Over at The Audit, Ryan Chittum writes:
If you read the business press at all, you're surely familiar with Zandi, who's quoted like nobody else. You don't want to put a Google Alert on this guy, if you know what I mean. ...
So far this year, he's appeared 446 times to date, roughly 1.8 times a day. ...
It's good for him and for Moody's, who get all that free advertising and credibility.
It's not so good for readers, who deserve to hear a broader range of voices.
I used to feel the same way Chittum does. Why all the Zandi? And then I started to interview him, and I learned why.
As a frequent journalistic user of Mark Zandi, I'd like to come to his (and my) defense. There are, in fact, many good reasons to quote Mark Zandi more often than other economists.
He does one of the most widely followed economic forecasts. That forces him to be on top of the very latest news and data in a way that few others are. And what he says does, in fact, have a bigger impact than what most other economists say.
He's also great at explaining economic issues in a clear, straightforward but still intellectually grounded way. To put it mildly, this is not a trait that is easy to find among economists.
He's also at least a bit bipartisan. He advised the John McCain campaign and has recently defended President Obama. And he admits mistakes when he's wrong.
For all these reasons, I think Zandi is more likely than most to have substantive things to say on any given economic news.
He's not the only economist who meets all of these criteria, I'm sure, but I can't think of any others.
Larry Meyer of Macroeconomic Advisers comes the closest, but Meyer doesn't have the same PR infrastructure that allows him to be available as quickly. My sense is that's because Larry just doesn't enjoy being interviewed as much as Mark does. Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics is another good option.
I can't argue against Chittum's call for "a broader range of voices." Who can? But I don't see any evidence that Zandi crowds out other voices. Statistically, there are going to be outliers — economists who are quoted more often than others. The fact that Zandi is one of those outliers strikes me as a good sign.