OLD Media Moves

Not much more business journalists could have done

December 12, 2008

Dean Wright, the global editor for ethics, innovation and news standards at Reuters, interviewed the wire service’s editor in chief, David Schlesinger, about how it has covered the current economic crisis.

Wright writes that Schlesinger “is skeptical that financial journalists could have done much more to predict the depth of the crisis.

“‘Journalists do best when reporting what’s happening and giving the news context and analysis,’ he said. ‘We also do well when we look backwards and discuss past events from the perspective of the present. We do least well when we prognosticate. While our reporting and commentary did discuss potential weak points in the economy, we did not — and nor frankly could we — accurately predict the calamitous events of this year.’

“Schlesinger worries, though, that there was a certain inevitability to the crisis and that the media played a role.

“‘I do worry about the narrative lines of reporting that contributed to the crisis,’ he said. ‘To take just one example, much of the crisis was caused by banks taking on excess risks in the pursuit of higher profits. Yet had a major bank president stepped back from that fray and declined to participate, the ‘grammar’ of our results reporting would surely have compared that bank’s results negatively against expectations and against its peers.

“‘That brave bank president would surely have lost at least his bonus and probably his job. The very fear of that kind of negative comparison helped spur things on — as Citibank’s ex-CEO Charles Prince said (while still in his job), ‘As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance.'”

Read more here.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry daily or weekly.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry.