A Warning and Farewell From Longtime Washington Post Business Columnist Steve Pearlstein

From a Washington Post column—a warning and farewell—from longtime business columnist Steve Pearlstein:

It is disappointing that Democrats have embraced some of the same intellectual dishonesty, and the same all-or-nothing strategy, that they rightfully criticized when the Republicans were doing it. But what is equally disappointing is the performance my colleagues in the media, who relentlessly and heroically exposed the lies and exaggeration and false narratives of the Trump era but have suddenly lost their critical eye.

The extensive coverage of the $1.9 trillion relief package, for example, has been full of all the usual talking points and political posturing but contained little about how these vast sums were arrived at or how the money would actually be distributed and spent.

Rare is the story these days that does not highlight how “progressives” feel about an issue, with nary a mention of what moderates or business leaders have to say.

Where is the three-Pinocchio skepticism when the chair of the Federal Reserve assures that there is no connection between skyrocketing values for tech stocks and bitcoin and his pledge to continue pumping an additional $120 billion a month into the financial system?

And when was it decided that every economic issue or business practice is best viewed through the lens of race and gender?

Having written and edited my way through several of these economic and political cycles, I shouldn’t be surprised that the pendulum is now swinging too far in the other direction. But just as there is a danger in each new generation declaring that a new day has dawned and all the rules have changed, there is also a danger that those of the previous generation will fall into the trap of fighting the last war, offering up the same nostrums, and clinging too hard to outdated models of how the world works.

Back when I started at The Washington Post, there was a longtime reporter on the national desk who, whenever an editor would wander over to suggest he write a story about some issue in the news, would invariably reply, “We had it,” or “I already wrote that.”

In recent years, I’ve sometimes heard myself saying the same things to editors or readers who write in with a column suggestion. I find myself gravitating to the same topics, the same sources, even the same metaphors and sentence constructions. I’ve stubbornly declined to participate in social media, which for good or ill (mostly ill, I think) has now become an integral to the way journalists report what is happening, participate in the public participation and let readers know what they’ve written.

These days my journalistic metabolism is better suited to a weekly magazine than the 24-7 news cycle, while my natural instinct to avoid writing about topics everyone else is writing about ignores the demanding realities of digital publishing. And in a polarized political and media environment, I am a reliable champion for neither tribe. It’s time to hang it up.

So this will be the last of my irregular columns for The Post. After 33 years, I’ve managed to outlast four executive editors, five managing editors, six business editors, and been lucky enough to work alongside hundreds of incredibly talented colleagues in a truly remarkable newsroom. I owe much to the countless economists, business and labor leaders, management consultants, politicians, and public servants who have taken the time to tell me what they know and teach me about business and economics.

And it has been particularly satisfying to have been able to mentor so many young journalists who have gone on to become big stars in their own right. Most of all, it has been an honor and privilege to write for knowledgeable, discerning and appreciative readers who’ve never shied away from letting me know when I’ve got it wrong.

To all of you, thanks and farewell.

Steven Pearlstein is a Post economics and business columnist. He is also Robinson Professor of Public Affairs at George Mason University. His book, “Moral Capitalism, was published this year by St. Martin’s Press.

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