advertisements for mutual funds, let's say, very often there is a disclaimer that says "Past performance is no guarantee of future performance." And I think that disclaimer needs to apply to all sorts of performances including the performance of economists.
So, even if someone has a stellar record, that doesn't mean their prediction today will be right partly because someone might be very good at analyzing the contours of a sort of boom economy, but not be so good at calling the moment of disequilibrium. Likewise, there might be some economists who were very good at spotting that moment of disequilibrium, but are less good at calling the boom. And that's actually a phenomenon we have actually seen.
So, for example, some of the people who were absolutely right on in assessing and diagnosing this bubble had appeared to be very wrong in the one or two or three years prior to the bubble bursting because they were the guys who were saying, "Oh my God, everything is going to go wrong. Prices are inflated, this is an asset bubble." And if you said that in 2007, you looked like a genius, but if you were saying that in 2004, or 2005, 2006, you were starting to look a little bit crazy. And your underlying analysis may have been true to the fact, but the market kept on going up.
So, while I am very sympathetic to Dean's point that we need to be thoughtful about the credibility of the people we are quoting, I think we also need to realize, ultimately there is going to be no formula, no algorithm that will validate which economist is going to be right and which economist is going to be wrong. We need to use our judgment.
Question: It seems that news and opinion are becoming entangled. What is the FT doing to ensure that it is viewed by the public as a credible broker of information? (Mark Thoma, Economist’s View)
Chrystia Freeland: I actually would very strongly challenge the premise of Mark's question, certainly as it applies to the FT. I have had readers complain to me a lot about almost everything ranging from the size of our typeface to the headshots of our journalists to the placement of stories, and then of course to what those stories contain. So, I am no stranger to reader complaints and if anyone has complaints, please send them to me.
Having said that, I can't remember an occasion when someone has complained to me about too much of a mingling of opinion and news in the FT, or when anyone has complained that as a result of that, the credibility of the FT is in anyway undermined. So, I'm not sure that applies to us.
What I will say is we believe that it's our job to perform both functions and that we perform those functions quite differently. So, the job of our news gathering and our news analysis is to be really rigorous about trying to figure out what's going on and trying to analyze what are the most important issues. We don't cover every single thing in the world so our choice of what we cover is really important. And then to trying to report as deeply as we can on what's happening. That is quite separate from our opinion. I think the real strength of the opinion in the Financial Times is that we are very open to outside voices and we are open to a real diversity of outside voices.
Having said that, we in contrast with some news organizations don't believe that journalists or reporters should never express an opinion on our pages, and we do sometimes have our reporters writing opinion pieces in the pages of the Financial Times. That, for us, has never really been a problem. Maybe because the sorts of opinion pieces that our reporters do write, when they write them, are really analytical and fact-based. It's less about making a partisan argument and more about saying, in this particular debate about financial regulation, I believe that such and such is the right policy and here are my reasons why. So, maybe that's part of the reason why these issues are a little bit less heated for us.
Maybe having said that, I might go on to add that I think that Mark's question speaks to what looks like the much more partisan coloration of the media in the United States. This is a relatively new thing for America, not so new for lots of other countries. The European media, for a long time has had explicitly point of view newspapers and news organizations. And there again, I'm not sure that's a terrible thing. I think where the point of view is explicit, then I think that viewers and readers are smart enough to know -- Fox, for example is going to present a more right-wing point of view. And I think people are sophisticated enough to understand that. I also think, and this may sound paradoxical, that as you see more exclusively partisan voices emerging there's actually going to be more of an audience and consequently more of a market for people like us who really see our job as being to provide people with, insofar as it is humanly possible, and none of us are perfect, what approaches an objective analysis and objective reporting.
Recorded on December 10, 2009
The U.S. Managing Editor of the FT addresses the validity of economists’ views, the alleged entanglement of news and opinion, and the ongoing attempt to build a "broad church."
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Be fruitful and multiply<p>Scientists in the United Kingdom collected data on more than 13,000 mothers and their children. Most of them were religious, but 12 percent were not. The data included information on their church habits, social networks, number of children, and the scores those children achieved on a standardized test.</p><p>In line with previous findings that religious women have more children than secular women in industrialized countries, a connection between at least monthly church attendance and fertility was confirmed. However, religious parents showed they could avoid the pitfalls that having more children can bring. </p><p>Typically, more children in a family leads to reduced cognitive ability and height in each <a href="https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/37/6/1408/729795" target="_blank">child</a>. Some studies find that children do less well in school for each <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13524-016-0471-0" target="_blank">additional sibling they have</a>. This makes a kind of intuitive sense, as parents with more children would have to divide their time, energy, and resources among more people as families expand. One would expect that the larger families would also lead to things like lower test scores. </p><p>Despite the expectation, the children of religious parents didn't have lower scores on standardized tests. There were small positive relationships between the size of the mother's social network, the number of co-religionists helping out, and the children's test scores. However, this association was small, didn't show up in all of the testings, and was unrelated to other variables. </p> These effects might be explained by the size and helpfulness of the social networks around the more religious. Women who went to church at least once a month had more extensive social networks than those who never go or who attend yearly. These social networks of co-religious people mean that there are more people to turn to for help with child-rearing, a point also demonstrated in the data. The amount of aid women got from their fellow churchgoers was also associated with a higher fertility rate. <br> <br> Conversely, an extensive social network was associated with fewer children for secular women. This finding is in line with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1207/s15327957pspr0904_5" target="_blank">previous studies</a> and suggests that the social networks comprised of co-religious individuals differ from those found elsewhere.
So, how quickly should I join a local religious group?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="6RrmYM8M" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9eb4740a7d1e10108a75fd2ed627a90f"> <div id="botr_6RrmYM8M_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/6RrmYM8M-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/6RrmYM8M-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The study is not without its faults, and more investigations into the relationship between fertility, childcare, ritual, and social networks are needed.</p><p>These findings all show correlation, not causation. Though it might be said the results point towards causation, various alternative interpretations of the data are apparent. The authors note that most religions are explicitly pro-natal. It is possible that religious women have internalized these values and simply choose to have more children than secular women do.</p><p>This idea is similar to a potential interpretation of why large social networks have the opposite effect for secular women. The authors suggest that, in some cases, these more extensive social networks are associated with work and exert an anti-natal influence. Again, the people who build such networks may be people unlikely to have large families under any circumstances.</p><p>However, the researchers' hypothesis endured. The help religious women get from their church-based social networks allows them to have larger families than those who lack these support systems. In some instances, these support systems also prevent the adverse effects of larger families. </p>
The community religion offers<p>As we've mentioned <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/what-is-secular-humanism" target="_blank">before</a>, religion offers a community, and a community provides social capital. As religion continues to decline in the West, the social bonds of faith communities that used to tie social communities together begin to decay. However, as has been noted by a variety of observers for the last few decades, fewer and fewer new organizations appear ready to replace religion as a source of community in our lives.</p><p>While many different organizations might offer social support that religion once provided the whole of western society, this study shows that different social circles can differently affect the people in them. This finding must be considered by those trying to find new communities to join or the authors of future research. </p><p>The community offered by religious groups provides real benefits to those who join them. As this study shows, having the support network religious community offers allows some parents to avoid pitfalls that bedevil those lacking similar support. It suggests that previous studies demonstrating that group ritual offers benefits like increased amounts of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797612472910" target="_blank">group trust</a> and <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1069397103037002003" target="_blank">cooperation</a> are onto something and that those benefits have a variety of applications. </p><p>While this study is not without its blind spots, it offers a strong starting point for further investigations into the nature of ritual in our modern lives and how local support networks remain vital in our increasingly globalized world. </p>
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
A neuroscientist argues that da Vinci shared a disorder with Picasso and Rembrandt.
- A neuroscientist at the City University of London proposes that Leonardo da Vinci may have had exotropia, allowing him to see the world with impaired depth perception.
- If true, it means that Da Vinci would have been able to see the images he wanted to paint as they would have appeared on a flat surface.
- The finding reminds us that sometimes looking at the world in a different way can have fantastic results.
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3Mjc2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTA4MDg2NH0.T-98YvLjS9mUCQkgqHyV43Q7h_JIiubrev-Fp_0j4Pg/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C38%2C0%2C579&height=700" id="58346" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="674799ba34e115a2e9a3e94c366bfc26" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Virtuvian Man. Christopher Tyler suggests that Da Vinci used his own image as a template for the face in the drawing.
Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci created c. 1480–1490<p><a href="https://www.city.ac.uk/people/academics/christopher-tyler" target="_blank">Professor Christopher Tyler</a> of the City University of London's optometry division analyzed six pieces of Renaissance art by or held to be images of Da Vinci, including the famous <em>Vitruvian Man. </em>By looking at the paintings, drawings, and statues and applying the same techniques optometrists use on patients, Tyler was able to conclude that the eyes of the men depicted were misaligned.</p><p> He concluded that, if the images he analyzed were truly reflective of how Da Vinci looked, that the great artist had a mild case of exotropia. </p>
How would this have helped him paint?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b221010aa7688734d4d6a41f0df5933f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/j6F-sHhmfrY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><a href="https://shileyeye.ucsd.edu/faculty/shira-robbins" target="_blank">Shira Robbins</a>, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of California at San Diego, who was not involved with the project, explained to <em><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/10/19/leonardo-da-vincis-genius-may-be-rooted-in-a-common-eye-disorder-new-study-says/?utm_term=.d3f44ed91c16" target="_blank">The Washington Post</a> </em>how individuals with exotropia often turn to additional information to help understand the world around them:</p><blockquote>"What happens in some people is when they're only using one eye . . . they develop other cues besides traditional depth perception to understand where things are in space, looking at color and shadow in a way that most of us who use both eyes at a time don't really appreciate." </blockquote><p>Dr. Robbins agrees that, if the artworks analyzed accurately depict Da Vinci, then he probably had exotropia.</p><p>If Da Vinci did have a mild form of the condition, which would allow him to focus with both eyes when concentrating and with one when relaxed, Tyler asserts that the famed artist could have viewed the world in two or three dimensions at will, showing him the world exactly as he would need to recreate it on a flat surface. Quite the superpower for an artist.</p>
Does this mean Da Vinci would have been a hack if he had normal eyesight?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODc3MjY5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjYwOTgxOH0.eSu3YBpCuaDj59-4lzSeZ1WgwtV2ETGiWHqczzW3how/img.png?width=980" id="9c323" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="edd4e9e9d9c1156a53242df6288d7cc0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A graph showing the difference in where each eye is focused for each painting, drawing, and statue used in the study. The larger the difference, the more pronounced the exotropia is in the image.<p>Not at all. What Dr. Tyler is suggesting is that the tendency of people who have exotropia to rely on using one eye to see the world and thereby lose some depth perception allowed Da Vinci to understand better how the three-dimensional objects in the world could be translated into a two-dimensional image on a canvas. This could account for some of Da Vinci's skill in depicting shadow and subtle changes in color, since he would have relied on these details to understand the world. <br><br>His polymathic brilliance extended far beyond art, and nobody is claiming that his ideas for flying machines, tanks, or <a href="http://www.da-vinci-inventions.com/davinci-inventions.aspx" target="_blank">other inventions </a>were at all influenced by a vision problem.</p>
How can we know this? He has been dead for five hundred years.<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c26fc51b0aebbcd6905593015fec79e5"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LRAptNtN9-A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>There are reasons to be cautious anytime we make claims about people who are long dead. In this case, we have the bonus problem that we aren't 100 percent sure that the images used are supposed to look like Da Vinci. </p><p> That is the major caveat of the idea; all of the images used as evidence of his condition are assumed to look like him. While some of the images, like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Verrocchio)" target="_blank"><em>David</em> by Andrea del Verrocchio</a>, are generally agreed to be based on Leonardo the other pictures are claimed to be reflective of him based only on his statement that "[The soul] guides the painter's arm and makes him reproduce himself, since it appears to the soul that this is the best way to represent a human being." </p><p>Tyler also argues that the portraits he claims are based on Da Vinci share similarities with the images generally accepted to be portraits of him; including similar hair and facial features. This lends weight to the idea that the artist incorporated his own traits into his artwork, including his vision problem. </p><p>Leonardo da Vinci was undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses of all time. If he had exotropia, then it was merely a minor addition to his artistic skills. It does, however, give us a literal example of how people who look at the world differently can use that vantage point to their advantage to create things we all can appreciate. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.