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Constructing experts without expertise: fiscal reporting in the British press, 2010-2016

Walsh, Catherine 2020. Constructing experts without expertise: fiscal reporting in the British press, 2010-2016. Journalism Studies 21 (15) , pp. 2059-2077. 10.1080/1461670X.2020.1809496
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Economic news uses fiscal experts to construct discourse about government deficits, debt, spending, and services. Most previous studies have assumed that knowledge and understanding are key to the construction of economic expertise in news. This study undertakes a quantitative analysis to discover how the British press represents three high-profile fiscal experts: the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the National Audit Office (NAO), and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). It analyses 21,515 articles published in the Financial Times, Independent, Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and Times between May 2010 and December 2016. Surprisingly, the results show that explicit constructions of knowing, understanding, or even being expert are rarely associated with the experts themselves. Markers of social position – being “independent” or “respected” – are much more prominent than indicators of technical knowledge or deep understanding of government finances. Discourses of economic expertise in news are less technical and more social than one would assume from previous scholarship. Journalists use expert sources in the text not to confront complexity, but rather to invoke the experts’ networked positions. Press text constructs expert judgments as superior by representing the experts as properly positioned to judge, not by representing their judgments as being better informed.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
ISSN: 1461-670X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 28 July 2020
Date of Acceptance: 27 July 2020
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2021 08:34

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