OLD Media Moves

Debate among busines journalists about the word "crash"

October 11, 2008

Ellen Simon of the Associated Press reports that business journalists are being cautious about using the word “crash” to describe what’s going on in the stock market.

Hal RitterSimon writes, “CNBC host Dylan Ratigan was among those uttering the word on Thursday, calling the decline ‘a cascading crash.’ The Wall Street Journal, the most influential publication in the financial world, hedged somewhat on Friday’s front page, saying the scary drop over the past several days ‘amounts to a slow-motion crash.’

“But not everyone was prepared to go that far.

“The Associated Press did not use the word ‘crash,’ referring to Thursday as a ‘runaway train of a sell-off.’

“‘A car crash is sudden, and this is over eight days,’ said AP Business Editor Hal Ritter. ‘You can argue either way, but it’s better to give readers the important numbers for this week, 1987 and 1929, so they have the perspective to make their own judgments.’

“While The New York Times’ news columns called Thursday’s trading a ‘rout’ in which ‘panicky investors dumped stocks en masse’ in a ‘stomach-churning 90 minutes’ at the end of trading, the paper carefully avoided the word ‘crash,’ saying the 20.8 percent decline over six trading days ‘is similar to the drop in the Dow on Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987.’ (And that, of course, is a day most people refer to as a crash.)

Read more here.

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