OLD Media Moves

Who uncovered the hidden history of the financial crisis?

October 23, 2009

PBS ombusdman Michael Getler takes issue with a recent “Frontline” show that claims to have unearthed the hidden history behind the economic crisis.

Getler writes, “It was called ‘The Warning.’ It was about the smart, courageous but unheeded former chief of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Brooksley Born, who warned, in the late 1990s, of a coming economic disaster because of the hidden and unregulated markets in derivatives and other not well understood securities.

“This was, in my view, an excellent and powerfully presented program, shedding light on a rare and what turned out to be extremely high-stakes confrontation at the highest levels of government during the Clinton administration in which the woman who lost, Ms. Born, might have helped avert our recent financial calamity had the outcome been different.

But there was one slightly troubling thing about this, less about the broadcast itself than about its promotion and description by Frontline. In introducing this film online, Frontline says this: ‘In The Warning, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk unearths the hidden history of the nation’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the center of it all he finds Brooksley Born, who speaks for the first time on television about her failed campaign to regulate the secretive, multitrillion-dollar derivatives market whose crash helped trigger the financial collapse in the fall of 2008.’

“It’s the ‘unearths the hidden history’ part that I take some exception to, and that’s because anyone who reads The Washington Post may well remember a major, triple-bylined, 4,400-word front-page story exactly one year ago, on Oct. 15, 2008, headlined ‘What Went Wrong.'”

Read more here.

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