‘Sunk to the Level of a New Yorker Article’

The New Yorker: love its high-mindedness or loathe its pretensions, the very name carries, in journalistic circles, a sense of serious, in-depth inquiry, a rare place where the world’s pressing issues can be probed at length and in detail. When Condé Nast brought in the McKinsey hatchet men, it was made clear from the outset: journalism’s jewel would be protected.

But apparently, not everyone sees things that way. With the controversy over Superfreakonomics now underway, The New Republic has reposted Noam Scheiber’s 2007 article on the original installment of that franchise to its site. What the article is actually about, though, is a divide within economics: clever contrarian solvers of small problems in one camp; serious, sober thinkers who take on important issues in the other. And when one of the leading serious men wants to make a point about the shallowness of his intellectual opponents, what is the analogy he chooses?

“In some quarters of our profession, the level of discussion has sunk to the level of a New Yorker article,” Heckman griped in a 2005 interview with the Minneapolis Fed. “The authors of these papers are usually unclear about the economic questions they address.”

Always good to get a sense of how the rest of the world views what we do.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.