The week of April 19, 2010, NewsTrust hosted a News Hunt on the Global Economy (see earlier post). Together, we surveyed journalism from every continent, to better understand how people around the world were affected by the financial crisis. We found some fascinating stories about a global economy that is deeply interconnected. In this post, we'll highlight some of the stories that stood out, and identify some key themes covered in the stories we reviewed.
Our partners for this News Hunt were Global Voices, Link TV and Youth Noise. Joining them were over 120 high school students from San Francisco's International High School and Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy. Our community hosts were Kristin Gorski, Jon Mitchell and Beth Wellington, who also wrote the detailed findings and news comparisons below. Kaizar Campwala was managing editor.
Together we posted 248 news reports and opinions about the global economy, 86 of which received a NewsTrust rating. Posted stories were published by an impressive 123 different news sources from around the world.
These stories revealed a complex, multi-layered picture of the global economy, with wide variations in different regions of the world. The IMF released a cautiously optimistic report pointing to "a tepid recovery in many advanced economies, and a much stronger one in most emerging and developing economies."
In the US, for example, weak consumer demand and high unemployment continued to plague the nation's economy -- while allegations of fraud by Goldman Sachs dominated the news. Many stories grappled with what, if anything, the US government should do to regulate banks and prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial meltdown.
Europeans dealt with two crises last week that serve as stark examples of how interdependent their economies have become. Greece's debt troubles continued to reverberate across the continent, despite a loan guarantee from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (EU). As Greeks prepared for new austerity measures, EU member states faced an uphill battle to convince their citizens of the importance in propping up the Greek economy. At the same time in Europe, the eruption of an Icelandic volcano shut down air traffic across much of the continent, disrupting commerce and costing their economies millions of dollars a day.
Many African farmers and businessmen also suffered when the volcano prevented exports to European markets. But as NewsTrust reviewers found, the big challenges for African economies remained structural, including a need to reduce corruption and improve governance.
Asian economies faced very different pressures than the more mature economies of Europe and North America. Countries such as India and China continued to grow at a rapid pace, leading to inflation and economic bubbles such as the Chinese housing market.
Our detailed findings below begin with some of the most trusted stories reviewed during the News Hunt, along with examples of bad journalism on this topic. We've also included insightful summaries of our findings by medium (e.g. print, TV, blogs). Finally, we've included a couple news comparisons showing how different publications covered stories about unemployment and the Greek financial crisis.
Most Trusted Stories
Here are some of our top rated stories for this News Hunt:
- Lengthy eruption would put economy under a cloud - Associated Press
- It's Not Just Passengers Trying to Catch A Flight (reviews) - NPR
- Bric countries try to shift global balance of power - BBC News
- Social mobility and inequality: Upper bound - Economist
- Debt: Greece vs California - Link TV
- Few alternatives to Gaza police job - Aljazeera
- Indians debate government policy and the Maoist response - Global Voices
- Romania says poverty reduction is 'impossible target' - euractiv.com
- China's real estate time bomb ticking - China Daily
- Nigeria's Late Passage of 2010 Budget Stirs Hardship in Benin Republic (reviews) - AllAfrica
- Do I See Movement In The Greek Trenches? - A Fistful of Euros
- Unemployment: Israel's other existential threat - Haaretz
- World Faces Serious New Economic Challenges - Huffington Post
- How Wall Street Became a Giant Casino (reviews) - New York Times
- What links the banking crisis and the volcano? - The Guardian
- Angela Calling - Greece Economy Watch
Least Trusted Stories
As part of our News Hunt, we also looked for bad journalism, from superficial reporting to misinformation. Here are a few of the worst offenders we found:
- Global business cratering (reviews) - New York Post
- China slams Argentina for 'discriminatory' trade measures (reviews) - Deutsche Presse-Agentur
- Chavez: China to Devote $20B to Venezuela Projects (reviews) - Associated Press
- Social investing comes of age (reviews) - Insead Knowledge
Findings by Medium
Each day of the News Hunt, we compared stories from different media: news reports from major print publications and wire services on Monday, opinions from the same on Tuesday, TV and radio sources on Wednesday, online sites and blogs Thursday, and citizen journalism on Friday. We devoted Saturday to featuring examples of bad journalism across all media types. Here's what we found in each of these categories:
News From Print Media
Two stories dominated mainstream news coverage during our news hunt. A cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano disrupted air travel over much of Europe for days, causing an economic ripple effect felt around the world. American and European sources mostly covered the inconveniences for Western travelers, but we found some reports of unexpected consequences in far-flung places, revealing just how interconnected the global economy has become.
The Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation reported that European flight cancellations cost the Kenyan economy more than $3.9 million a day. The horticulture industry was hardest hit. Stephen Mbithi, CEO of the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya stated, "We have handled drought, El Niño and the post-election violence, but we have not seen anything like this." Mbithi told the Associated Press that 5,000 workers were temporarily laid off due to these losses.
The other major story this week was the Greek debt crisis. On Monday, we featured this story from The Guardian, which outlines the possible financing options and summarizes their economic, political, and social ramifications.
The Economist published a summary of new findings about social mobility in America as compared to other countries, which gave us a look at broader trends in the global economy. Reviewer Walter Cox said the story "puts a difficult topic in clear perspective."
Opinions From Print Media
Reviews of opinion pieces in the print media often differed widely. In "What links the banking crisis and the volcano?" in the Guardian (UK), George Monbiot looked at disruptions in air travel caused by the eruption in Iceland and advocated that we "start decommissioning this industry while there is time and find ways of living happily with less of it." Andre Heinemann liked the piece, however "gloomy." Walter Cox argued "Our real task is to make existing systems more durable and less sensitive to natural and man-made phenomena."
Nehemia Shtrasler, in the Haaretz (Israel) piece "Unemployment: Israel's other existential threat" wrote that instead of creating a long-term plan for improving education, professional training and infrastructure, the government took the easy route of simply increasing outlays to the unemployed. James Canning thought the author "correctly identifie[d] the government's preoccupation with staying in power...". Eremipagamo Amabebe complained, "Clearly, just because one isn't working does not necessarily mean one is living off the state. I was left curious to know what percentage of unemployed Israelis really are living from the work of others, and how many of these are using the government support as a permanent means of sustenance (rather than just a temporary stop-gap to help them through tough times)."
TV and Radio
We found a wide range of TV and radio pieces on the global economy, from both mainstream and independent sources. These stories make it clear that our world is increasingly interconnected. Clearly, any ripple in the global economy affects all shorelines, although with varying severity.
Link TV's Debt: Greece vs California compared news broadcasts from around the world to cover two different casualties of the financial crisis in Europe and the U.S. Al Jazeera offered a compelling video narrative of a young man's journey to become a police officer in Gaza, one of the only paying jobs available. The Real News' Senior Editor Paul Jay presented a video interview with Jane D'Arista, a research associate with the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Their topic: Can the U.S. dollar remain the world's currency?
Public Radio International's Marco Werman delved into the reasons why Russia is the 120th on a World Bank list of countries with attractive business options. National Public Radio took us to South Africa in a quest to understand the negative economic effects of Iceland's volcanic ash cloud and its hamper on travel. Though this story was highly rated for its ground-level reporting and context, International High School student MeiLi LeRoy accurately noted, "There aren't many sources, mainly from one guy."
A joint effort by Ira Glass's This American Life and non-profit journalism organization ProPublica resulted in the highly rated "Inside Job: Eat My Shorts" It chronicles how a hedge fund named Magnetar bet against the very securities it helped create, contributing to the recent global financial crisis.
Online News Sites and Blogs
We found interesting coverage of the global economy by online sites and group blogs from a variety of countries. Edward Hugh, in the group blog A Fistful of Euros observed in "Do I See Movement In The Greek Trenches", "This isn't about economics anymore, this is now about who does what, and when, and how everyone else reacts." Jon Mitchell found "The arguments in this article are high-level, but their presentation is excellent, and the sources back them up."
Aparna Ray of Global Voices weighed in with "India: Citizens debate government policy and the Maoist response". Bhumika Ghimire observed that "India has a huge wealth and education gap. The cities are zooming ahead while the rural areas are far behind. Maoists are taking advantage of this gap." Alexander Roe added that "This report shows a variety of sources. We see reactions from bloggers, citizens and the government, which re-inforces its credibility".
Also popular was an opinion piece in the Huffington Post by the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund: "World Faces Serious New Economic Challenges."
Citizen journalists and individual bloggers worldwide brought many local perspectives on the global economy. Prolific economics blogger Edward Hugh shared his views on the Greece financial crisis here and here. Seeking Alpha bloggers weighed in on the Greek debt crisis as well, along with an article on how Asian markets could be recovering. Economist Stefan Karlsson examined 2-year European inflation rates as indicators of the continent's monetary health.
Two Global Voices bloggers provided more perspectives on this issue. Tarek Amr explained how rising meat prices in Egypt are driving a trend in local vegetarianism, both out of necessity and out of protest. And Sonam Ongmo drew our attention to South Asian leaders traveling to Bhutan for the SAARC summit.These ground-level reports and independent insights helped us better understand the global economy's many facets.
We love rooting out bad journalism here on NewsTrust, and during this news hunt, our usual suspects didn't disappoint. See this mystifying story from The New York Post, which apparently took two reporters to write 94 words, including one confusing quotation. Fabrice Florin called the story "shallow," and "a textbook example of bad journalism."
The most common journalistic flaws we found this week were bad sourcing and lack of enterprise. This Associated Press story reported that China has agreed to devote $20 billion to development projects in Venezuela, but the article merely summarizes Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's televised announcement of the deal, without even seeking comment from an official Chinese source.
Similarly, Earth Times published a story about trade between China and Argentina from German wire service DPA that "uses the chinese government as an infallible source," according to Isaac Traister, one of our reviewers from the International High School in San Francisco.
The Hindu also published a story that uncritically reported statements from the general secretary of a political party without seeking comment from the opposition or any independent sources.
Throughout the 248 stories we found on the Global Economy, there were several themes that news organizations returned to again and again. Across media types, we saw multiple stories about sovereign government debt, unemployment, poverty, recession and/or inflation -- and of course, breaking news about the volcano in Iceland and allegations of fraud by Goldman Sachs.
Here are brief news comparisons on two of these themes.
Greek Debt Crisis
As Greece teetered on the edge of default and the European Union debated a loan guarantee, we reviewed dozens of stories about this crisis, from a wide variety of news sources.
A detailed article from The Guardian provided an early assessment of the European Union's options in case Greece needed a bailout. NewsTrust reviewer Patricia L'Herrou commented that this article showed "...an EU capable of coming together to save Greece economically and simultaneously strengthen its own union, at a time when the individual countries have been through a difficult financial crisis of their own. I wish there was more here on the potential risk for these countries and on the world financial markets if Greece uses the plan."
NewsTrust reviewer Hanna Moazed posted Smart Money's explanation of how the Greek crisis created both short-term gain for Germany while causing domestic discontent at the prospect of lending more money. Economic blogger Edward Hugh provided one of the News Hunt's most original perspectives on Greece's precarious financial condition, and its impact on Germany and other EU member nations.
Link TV's innovative "Debt: Greece vs. California" Global Pulse segment compared the Greek and Californian debts, as covered by a variety of TV news reports from around the world. Towards the end of our News Hunt, NewsTrust member Nett Davis found a factual BBC News report on what Greece's rescue package was beginning to look like.
These stories revealed the interdependency between world economies, as Greece's financial troubles quickly spread to other European nations.
Jobs and Unemployment
Coverage of jobs throughout the world helped us measure the human toll of the recession. We found mixed news on overall employment trends. While some reports in the U.S., the U.K., and Canada sounded optimistic, others were more circumspect.
In Haiti, relocation to new relief camps has taken refugees far from the jobs that could drive economic recovery. In India, workers migrating to the city for jobs face widespread and organized discrimination. And in Nepal this year, over two hundred thousand people have left the country to find employment abroad. Even if the global economy has begun to recover, it seems that workers around the world will take whatever jobs they can get.
According to this Reuters article, anxiety about job prospects, healthcare, and retirement has led to a phenomenon of "walking wounded" workers, who willingly trade career ambitions for job security. The article is based on a report by human resources consultancy firm Towers Watson Co., which highlights a disconnect between this "nesting" tendency and the trends currently driving the global workforce toward flexible, short-term, and part-time work.
Al Jazeera reported on an example of these trends in Gaza, where 60% unemployment has led many young men to apply for a small number of newly created police jobs. The report claims that the incentive for young men to join the police force is "often economic." One man says he "would prefer a normal job, something not in the military or police," but police duty is one of the few stable, paying jobs available in the territory.
Finally, while the Eyjafjallajökull volcano dominated the headlines this week with stories of travel disruptions for Westerners, one less-reported aspect of the story reveals just how fragile employment can be in this global economy. The AP reported that 5,000 horticulture workers in Kenya were temporarily laid off as a result of flight cancellations in Europe.
Thanks to our partners
We'd like to thank our partners at Global Voices, Link TV and Youth Noise, as well as San Francisco's International High School and Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy, for participating in this News Hunt. In particular, we're very grateful to these individuals for their special contributions to this project: Eremi Amabebe, Linda Annan, Solana Larsen, Firuzeh Shokooh Valle at Global Voices; Heidi Blobaum, Erin Coker, Anna-Lena Isaksson, Evelyn Messinger and Kim Spencer at Link TV; Lauren Hauser and Trina Chiasson at YouthNoise; Andrew Brown, Jane Camblin, Joel Cohen, Marie Ferreira, Dan Harder, Dan Rosenberg, Jeremie Rostan, David Stockwell and Richard Ulffers at the International High School; and Diane Laufenberg at the Science Leadership Academy.
Together, our partners went out of their way to promote this News Hunt and getting their community to participate in this experiment. Last but not least, many thanks to the 120 high school students who joined forces with us last week (see photos from International High School).
This project was made possible in part by a generous grant from Omidyar Network, which is funding a six-month investigation of new ways to help people separate fact from fiction online. We're very grateful for their support, as well as to our other backers at the MacArthur Foundation, Ashoka and the Ayrshire Foundation.
Thanks to our reviewers
Our deepest appreciation goes to our wonderful hosts Kristin Gorski, Jon Mitchell and Beth Wellington, for their great work in posting and reviewing so many stories about the global economy. We also greatly appreciate their detailed findings and news comparisons: Jon wrote about News in Print Media, Bad Journalism, and Jobs and Unemployment. Beth summarized the findings from Opinions in Print Media and Online News Sites and Blog. Kristin write about TV and Radio, Citizen Journalism, and the Greek Debt Crisis. Thank you all for your good insights!
Lastly, we're grateful to all our NewsTrust reviewers for participating in this Global Economy News Hunt. We're delighted that you could join us for this important experiment.
It was a true pleasure to work with our members and partners on this project. Through this collaboration, we learned a great deal from each other about the state of the global economy -- and became more knowledgeable about the impact of the financial crisis around the world. And we really enjoyed helping our high school students in San Francisco and Philadelphia become more informed and engaged citizens in the process. We look forward to our next collaboration!
What do you think?
We would love to hear your thoughts about this News Hunt -- and/or NewsTrust in general. To share your feedback, please leave a comment below, or email us.
-- by Kaizar Campwala, Fabrice Florin, Kristin Gorski, Jon Mitchell and Beth Wellington