Fletcher Econofact’s New Publication Aims To Bring Facts Back Into Economic Analysis

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This latest election cycle has put the integrity and truthfulness of journalism in the spotlight, with “shadow fact” rhetoric abounding. In response, the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy announced the advent of Econofact in January. The site, run by William L. Clayton Professor of International Economic Affairs Michael Klein and The director of the Murrow Center Edward Schumacher-Matos, is a online economic publication aimed at combating ‘alternative facts’ with reliable, evidence-based analysis.

Klein said after the election he wondered what action to take next.

“Recently we have seen people on both sides ready to make arguments that resonate but are not necessarily based on facts,” he added. Klein noted. “After the election I asked, ‘What can people do? What can I do?'”

Klein, who also worked as Chief Economist in the Office of International Affairs of the US Department of the Treasury from 2010 to 2011, decided to ask friends, professors and economists from across the country to participate in its publication. According to Klein, constant growth Econofact The network currently has over 35 members, ranging from education experts and macroeconomists to immigration experts and everything in between. These members contribute notes on various topics related to economic issues.

Klein introduced the Miriam Wasserman (F ’97) like editor-in-chief for Econofact. Wasserman said she aims to connect people with knowledge they might not otherwise have access to.

“I see my work as a bridge between the university community and the general public”, Wasserman noted.

Wasserman, who previously worked as an associate editor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, agreed that a lack of specific journalism helped inspire the idea.

“The main driver of [the publication] was the feeling that media coverage and political discourse had drifted away from the facts ”, Wasserman noted. “We wanted to bring a solid evidence base back into the discussions. “

Each memo is structured in a specific way, with an objective summary of the issue at hand, followed by a solid compilation of relevant facts and capped off by the author’s conclusion, Klein said.

“We intentionally give our articles a fairly strict structure”, Klein noted. “We want people to understand the frameworks we have for the economy in approaching data and statistics.”

Klein noted that the “What does that mean” section of each memo – where the economist can give their own take on the facts – is a way to give the author a designated place for their voice, which is inherently absent in the rest of the article in order to maintain objectivity .

“This puts an exclamation mark on what has been presented before”, Klein noted.

From work to previous jobs, including time in the United States Treasury, Klein has experience in writing memos very similar to those found on the Econofact website.

According to Klein, the website tries to be very direct as to the origin of its data.

“The arguments put forward are not assertions, but rather statistics based on well-considered facts”, Klein noted.

Much of the data comes from publicly available sources which are hyperlinked or referenced in each article, according to Klein. He added that the economists in the network are all skilled at basing arguments and analyzes on well-researched facts.

“The members of the network are very high level academics and are used to publishing in a way where if you submit something, it goes through a very strict process. Klein noted.

Klein mentioned several types of people and groups as Econofact’s target audience. First, he hopes the general public will take advantage of the breadth of memos available.

“We hope that people interested in events and data who want a reliable source will come Econofact, ” Klein noted.

Beyond the layman, Klein believes that journalists can also benefit from the website, noting that many journalists writing about economics are not traditionally trained in this area. He also believes that politicians and policymakers might find Econofact useful in case of lack of time.

“Politicians and their staff need a way to get up to speed quickly on very complex issues” Klein noted.

Wasserman agree with Kleinof its ambitions, but also highlighted some potential challenges of having a large audience.

“There is certainly a delicate balance between creating something that is accessible to the general public and at the same time conveying ideas which can be very complicated” Wasserman noted.

In the week following its launch, Econofact 57,000 page views and 27,000 unique visitors, according to Klein. The website, which continues to gain followers and visitors every day, does not charge any fees or contain advertising.

Klein noted that various human tendencies have hampered people’s ability to base their arguments on facts and logical reasoning. For example, he explained how news sources tend to give roughly the same space and time to opposing sides of issues, although these sides may have marked differences in the amount of supporting evidence. .

Furthermore, confirmation bias, the idea that people are looking for information or angles on information that matches their existing opinions, is also prevalent in current political discourse, Klein Explain.

“The proliferation of the means by which people can obtain information is such that people can move to places which confirm their own opinions and beliefs” Klein noted.

Wasserman also recognized the increasing prevalence of confirmation bias.

“It is a worrying trend that people tend to look only at certain sources of information” Wasserman noted.

It’s here that Klein feels Econofact can be a trustworthy alternative, based on statistics and evidence.

“What we are trying to do at Econofact is to provide a non-partisan resource for those interested in fact-learning and economic analysis, so that they can draw their own conclusions about important economic events and policies, ”he said.

Klein, Schumacher Matos and Wasserman are always looking for ways to improve the post. According to Wasserman, Econofact hopes to improve interaction with readers through a weekly newsletter.

“We want to alert our readers whenever new information is published”, Wasserman noted.

Klein also explained how, with more and more memos every week, he hopes to establish an archive of various economic issues and policies.

Klein believes this publication is in line with the values ​​Tufts promotes, in that it goes beyond academia for the greater good of the nation.

“The idea of ​​civic engagement is central [to] Tufts “, Klein noted. “I am proud to be part of an initiative that goes beyond the academic community and draws on expert expertise in a way that will benefit the country.


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