Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Recognizing wrongs the right way

I have been intending to post about last Friday's Planet Money podcast since it was released, but I am now glad I waited.

In a nutshell, PM's Adam Davidson interviewed Elizabeth Warren (my favorite person, as you should know by now) last week for, according to Adam, an hour and a half. On the podcast, however, he posted only a very heavily edit clip of a couple of minutes of the exchange where he and Warren were arguing over how she was using her role in the TARP oversight panel. He interspersed the clips (which were either of him or the two talking over each other) with commentary about how weird and uncomfortable it was to get into a fight with Elizabeth Warren. Okay. Weird that you are sharing.

Then he made matters much, much worse by explaining afterward that what he is really unhappy about is not Elizabeth Warren and how she is using her role (he says she is too political or too focused on her own long standing concerns about the middle class) but that she was appointed to the committee at all. Instead, he wants some serious people, economists (Warren is a lawyer), men (he didn't bring up gender explicitly, but it was lurking through out) to be coming up with apolitical, uncontroversial and serious solutions. Jaw on floor.

I was not the only person horrified by this podcast, and it turns out to be the most heavily commented podcast on the blog, and none of the comments I have read (and last I checked in and read what was there it was around the 150 mark) were taking Adam's side. The consensus sins were:

1. His complaints are silly
2. His evidence that Warren is out of line is that no one serious he has talked with thinks that the middle class is very important
3. Where is the rest of the 90 minutes?
4. We didn't get to hear the part of the interview that made him upset, only his upset reaction
5. There were weird gender implications

To Planet Money's great credit, however, today's podcast starts out by an extensive acknowledgment that they had done a bad job. They were not defensive, admitted mistake, acknowledged that the commenters had been, to an extraordinary degree, civil and thoughtful (in marked contrast to the original podcast). They recorded a short comment from one of the commenters, a female pastor, with her take on why the podcast was so bad. She raised the gender point in particular, and made the very good point that Adam had been incredibly deferential to Tim Geithner in an earlier interview despite ample opportunities to get upset for far more justified reasons. Adam in response simply said that he saw in retrospect her point and that while the difference was unintentional it was still his bad.

My one remaining beef is that there is still no news as to when the full interview will be aired.

But most importantly of all, it seems like in the last 8+ years, we as a society have forgotten how to admit fault. Kudos to Planet Money for offering such a gracious example, and let's hear it for them not having any more cause in the future.

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