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MIT Sloan Throughout the Crisis: Leading the Conversation (continued)

Simon JohnsonSimon Johnson, Ronald A. Kurtz (1954) Professor of Entrepreneurship

Simon Johnson: Blogging the Answers

Simon Johnson, who has held the Ronald A. Kurtz (1954) Professor of Entrepreneurship chair at MIT Sloan since 2004, and is currently a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C., is no stranger to issues of financial turmoil. His ability, in manner and content, to communicate and dissect the complexities of today’s economic challenges has been invaluable to helping other experts, students, and the public better understand what led to crisis, and what will lead us out of crisis.

Over the past 20 years, as an academic, a policymaker, and while working in the private sector as well, Johnson has built a reputation as one of the world’s foremost crisis experts. In 2000 - 2001, he was a member of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Advisory Committee on Market Information. He has worked with many leading research organizations and has helped in the struggle for crisis prevention and recovery in countries both rich and poor. From March 2007 through the end of August 2008, Johnson was chief economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where he helped formulate responses to worldwide financial turmoil. So it seemed only natural, as the financial situation in the United States continued to grow increasingly dire, that his voice would rise to the top of the ensuing discussion and debate.

Cited in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Financial Times, and NPR’s Planet Money, the Web site Baselinescenario.com — which Johnson co-founded with former McKinsey consultant James Kwak — is seen by many as the place to go for timely economic advice. And much of the site’s popularity has to do not only with the precision of its scholarship, but also with the honesty of its conversational tone — a tone Johnson says he began to develop at the IMF, where he was the first chief economist to have a blog. “The IMF has meetings in the fall and in the spring,” he says. “For a couple of weeks around those meetings, there is always a lot of intense activity, and a lot of interest about what the IMF is saying about the global economy. Since I was responsible for developing and presenting the IMF’s global forecast, I used the blog to get that information out to the public.” Over time, Johnson says he began to develop a style, which he describes as “chatty but not ranting,” and that style, or perhaps a more outspoken and pointed version of that style, survives today with Baselinescenario.com.

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