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"The Media's Role In The Financial Crisis"--- Dan Gilmore/TPM

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KoKo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 08:28 PM
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"The Media's Role In The Financial Crisis"--- Dan Gilmore/TPM
The Media's Role In The Financial Crisis
By Dan Gillmor - January 23, 2009, 9:40AM

Our government's current operating principle seems to be bailing out people who were culpable in the financial meltdown. If so, journalists are surely entitled to billions of dollars.

Why? Journalists were grossly deficient when it came to covering the reckless behavior, sleaze and willful ignorance of fundamental economics, much of which was reasonably obvious to anyone who was paying attention, that inflated the housing and credit bubbles of the past decade. Their frequent cheerleading for bad practices -- and near-total failure to warn us, repeatedly and relentlessly, of what was building -- made a bad situation worse.

Journalists are notoriously thin-skinned, defensive about even legitimate criticism. But this lapse has been too blatant even for reporters to miss. Two-thirds of financial journalists in a recent survey said the news media "dropped the ball" in the period before the crisis became apparent. (Still, almost none of them assigned the press any responsibility for what has occurred.)

It's not as if this is the first time a big issue has had too little discussion while there was still time to fix the problem. Journalism has repeatedly failed to warn the public about huge, visible risks. The media's complicity in the Iraq War-mongering and 1990s stock bubble were the most infamous recent examples until the financial bust came along, but the willful blindness to reality was uncannily similar.

To be fair, in these cases and in every other such foreseeable calamity, at least several journalists or news organizations stood out in retrospect for having seen what was coming. Almost alone among the Washington press corps, the Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) newspaper group's Washington Bureau asked the right questions as the Bush Administration herded the nation toward war. A few scattered stories in the media, including Fortune magazine and The New York Times business section, wondered about the stock and housing price bubbles, not to mention the implications of new financial policies and instruments that made the credit expansion so dangerous. And some commentators (including bloggers who did serious, if widely ignored, reporting) were firmly on the case.

But to say that the press was all over the housing/credit mess before it blew up, as the American Journalism Review argued recently, defies reality. The good journalism was overwhelmed by the happy-face, herd coverage, usually laced with quotes from people who stood to benefit from the bubble's continued inflation. We saw story after story about new cadres of home-loan borrowers, about people who "flipped" homes for big short-term profits, and about the way home values kept rising in unprecedented ways. We saw few cautionary tales about what happens when bubbles burst, how families can and economies can face ruin. It's probably no coincidence that most newspapers have weekly real estate pages or sections, the main purpose of which is to collect advertising for property sales.

And even when the reporting was solid, which was rare enough, news organizations didn't follow up in appropriate ways. If we can foresee a catastrophe, it's not enough to mention it once or twice and then move on.

That common practice suggests an opportunity. When we can predict an inevitable calamity if we continue along the current path, we owe it to the public to do everything we can to encourage a change in that destructive behavior.

In practice, this means activism. It means relentless campaigning to point out what's going wrong, and demanding corrective action from those who can do something about it.

So in Florida, Arizona and California, among other epicenters of the housing bubble, newspapers might have told their readers -- including governmental officials -- the difficult truth. They could have explained, again and again, that the housing bubble would inevitably lead, at least locally, to personal financial disaster for many in their regions, not to mention fiscal woes for local and state governments. How many should have done this, given the media's at least partial reliance on advertising from those who profited from the bubbles? Any that cared to do their jobs.
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Loge23 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 08:42 PM
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1. In FL, they are now attacking the workers
Newpapers publishing State/Municipal Employee pay rates are now all the rage of the intrepid "journalists".
Have a beef with your college professor? Check their pay rate and embarrass them in class!
Check out how much that fireman across the street makes - geez, he's always home!

CEO's making hundreds of millions and WS punks hiding their filthy money in the Bahamas is all well and good. But let's "expose" our own teachers, police, and firefighters for the outrageous cases of them barely cracking $100K (with oodles of OT).

Funny how what's left of the middle class now has to do their share by taking pay cuts and being publicly humilated for making a decent wage. That's the type of "wealth redistribution" that does a republican proud.
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KoKo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-25-09 07:51 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. I know, amazing isn't it...a Topsy/Turvey World we live in ....
Those who least deserve REWARDS are GIVEN THEM...the REST ...get the SCRAPS... :-(
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