OLD Media Moves

Can financial journalism be fixed?

April 22, 2009

Robert Teitelman, the editor of The Deal, reponds Wednesday to a speech at Yale University given by Financial Times editor Lionel Barber about the failings of business journalism, wondering if those issues are actually solvable.

Teitelman writes, “I’m skeptical, not because we won’t learn from this crisis, but in an odd way, because we will. The next crisis will not occur exactly like this one, just as this one, from the perspective of 2005, had no resemblance to either the Great Depression or the ’70s.

“But there is a deeper question that Barber’s column approaches but never really gets into: the powerful role played by conventional wisdom. Barber admits that some warnings were given; he mentions Nouriel Roubini and others. The real problem was that negative stories written in the run-up to the bubble never achieved critical mass; they never made a difference. Journalism, or the media, is an institution that believes it acts like a romantic individual — Woodward and Bernstein speaking truth to power — when it mostly behaves like a collective herd, at least in terms of what it thinks is important.

“Journalism operates in several markets: a commercial market for its product, which many journalists would like to pretend doesn’t exist, and more seductively, a marketplace of ideas that decides what makes sense and what doesn’t, what should get awards (it’s Pulitzer week, which is collectivism in action) and what should not.”

Read more here.

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