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Front Page Economics

In an age when pundits constantly decry overt political bias in the media, we have naturally become skeptical of the news. But the bluntness of such critiques masks the highly sophisticated ways in which the media frame important stories. In Front Page Economics, Gerald Suttles delves deep into the archives to examine coverage of two major economic crashes—in 1929 and 1987—in order to systematically break down the way newspapers normalize crises.

Poring over the articles generated by the crashes—as well as the people in them, the writers who wrote them, and the cartoons that ran alongside them—Suttles uncovers dramatic changes between the ways the first and second crashes were reported. In the intervening half-century, an entire new economic language had arisen and the practice of business journalism had been completely altered. Both of these transformations, Suttles demonstrates, allowed journalists to describe the 1987 crash in a vocabulary that was normal and familiar to readers, rendering it routine.

A subtle and probing look at how ideologies are packaged and transmitted to the casual newspaper reader, Front Page Economics brims with important insights that shed light on our own economically tumultuous times.

272 pages | 12 line drawings, 13 figures | 6 x 9 | © 2010

Economics and Business: Economics--History

Media Studies

Sociology: Occupations, Professions, Work


“News stories are called ‘stories’ for a reason: they have plots and characters, scenes and metaphors—just like works of fiction. Front Page Economics is a splendid evocation of the stories that journalists have told during economic crises. In a painstaking comparative analysis of economic news in the crashes of 1929 and 1987, Gerald Suttles brilliantly reveals how popular economic storytelling was transformed in twentieth-century America.”

David Paul Nord, Indiana University

“While the economy is well covered by the news media, that coverage has not been subjected to the level of scholarly scrutiny warranted by its importance as an aspect of public affairs. Carefully researched and clearly written, Front Page Economics offers an insightful analysis of the business beat and the explanatory strategies its journalists employ.”

James S. Ettema, Northwestern University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Mark D. Jacobs

Part I.  The Social Construction of the Economy: 1929 and 1987
Chapter 1. The Daily Press and Our Collective Conscience
Chapter 2. The Grounding of the Economy

Part II. The Daily Dramatism of Economic News
Chapter 3. The Daily News as Figurative Narratives
Chapter 4. Personae and Their Purposes
Chapter 5. Wordscapes and Toonland

Part III. The Telling of the Great Crashes
Chapter 6. The Annual Business Cycle and Its Promoters 
Chapter 7. The Voice of the People
Chapter 8. Congress and the Courts Have Their Say

Part IV. The Transformation of Ideology
Chapter 9. Normalizing the Economy: Popular Ideology and Social Regulation
Methodological Appendix

Works Cited

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