Setting the Media Straighter

The Wharton Seminars for Business Journalists, a time-honored 40-year tradition, took a new turn in 2012 with the first-ever program focused on public policy.

As usual, the event attracted top journalists from premier media outlets, such as Reuters, Barron’s Weekly, the Washington Post, Associated Press, WS J.com, Dow Jones, Chicago Tribune, National Public Radio and the Financial Times—as well as a number of attendees from international media and locations as far afield as Vancouver and Cameroon.

But unlike the Seminars for Business Journalists that occur every year on the Philadelphia campus, which instruct journalists on basic business concepts, this latest program, which took place March 6 in Washington, D.C., provided world-class elucidation on two societal issues that currently confound U.S. business and government leaders: real estate and health care.

Susan Wachter, Wharton’s Richard B. Worley Professor of Financial Management and professor of real estate and finance, along with Adam Levitin, professor of law at Georgetown University, delved into the causes of the latest real-estate bubble, its subsequent collapse and the current slow recovery, and then prognosticated the future of the market.

Mark Duggan, professor of business and public policy, shared his insider’s view of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Duggan served as a member of the White House team that crafted the so-called Obamacare law. Health-care statistics, such as the data on uninsured rates for all 50 states, fascinate him.

“For me, it’s like reading the sports page,” he said. Both Wachter and Duggan came across as optimistic, even as the journalists, as is their wont, peppered them with questions and challenges. Then again, Duggan warned of the then-impending Supreme Court decision on Obamacare and the challenges of implementing certain features of health-care reform, such as the state-based insurance exchanges due to launch in 2014. Wachter pondered how much damage the “American dream” of home ownership has suffered.

“The fact that it is a question is astonishing for America,” she said.

The Wharton Seminars for Business Journalists have provided several thousand members of the media insight from Wharton faculty into topics such as financial markets, accounting principles, corporate strategy and the global economy. The next event, about online behavior, customer engagement and gamification, occurred on June 27 at Wharton | San Francisco.

—By Matthew Brodsky

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