Rich Sweeney wonders why you hear so damn much about gasoline prices rather than the cost of food:
[W]hy is that I can’t turn on the news without hearing, invariably in very tragic terms, about soaring gasoline prices, yet there is almost no coverage of soaring food prices?
The short answer is that the media sucks. Seriously. We’re just as short-sighted and inattentive as most folk. And in this case, the price of gasoline is obvious and easily quantified. It’s in giant letters on every single Kwik-E-Mart on every corner in town – exactly the same units of measure, easily compared from one store to the next and one day to the next. So we notice the price of gasoline. The price of a loaf of bread? Not so obvious. Not printed on giant signs on every street corner. Not quite so easily and obviously comparable from one store to the next.
We in the media are just like other ordinary folk who think about that which is the most noticeable, rather than that which is the most important.
Is there a solution? Buy an Economist subscription and wait for every other paper on earth to fold, or…? It seems like an important problem, but short of scrapping current editorial staffs and starting over with new sets of priorities (which is gradually happening with the shift to the web, I suppose), I haven’t seen a good solution to the problem. :/
Sadly, I think the marketplace supports this status quo. Many people tend to gravitate toward publications that support their preconceived notions. So they *want* the story about the price of gasoline.
But, strangely, the marketplace also supports what we might call the “prestige” publications – NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist – which in this specific case have been reporting thoughtfully and over time about the price of food.
In this current marketplace, both approaches are on offer, so you’ve already got your choice. Sadly (for me), at the local level, the level of pay and accompanying level of expertise needed to surmount this problem just aren’t there.
I’m not even seeing it that much in the NYT. (I refuse to read the WSJ on the grounds that I can’t stomach economically supporting their loathsome editorial board.)
Many people tend to gravitate toward publications that support their preconceived notions. So they *want* the story about the price of gasoline.
Confirmation bias aside, I’m reminded of a Henry Ford quote:
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”