With financial reform likely to be the next big target of the White House, NPR’s On the Media worries that the topic could be too confusing for most journalists to really understand well enough to explain to the American people. And this includes journalists who do this all day, every day.
Adam Davidson, who covers economics for NPR, lays out the struggle:
Most topics I’ve covered, there’s a Cliff Notes version that at least helps you understand the bigger stuff you don’t understand. I find that when you simplify regulatory reform, you distort it so much that you don’t understand it at all. I have not found a way to tell the story narratively where you’re simplifying it but retaining the essence of it.
Regulatory reform is just another level of impenatrability. … We have not found a way to convey it in anything like a piece of journalism that a non-expert consumer can pick up and get value out of.
Brooke Gladstone: I used to have a linguistics teacher who said, ‘If you can’t put something into words, you don’t really understand it.’
Adam Davidson: I might really not understand it. It’s very, very complicated. And the more I delve into it, the more I realize nobody fully understands it. Also, it’s not just complicated. It’s counterintuitive.
I feel like I’ve seen the edge of what journalism is capable of, and the bulk of financial reform is on the other side of that edge.
We’d like to think Davidson is prepared to go over that metaphorical edge and take the rest of us with him. Come on, Adam. You’re not gonna leave us to do this on our own, are you?
Banking Concern [On the Media]