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The Walters-Lawson Affair and the Two Worlds of Communication

Michael Szenberg

The American Economist, 2016, vol. 61, issue 1, 69-71

Abstract: Editors’ Introduction Originally published in Volume 35, Number 1, Spring 1991, pages 19-20 . This paper recounts an interesting chapter in the life of The American Economist and its then Editor-in-Chief, Michael Szenberg. It is not often that an academic journal becomes the unwitting source of a “news scoop†resulting in an international political controversy. However, this is exactly what happened in 1989 when the British newspaper Financial Times ran a story quoting Sir Alan Walters’ opinion of a plan to integrate Britain into the European Monetary System. Walters was then serving as the personal economic advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and had prepared an article for Professor Szenberg’s commissioned series of papers on the lives of eminent economists. Walters’ quote from this article was seen by some as an affront to Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and an embarrassment to the Thatcher government. It made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. After the affair faded from view, Professor Szenberg took the opportunity to prepare this paper comparing and contrasting the world of academic publishing with the world of reporting and publishing the news. During the ordeal, The American Economist became confused with the British news magazine The Economist , which resulted in a brief legal dispute, all because a quote was taken out of context.

Date: 2016
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