Media Moves

Author: Patterns in biz journalism coverage follow stock market

November 24, 2008

Well-known business book author Michael Lewis, who has written a new book called Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity, talks to “On the Media” host Brooke Gladstone about how business journalists tend to follow the same patterns of coverage when the market is up.

Here is an excerpt:

MICHAEL LEWIS: The pattern tends to mirror the moods of the markets. So when the market is going up, regardless of however insane the reason for it going up, the patter in the press is very boosterish, optimistic, going along for the ride.

Things go bad — the first thing that happens is there are recriminations in the press, but then the press turns to these pieces written with Olympian detachment after everything’s come to grief. We always knew this was rotten. And you can’t go back before the event and find anybody saying — very seldom, anyway — that it was rotten.

There’s a lack of perspective to the first kind of coverage and a lack of really deep honesty to the second kind of coverage. In addition, people, when they’re describing money, there’s so much mystique around it and so much complexity has been added to the world of money, and everybody’s afraid of not seeming to understand it. Everybody’s afraid of asking the simple question — like, why does that make sense, or could you explain that in English?

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