Journalist ideological, can’t read

This seems like an insulting and bigoted statement – and it is.  It is an arrogant statement that reflects more poorly on me than anyone I could be writing about!

I just felt that if I was going to write about this piece discussing inequality in healthcare provision by Auckland University, I should start with a title that is in the same vein as the authors first sentence:

Economists have proven it’s cheaper to let Maori children die than spend money to provide equitable health treatment.

Seriously, they are writing about a piece that identifies inequities in the provision of healthcare services, and states that the cost of ensuring equal treatment would cost $25m (in net terms).  If we take treatment of other groups as the level of treatment we want to provide to be “fair”, then this is the cost of ensuring that this fairness is given to all groups – given whatever reasons they’ve identified for unequal treatment in our healthcare system.  The press release by Auckland University is here.

Do you get any of this from the journalists article?  No, not really – they even mess up the tenses, essentially stating that the government “would save” $25m by putting inequalities in place … when the research is merely describing inequalities and talking about the costs of remedying them.  There is further discussion on “economic impact” which try to sell why we should change policies, and I wouldn’t want to go into them in detail without looking at the work – however, giving the impression that these authors want to perpetrate further inequality through this first sentence is insulting, not just to the academics involved but to anyone who does this sort of work!

I would normally ignore the nonsensical ramblings of a journalist on issues they don’t understand, but they had to go and attack “economists”.  We get this crap all the time, the very fact we are willing to discuss and mention trade-offs makes people who can’t be bothered thinking convinced that we cause the trade-off.  By daring to say that increasing the provision of healthcare costs money, the journalist has decided to give the impression that the economist at Auckland Universtity (who was working in conjunction with people from other disciplines) is immoral.

Personally, I think writing articles piled with misinformation based on an unwillingness or inability to read a university press release has a larger degree of “immorality” than an economist discussing trade-offs.

25 replies
  1. Eric Crampton
    Eric Crampton says:

    Where the heck are they getting costs to the taxpayer in any of this mess?

    “The public health physician said 67 Maori children died avoidable deaths every year, costing taxpayers $200 million annually. ”

    VSL of $3.5m? That’s hardly a cost to the tax system. Can’t imagine what else would get you to to $200m +.

    Update: scratch all that. Rheema comes up with some “economic impact” number, the idiot journalist turns that, as always, into “Costs to the taxpayer”. I abhor “economic impact”; this very predictable bit of journalistic idiocy is one reason why.

    • Eric Crampton
      Eric Crampton says:

      Update 2: I’ll need to get Rheema’s paper. The journalist reads the 67 deaths as costing $200m, which is nuts as costs to the taxpayer; the press release says 67 deaths plus $200m, so that could be some cost to the health system of prescriptions and stuff. Who knows.

      It doesn’t help that Auckland’s press release doesn’t link to the study. Why do universities do this?!

    • Matt Nolan
      Matt Nolan says:

      I decided to just ignore the “economic impact” stuff as well as I didn’t feel like it was relevant to the main thrust of this post – and it wasn’t behind the view I was criticising.

      I was surprised the journalist didn’t just pick up that number and try to make is sound like a free lunch …

    • Matt Nolan
      Matt Nolan says:

      I decided to just ignore the “economic impact” stuff as well as I didn’t
      feel like it was relevant to the main thrust of this post – and it
      wasn’t behind the view I was criticising.

      I was surprised the journalist didn’t just pick up that number and try to make is sound like a free lunch …

      • Eric Crampton
        Eric Crampton says:

        I’ve still not come to any final conclusions about keeping Disqus at Offsetting. I love the back end stuff. But it can be buggy as all heck on Droid / iPad . Or at least that’s my best guess from some folks’ complaints. The integration with Blogger isn’t as clean as it would be with WordPress, so your experience might vary from mine.

  2. Dave Guerin
    Dave Guerin says:

    Nice post – I reviewed that story this morning and summarised it as ”
    a badly written story on health research findings”

  3. Kimble
    Kimble says:

    So what you are saying is that Marika Hill is an immoral journalist that is probably too stupid to correctly report on anything more complex than local lawn bowls scores (not even the inter-divisional champs)?

    This journo’s article just adds to the fog of prejudicial ignorance through which lay-people must view your profession. It is a perfect example of the type of moronic BS that needs to be called moronic BS as often, as widely, and as loudly as possible before we can hope to clear that fog.

    People respect journalists, they listen when journos disqus economics, they form their own opinions based on that, and they dont listen to economists because of it. For the sake of the public standing of the profession, we must stop giving ignorant journalists a free pass on their ignorance.

    We need to attack on the blog islands, beachhead that attack through print media, roll the fight through the rural terrain of radio, and then take it street-to-street on TV. And we have to do it quickly; there’s no telling how long we have until print media is gone for good, leaving us stranded.


    • Matt Nolan
      Matt Nolan says:

      Not stupid – being a journalist and not understanding a press release that was written for policy wonks and economists is fully understandable.

      No the issue that cooked my goose was the presumption that she understood it perfectly, and that economists were immoral – instead of her admitting that the result was unclear (the lack of clarity is clear from her article), and that she should contact the experts in order to put together a fair description for an audience of intelligent laypeople.

      This common presumption that economists are both stupid and immoral pervades so much writing about the discipline from outside of it. And when it is used as an a priori view whenever I enter a discussion I find it incredibly tiresome.

      • Eric Crampton
        Eric Crampton says:

        But the press release was a PRESS RELEASE. It wasn’t written for wonks. It was written, badly, for journalists. Without any link back to the original source that would make the wonks happy.

        • Matt Nolan
          Matt Nolan says:

          That press release was written for journalists? Really?

          I’ve found pretty much everything I’ve read about the work so far virtually incomprehensible – I’ve just used my powers of “economic deduction” to try and figure out what the point was. Without that, I imagine I would have looked at the press release blankly – and I can’t imagine how I would have, without the power of economics, managed to write anything about it.

      • Kimble
        Kimble says:

        If it is was as you say, then understandable it might be, but I am talking about acceptable.

        We have to make this thing unacceptable.

        Not lambasting the journalist and journal on the grounds that you hold both in low enough regard that the affront doesn’t surprise you, does not help when the battle is for the hearts and minds of people who don’t know enough to have had their intellect so offended.

        The presumption that she understood is what we have to destroy, and do so utterly. The journalist herself will never accept this position (too stupid to see stupid*), we need to reach the audience and make their default position “that idiot spouting off about economics doesnt know what she is blathering about”.

        They arent going to invest the time to listen to rational argument or hear statements of fact. Best to appeal to something like social status, which can be affected lightly but effectively by humiliating the offending party.

        *Is there a hashtag for #2Stupid2CStupid?

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