OLD Media Moves

The busines press didn't do enough

May 14, 2009

Dean Starkman of Columbia Journalism Review argues that the business media failed in providing the consumer the information needed to be warned about the current economic turmoil, particularly between 2004 and 2006.

Starkman writes, “The record shows that the press published its hardest-hitting investigations of lenders and Wall Street between 2000–2003, for reasons I will attempt to explain below, then lapsed into useful-but-not-sufficient consumer- and investor-oriented stories during the critical years of 2004–2006. Missing are investigative stories that confront directly powerful institutions about basic business practices while those institutions were still powerful. This is not a detail. This is the watchdog that didn’t bark.

“To the contrary, the record is clogged with feature stories about banks (‘Countrywide Writes Mortgages for the Masses,’ WSJ, 12/21/04) and Wall Street firms (‘Distinct Culture at Bear Stearns Helps It Surmount a Grim Market,’ The New York Times, 3/28/03) that covered the central players in this drama but wrote about anything but abusive lending and how it was funded. Far from warnings, the message here was: ‘All clear.’

“Finally, the press scrambled in late 2006 and especially early 2007 as the consequences of the institutionalized corruption of the financial system became apparent to one and all.

“So the idea that the press did all it could, and the public just missed it, is not just untenable. It is also untrue.”

Read more here.

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