2021-04-09Diskussionspapier DOI: 10.18452/22794
The Sound of Silence. On the (In)visibility of Economists in the Media
One way for economists to influence economic policy and society as a whole is to shape what Robert Shiller has called “economic narratives”. This, in turn, puts the media in their role as professional storytellers in a central position. In this paper, I investigate how economists have been covered by the media in a long-term perspective. Particularly, I address two questions: How has the quantitative visibility of economists in the media developed over time? And how can news stories covering economists be characterized in terms of their content? I answer these questions in two steps. First, I provide a comparison of economists’ quantitative media visibility in international newspapers. Second, building on a corpus of more than 12,000 newspaper articles, I conduct a case study on the German Council of Economic Experts. Using various text mining approaches, I survey four features of newspaper coverage: topics, tonality, temporal perspective, and the role of individuals. Finally, based on extensive close reading, I briefly discuss two key turning points in the media history of economists, namely the 1980s and the late 1990s/early 2000s. The main finding is that economists have indeed become silent compared to their heyday of economic expertise in the 1960s, but that they have not been as silent as is often claimed.
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