Media News

Stelter on how not to cover a bank run

March 15, 2023

Posted by Chris Roush

Brian Stelter writes for The Atlantic on the problems in the coverage of the failure of Silicon Valley Bank.

Stelter writes, “But for every cautious commentator, there is a panicky Twitter thread and a reckless talking head. When a Fox & Friends co-host said, ‘It’s time to be honest with the American people,’ Ainsley Earhardt blurted out, ‘We need to go to our banks and take our money out.’

“Most media outlets have higher standards than Fox & Friends. But ethical deliberations about how to cover a financial emergency are mostly confined to college classrooms and journalism blogs. When a piece of information can be precious, profitable, and dangerous, all at the same time, what should members of the media do with it?

“The Information’s founder and CEO, Jessica Lessin, faced a version of that quandary after Silicon Valley Bank disclosed nearly $2 billion in losses and announced plans to shore up its balance sheet after the markets closed on Wednesday. Venture capitalists reacted with concern right away in text chains and Slack channels; Lessin told me she picked up on ‘nervousness’ from sources Wednesday night.

“But The Information, a 10-year-old tech publication with subscribers throughout Silicon Valley, did not report on the anxious chatter right away. Its first reference to the bank’s trouble came in a Thursday morning email newsletter, and the headline was about the bank’s stock plunging in after-hours trading, with no mention of the VC alarm bells. Lessin said this was intentional: Talk isn’t nearly as newsworthy as action.”

Read more here.

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