Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Academic Economists as Media Stars

Do economists get enough popular media attention? I'm not talking about Sachs, Barro, Stiglitz, Krugman or Summers. These guys generate buzz. But, there are many economists, especially at the University of Chicago, who somehow don't get their share. Perhaps the unintended consequence of this "injustice" is that these tough guys work harder and churn out better stuff.

The New York Times Magazine has written profiles of Steve Levitt, Roland Fryer and Larry Summers in recent years. These pieces nicely melded descriptions of these guys with a sense of how their life's journey has shaped their research. The New York Times Magazine is getting ready to write another of these pieces about a prominent urban economist from Cambridge and I had the opportunity to talk to a smart reporter today about his subject.

As I answered this reporter's questions, I wondered whether we merit more coverage. I asked this reporter why the New York Times doesn't write more pieces about academics. He politely passed on answering this question. Universities seem to only make the New York Times when fat cats give lots of money or larry summers says something juicy.

Given our quirky, politically incorrect worldview, I would think that economists would be naturals to appear on Fox and the New York Post. In past blogs, I argued that we are under-represented in the Congress. We are under-represented in Hollywood movies and per-idea we are under-represented in the New York Times. Perhaps we should sue! We are being discriminated against.