« Turning a corner | Main | A favorable report »

Gresham's blogs

Not that I know much more about economics than a hog knows of Chaucer, but I have heard of Gresham’s law: that money of low value will circulate more freely than money of higher value but the same face value. In the popular form, bad money chases out good. By extension, cheapness cheapens everything. *

One reason for readers to be leery of blogs is that many of them have not yet been housebroken. Their failure to follow these basic principles casts a shadow over the blogs that do. The cheap drives out the better. The same thing happens on unmoderated comment sites: soon the flood of anonymous racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobic and xenophobic trash drives reasonable readers away.

Thursday’s New York Times carried this correction about one of its blogs:

A post in The Medium blog that appeared on Monday about the Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and his purported adoption by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups contained several errors. Stormfront, which describes itself as a “white nationalist” Internet community, did not give money to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign; according to Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Paul’s campaign, it was Don Black, the founder of Stormfront, who donated $500 to Paul. The original post also repeated a string of assertions by Bill White, the commander of the American National Socialist Workers Party, including the allegation that Paul meets regularly “with members of the Stormfront set, American Renaissance, the Institute for Historic Review and others” at a restaurant in Arlington, Va. Paul never attended these dinners, according to Benton, who also says that Paul has never knowingly met Bill White. Norman Singleton, a congressional aide in Paul’s office, says that he met Bill White at a dinner gathering of conservatives several years ago, after which Singleton expressed his indignation at the views espoused by White to the organizer of the dinner. The original post should not have been published with these unverified assertions and without any response from Paul.

It is highly commendable of The Times to acknowledge this error of judgment and to insist on adherence to the fundamental principles of journalism in its blogging as well as in its print edition. Don’t print statements of fact unless you have checked them out. Don’t print damaging statements of fact about people without giving them an opportunity to respond.

Add to those two these two: Don’t make things up. Don’t pass off other people’s work as your own. They are not complicated propositions.

Check it out. Be fair. Be honest.


* I admitted in the first sentence that I’m an ignoramus. But go ahead anyway and comment on how stupid I am to misunderstand or misapply Gresham’s law.


Posted by John McIntyre at 3:23 PM | | Comments (2)


You applied it perfectly. It is not as hard as some people would have you believe to understand economics. It consists of applying small truths and principles to a large system. As an aside to your readers, have you noted new home sales fell 9% this month? Largest correction since the 1950s - and it's taking place for the exact reasons Dr. Paul sets forth as being problems with our economy. Want to lose your home? Want to be upside down in it, get foreclosed upon and have nothing? I'm not asking for your vote, I'm just asking you to do some research. Google Ron Paul and von Mises, please!

Another lesson might be that the mistakes were made by a professional journalist and were corrected by the commenters. In the pro vs. am debate that never seems to end, bloggers will add one more name to the list of professional journalism malpractice.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
Baltimore Sun Facebook page

Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Stay connected