Friday 4 September 2015

Interview 1

John Parker
Beijing Bureau Chief, The Economist

How do you seek out information that is research based and make public policy-based arguments in your articles? Do you frequent Think Tanks often for this kind of information?
Marshalling evidence and understanding public-policy choices is at the core of what The Economist magazine does. Most of our articles use research and policy analysis, even straightforward news reports since these form the background to the news, and should help readers (and writers!) understand what is going on. And yes, we use Think Tanks both because they conduct a good deal of this sort of research and also because (usually) they try to be impartial. Governments, in contrast, sometimes keep their own research out of the public domain and universities tend to pursue academic agendas, rather than a public-policy one.

Does the work of Think Tanks trigger your interest or catch your attention? Which Think Tank according to you are successful in packaging their research work in a manner that is conducive for uptake by the media?
I think the leaders in the field are probably the large American Think Tanks, such as the Brookings Institution. They have an especially good track record of holding short (2 hour) panel discussions on current topics and inviting journalists like me along to them. Among Indian institutions, I am impressed by the research of institutions working in the field of energy, the environment and development, such as the Centre for Policy Research, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water - and yourselves.

Given the short attention span of most readers, including policy makers, what challenges do you foresee Think Tanks will face in catching and holding the attention of policy makers?
Yes, this is hard because policy makers (like journalists) respond to the ever-shifting news cycle, which changes by the minute, whereas Think Tanks deal in longer term trends. I think the best way to deal with the mismatch is for Think Tanks to be careful about the timing and selection of their public outreach: concentrate on those news events where you really have expertise and where your research has close relevance. 

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