Q&A With On Demand Keynote Speaker Stephen J. Dubner
Stephen J. Dubner, along with offbeat economist Steven D. Levitt, co-authored the best-selling, near-infamous “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.” Dubner is a columnist (with Levitt) at “The New York Times Magazine,” as well as the author of numerous books, and is a keynote speaker at On Demand this year.
BFL&S: What will you be speaking about?
Dubner: I’ll be giving a talk that builds out from the material we covered in “Freakonomics,” telling stories about how people respond to incentives in strange ways.
BFL&S: As a journalist, author and editor, the print industry clearly affects your professional life. What changes have you witnessed in the print business over the last few years?
Dubner: So many. I’ve become a blogger these past two years, and am amazed at how different the vernacular is from print journalism, even though it appears very similar at first glance. I think the entire print journalism industry needs a five-year bridge loan to get over this transition period, where the online advertising revenues are so far below the print revenues. But, I’m confident there will always be a market—perhaps not as big as before—for smart, original and well-delivered information, regardless of the delivery system.
BFL&S: What do you believe are the most profound effects the digital age has had on print journalism?
Dubner: Speed is one, which isn’t always a benevolent factor. Some things simply take time: the gestation of a human child is one that comes to mind, and good writing is another. But there are also upsides to the rapid digital delivery of information. I love the quick back-and-forth that online journalism affords.
BFL&S: Underneath the wit, intelligence and style of “Freakonomics” lay a message applicable to almost any reader: looking at a mystery or problem from an alternate angle—or merely asking the risky or previously unthinkable question—can alter our understanding of the world. Beyond its popularity and your success, did working on “Freakonomics” alter the ways in which you view the world?
Related story: In Demand