Understanding the economic language used by financial journalists in Sweden can be a challenging task. Back in the 1970s and 80s, labor market reporters enjoyed a high status among politicians and journalists as they followed the wage negotiations between the Employers’ Association and trade union movement. At the time, wages were considered decisive to the country’s future. Gunnar Sträng, Sweden’s finance minister, famously said that “what’s good for Volvo is good for Sweden”. Currently, financial journalists have taken over as the biggest influencers within the journalistic profession, particularly when it comes to covering the banks, the stock market and interest rates. However, the language used by financial journalists is not always easy to understand, particularly when they use technical jargon. Presenters often fall short in explaining economic concepts, and sometimes tend to show off their own intelligence rather than catering to the viewers’ needs. Nonetheless, there are occasions where journalists ask understandable questions, and their guests provide comprehensible answers.
Do you understand the economics lingo? The language spoken by above all the financial journalists in Sweden.
Some of you may remember when the Swedish labor market reporter in the 1970s and 80s was the one with the highest status in both the journalistic profession and among politicians.
The labor market reporters were media superstars when, week in and week out, month after month, they followed the most important political event of the year: the wage negotiations between the Swedish Employers’ Association and the Swedish trade union movement. Or as it was called at the time: the contract movement.
A more important movement you had to look for.
This was also at the time when all unpleasant words were to be eradicated from the language: Cleaners became janitors, for example
Wages were considered decisive the country’s future. Demand too much from workers and white-collar workers (they were called that at the time, workers were even called “jobbers”) and the country would collapse and rows of companies would move abroad. There was cheaper labor to be had, and such threats of displacement were legion. And Sweden’s finance minister at the time, the social democrat Gunnar Sträng (blessed in memory), was forever remembered for his at the time very controversial statement that “what’s good for Volvo is good for Sweden”.
But it was also at this time that workers were renamed workers, because employers “gave” work. The left of course called them job buyers, which was a more correct expression, but this was also at the time when all unpleasant words were to be eradicated from the language: Cleaners became, for example, janitors.
To day have the financial journalists have taken over as the journalist profession’s big cutters, and their area of coverage usually concerns the banks, the stock market and interest rates. And that was probably what I wondered at the beginning: Do you understand what they are saying?
I don’t know exactly which of Hasse Alfredson’s Lindemäns said “swåt me plåket”, but you probably have to agree in any case.
For example, when they initially talked about the “banking crisis”, a lot was hidden in pure mumbo jumbo
In the “Economibyrån” (SVT) – which I am quite fond of – they sometimes speak a language that is not entirely easy to understand, and they don’t care much about explaining. Last Friday, they mainly talked about the large influential ownership families in Swedish industry, the Stenbeck family and the Wallenberg family, and it was exciting and decently easy to understand (albeit terribly uncritical).
The journalists on site. Sympathetic Jan Almgren admittedly thought that it was popularly “scary” and that Deutsche Bank had a “difficult” time – but explain what that means? “Had it hard”?
I think the sports lingo can also be difficult for non-sports fans, and you can’t explain the offside rule every single time, but I strongly suspect that the economics language is considerably more difficult to understand. If you talk about the banking crisis (for what time in the order?) you still have to somehow try to explain what such a crisis consists of, how it occurs and why it occurs right now. The presenter Carolina Neurath is often super good at her job but sometimes forgets that she also represents the viewers. Financial journalists too often want to show the industry how smart they are too.
When Hedenmo then spoke the robber language with Erik Thedéen, they probably lost 95 percent
In “Agenda” last Sunday Anna Hedenmo asked good, understandable questions to Nordea’s Chief Economist Annika Winsth (!), who also gave understandable answers. But when Hedenmo then spoke the language of robbers with Riksbank Governor Erik Thedéen, they probably lost 95 percent of the viewers.
Personally, I’m freaking out that Erik Thedéen is allowed to say that there is “major financial concern” without explaining what the hell that means.
Read more chronicles by Johan Croneman.