Michael Casey, a senior columnist for The Wall Street Journal, writes for the Committee to Protect Journalists about the need for business journalists to do a better job of explaining complex financial topics to readers.
Casey writes, “To be fair, those on the losing side of Wall Street’s profit-driven pre-crisis trade mostly failed to exploit new opportunities to expose the risks associated with it. In this era of ‘big data,’ where high-tech analytical techniques can produce abundant, quantifiable information, we should all have been empowered to uncover the truth. But in reality, for the average investor, journalist, or even regulator, this new trove of data has been mostly out of reach and unintelligible.
“It should now be the duty of journalists to unlock it. And to do so, they need to harness the same tools that financial institutions and corporations use to sift, interpret and make sense of mass digital information. The value of human sources providing information on market players’ activities hasn’t gone away–think of the lasting impact of The Wall Street Journal‘s ‘London Whale’ scoop on JPMorgan Chase’s risky trading bets last year, a story that led to news that the bank had racked up $6 billion in losses and, later, $1 billion in regulatory fines. But those stories must now be complemented with computer-enhanced analysis and interpretation. To get at the truth will require crunching the numbers–billions of them.
“‘The question is: How do you take the proliferation of data and extract something intelligent out of it?’ said the Pew Center’s Murray. ‘I think data analysis is going to become a much more important part of journalism.’
“If journalists are to investigate and interpret the complex systems of data management with which financial institutions create information monopolies, they need resources. Yet in the developed countries in which these complex new financial markets are thriving, the dominant trend in the penny-pinching media industry is for cutbacks, not investment, as traditional news outlets adjust to a highly competitive environment for online advertising.”
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