Outlandish Pundits

The Economist blog Free Exchange argues that journalistic pundits are biased toward outlandish predictions:

Pundits are almost never punished for being wildly wrong about something.  Nor are they rewarded for being right about something—along with 7,000 other pundits.  For journalists, a prediction pays off only if it is both right, and unusual.  This gives them an incentive to take unnecessary risks, making somewhat outlandish predictions on the off chance that they will be right.  Those pundits who "got Iraq right" or "predicted the tech bubble collapse" are feted with speaking engagements and special television appearances, while those who made sensible-but-dull arguments labour in obscurity.  The public is then surprised when their famous pundit makes some other spectacular prediction that doesn’t turn out so well.

I’d add that it is not enough to just get an unusual prediction right; you have to do it with enough flair and wit and influence to be considered impressive.   I know lots of ignored people who got lots of unusual predictions right.

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