OLD Media Moves

Gretchen Morgenson and pounding away

January 10, 2009

Ryan Chittum of Columbia Journalism Review interviewed New York Times business journalist Gretchen Morgenson, who has won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage, to get her thoughts about coverage leading up to, and including, the current economic crisis.

Here is an excerpt:

TA: One of the questions I get from readers a lot is, How much responsibility does the press have? The press couldn’t have prevented this….

GM: No, no no no…. I get some of this from readers, but I end up emailing them the stories that they either never saw or forgot about. I think there’s a lot of that: “Oh, you’re so smart. Where were you?� There were some reporters doing pretty in-depth and questioning, probing work on this stuff, but I think it’s very easy to say that nobody was on the scene. The press can’t prevent these kinds of things. Yeah, they can expose the practices and that should have been done more assiduously. But it was this huge momentum that was fed by this demand from investors and this fee machine on Wall Street and among the mortgage brokers and bankers and lenders. So, I can’t imagine how reporters would stop that.

TA: When you find an issue or something that’s not right, you keep pounding on it. I’m thinking of Countrywide, executive compensation, going back years and years.

GM: This [mortgage crisis] was a very complicated story from the very beginning, not only because it was about bonds, which are more obscure and difficult to follow and track and mortgage, which are difficult to hedge and predict. But you had all these different players. You had subprime first, then you had Alt-A, then it infected prime, then you had the securitization and the different aspects of that that made this far more complicated than just a dot.com story where it was companies that were able to tap into the capital markets with no product, no earnings, no nothing. That was a pretty straightforward story.

Read more here.

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