It is not often that the world wakes up to the same headlines right around the globe. But that is what happened last week when the news media told the story of the international economic system going into a tailspin.
The collapse of investment banks and a huge global insurance company had media outlets using terms like “Wall Street meltdown”, “an economic 9/11”, even the “end of capitalism”…
To hear much of the global media tell it the economic crash blindsided the world, including banks, regulators and even those who had been reporting the financial world to the public.
“I don’t think anyone saw this coming, least of all the financial press,” Ryan Chittum from the Columbia Journalism Review, says. “Should financial journalists be fortune tellers? No. But should they have done a better job of reporting that the structure of Wall Street was such that something like could have happened and clearly the answer is yes…”
What the media seem to have been doing wrong according to Andrew Palmer, the Economist’s banking correspondent, is not being sceptical enough during the period of sustained economic growth…
The media’s obsession with business also plays a part. Reporting on the triumphs of the so-called the titans of Wall Street sells more papers and attracts more viewers than stories of ordinary people having their homes repossessed.
“With business magazines such as Fortunes, Forbes, there is a kind of cult of the CEO I think,” Chittum says. “It sells magazines when you have the triumphant titan of business on the cover with his latest plan to conquer industry.
This is a terrific article. I’m sitting here having breakfast, watching a so-so football match between Spurs and Pompey, the HD-DVR is sucking down the Singapore Grand Prix and the banking IT specialist on the other side of the table is agreeing with Richard Gizbert.
She and I discuss these questions, daily. The financial analyst whizbangs who are paid to report – and theoretically lead such discussions – apparently don’t. At least in print. And their editors might shit a brick if they printed something that caused a $2 drop in share price for the CEO they’re meeting for golf at 3 PM.
Lousy journalism doesn’t make for a Free Press or an informed populace.