Expertise

EXPERTISE…. When a war dominates the news, those with military expertise tend to appear on television news quite a bit. When a hurricane is the big story, meteorologists get a lot of airtime. If a medical issue is the focus of attention, medical professionals keep busy on TV.

So, in light of the economy and the stimulus bill, economists have been all over the cable networks? Apparently not.

A Media Matters study of Sunday talk shows and 12 cable news programs from January 25 through February 8 found that few economists have been given time on television to talk about the economic recovery plan. During 139 1/2 hours of programming in which the economic recovery legislation was discussed, economists made 25 guest appearances out of a total of 460 — only 5 percent.

Now, I don’t expect the number to be near 100%. As Matt Yglesias noted, there are “plenty of aspects to the stimulus debate that aren’t really about economics.” The cable networks are bound to have political observers on, for example, to talk about whether the stimulus is going to pass, which players want which changes, etc.

But at the same time, there are some complex economic issues in play, and Americans would benefit from understanding the scope of the economic problem, why Democrats want a stimulus plan, what it’s intended to do, how it would (or wouldn’t) work — all of the kind of things an economist is qualified to talk about. With that in mind, 25 out of 460 seems more than a little skewed.

Indeed, Media Matters used a very generous definition of “economist” for the purpose of this analysis. Ironically, Glenn Beck’s ridiculous Fox News program had more economists than any other cable news show, because he kept inviting right-wing activists with degrees in economics on to the program to tell him how right he is.

If we look at the numbers and consider only credible economists — sorry, Dick Armey, you don’t make the cut — the 5% figure Media Matters found would be even smaller.

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