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Thursday 04 September 2003

The ‘Marketplace’ of Ideas

I suppose I have no problem with Marketplace, the daily business-news program heard on many NPR stations, having a clearly left-wing slant. It’s not that nobody but liberals listen to NPR, but the left-of-center crowd almost certainly makes up the majority of the audience. And it’s not like there’s a shortage of conservative business commentary available on the radio, in print, and on television.

So Marketplace is a left-wing business program. Fine. The problem is that it’s becoming more and more a left-wing program, and less and less a business program.

I wondered whether this was just the impression I got while driving in heavy traffic — things tend to annoy me out of all proportion to their annoyingness then — so I went to Marketplace’s website, and looked at the stories they’ve run recently.

Thursday, 28 August 2003:

  • Irish government steps up to curb binge drinking
    They try to connect this to economics by observing that drinking has risen along with Ireland’s GDP, but this is at best a feeble attempt.
  • Breathalyzers spark debate on how far employers can go with drug policy
    Vaguely connected to business, I suppose.
  • Minority firms worry about being shut out of lucrative contracts
    Ironically enough, they’re being shut out because minority-owned firms tend to be non-union. This is Marketplace’s dream story, I think.
  • Commentary: Blacks shouldn’t pin hopes on a payback
    About reparations. The story has to do with money, but then nearly everything has to do with money.
  • Wednesday, 27 August 2003:

  • Commentary - The air is about to get a lot dirtier
    Commentary from Robert Reich, that is. “Enact a pollution tax, that owners would have to pay, according to how much gunk their plants…spewed into the air.” That’s the workings of the Marketplace for you.
  • FDA dishes out bitter medicine to cash-strapped states
    The FDA is telling states that they can’t import drugs from Canada. This is probably a legitimate business story.
  • UK: Rise in test animals with designer genes alarms activists
    “So far, the British public has raised few objections to the increasing number of animal experiments. ” So in another country, a small minority of people are upset about genetically-engineered test animals, and this is on an American business program why, exactly?
  • The 24-hour economy is hard on families
    “Teenager Antonia Washington gives us her perspective — her mom works the better-paying night shift to support four kids.”
  • Young credit card debt growing like never before
    Legitimately an story touching on the economy, but it’s mainly about how these young people are victims. Doesn’t really go into the underlying issues.
  • Tuesday, 26 August 2003:

  • Commentary - Exploring the “Great Beyond” isn’t a cakewalk
    About NASA and the Columbia. Business news, ladies and gentlemen.
  • Intercepting ships troubling to N. Korea and its neighbors
    “Tomorrow, representatives from six countries will gather in Beijing to discuss North Korea’s suspected nuclear program. ” More business news.
  • NYSE prepared to step up as LaBranche refuses to cooperate
    An actual business story! Who let that sneak in? “Some say the structure of the exchange makes it very hard for investigators there to police members.” Ah, it’s a call for reform. No wonder.
  • White-collar workers could be the next to be outsourced
    Undoubtedly on the business and economics beat. But the description of the story on their website makes it clear what the real thrust of the story is: “Blue-collar workers have been used to this for years, but for a lot of Americans, it’s just now getting personal.”
  • Expats staying in Bali despite downturn
    Phew. I was really looking for news on the economy in Bali and what the expatriates there are doing. Thanks, Marketplace!
  • Monday, 25 August 2003:

  • Brazil’s ‘brokers target sunbathers, workers to demystify stock trading
    Note the use of the term ‘workers’ to mean, roughly, ‘the proletariat’. “They’re trying to show people that investing is definitely not just for the bourgeois. But ‘brokers aren’t just sticking to the beach: they’re going to factories to talk to regular workers about stocks, too.”
  • Commentary - There’s a bigger threat to your savings than stocks
    Very legitimate story about tax-shelter sunsets.
  • Q+A - What are implications of UN lifting Libya’s sanctions?
    Again a legitimate story. I can’t help think that the limited time available could be used for something of more general import than what Libya’s economy is likely to do in the next year, but then everyone has different needs.
  • Running book clubs for fun and profit
    Book clubs. “…This tends to be a job for people passionate for literature, not for those seeking to get rich quick.” Which is why, of course, it’s being discussed on Marketplace.
  • So five stories, maybe, out of eighteen stories that they ran in four days, were what I would consider legitimate business and economic news. The rest weren’t bad or uninteresting, but shouldn’t Marketplace be something other than another half-hour of All Things Considered, but from Los Angeles?

    Posted by tino at 17:52 4.09.03
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    I listen to Marketplace about three days a week, but I find myself asking why I bother since I don’t really like All Things Considered, and Marketplace does seem to be rapidly becoming just another half-hour of All Things Considered.

    It’s a shame they’ve chosen to go this way with their programming, because there is a yawning void where economic reporting that does not come from establishment, conservative sources could fit.

    Posted by: Nicole at September 6, 2003 01:07 PM

    It’s a late comment, I know, but as I was working out at the Y last night, Lou Dobbs had Al Franken on his CNN show.

    Someone wanna explain to me just what Al Franken was doing on Lou Dobbs that he couldn’t have been doing to a better point on Larry King?

    And someone working the mini-summary ticker at the bottom of the screen seemed to be irony-impaired:

    “Franken on Bill O’Reilly - ‘Spotty, mean bully’”

    followed by:

    “Franken: Mainstream media has no liberal bias”

    Now, if there’s no liberal bias, why print what is blatantly an insult to O’Reilly? Not that I care for O’Reilly one way or the other, but it’s stuff like this, disguised as “news” (and “financial news”, no less), that is giving Fox News its audience.

    Posted by: Twonk at September 16, 2003 11:17 AM