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Journalists fail economic literacy test

Five years on from the financial crisis the subject of economics has risen towards the top of the news agenda. But many journalists remain incapable of tackling adequately the big stories in this sphere because their economic literacy levels are just not up to the job.

That’s the main finding from a recent report from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, a charity whose remit is to address the wellbeing of people throughout the UK and Ireland.

The trust commissioned the think tankDemos to research how much UK journalists, especially ones working for national newspapers and in the medium of broadcasting knew about macroeconomics.

Shock findings

The results weren’t spectacular and might come as a shock to those working in the sphere of media relations. ‘There is a communication problem between economists and the media. There are too few people who can acts as brokers between specialist economists and the general audience’, the research discovered.

‘While journalists understand how the media works and the public is interested in, they do not have adequate levels of economic literacy to ask economists the right questions and retrieve this information’, it continued.

It’s true that background training for journalists new to the job of covering anything from personal finance to City stories is thin on the ground.

More masterclasses

Back in my days as editor of the Headlinemoney website, we put together a two-day Masterclass foundation course (supported brilliantly by HSBC) aimed at writers who were either at the start of their careers or simply inexperienced about covering money matters.

And very popular it was too. More than 200 journalists took the opportunity to attend over a five-year period; many of them names who will be very familiar to those of you who follow those working in the money and business media.

Judging by the Carnegie trust’s report, it sounds like journalists could do with more help in this sphere along similar lines to the masterclass.