Boston Speaker Series
Allison Kornet, US English Teacher and Faculty Advisor to The Vanguard
Maia Pandey, Claire Pingitore, Sophie Collins Arroyo ’19 in attendance on October 21st, 2019. Also my mom came, since a series of students kept claiming and then backing out of the fourth ticket at the last minute! Beddoes is the editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Vanguard editors Maia and Claire were definitely inspired by her. The stated purpose for her talk was to give us a sense of where the world economy is heading.
She talked about how the difference between the two sections of The Economist, the front housing political news and the back housing economic news, highlight a paradox we ought to consider. On the one hand, we see we are in the midst of a populist era with a lack of faith in traditional institutions, widespread anxiety about the future, “strong men” and authoritarian regimes on rise, the Western bloc under tremendous pressure, a mistrust among traditional allies, the benefits of free trade in question, globalism becoming a dirty word, and the U.S. so polarized that it seems like two totally different countries, even with respect to where we get our facts. On the other, we see very positive economic news. The last time the unemployment rate was this low was 1969, the economy has seen slow and steady growth, wages are rising, there’s no sign of inflation, tax cuts and deregulation seem to have given the U.S. a shot of adrenalin, the tariff war with China has not proven calamitous, etc. Beddoes laid out that although in the short term, the picture looks good, there are signs of system stresses further out, and shifts in technology, geopolitics, demographics, and climate tell the story. (Does prosperity belong to businesses more than workers? How do we manage the rapidly aging population, the “yold”? Will the U.S. and China find a way to work together?) She offered some recommendations.
The part of her talk that felt most relevant and interesting to BB&N’s aspiring journalists was when she discussed how The Economist has no bylines and is instead heavily edited for one unified perspective. Beddoes distinguished between having an opinion and having a bias. Yes, it would be hard to be a journalist at The Economist who didn’t believe in free trade; the magazine looks at a set of facts and responds to them with a clear and consistent viewpoint. But there is no bias in the presentation of the facts. All articles are subjected to intense fact checking so that there is real “empirical rigor” in the reporting. Beddoes went on to caution against the “bias of false equivalence,” where two opposing positions are presented as equally well-founded and compelling when, in light of the incontrovertible facts, they are not. She ended her talk by reminding the audience that without “a reasoned, fact-based debate of ideas,” we won’t find solutions to any of the problems identified.