A MEDIA FAILURE COMPOUNDS THE FINANCIAL FAILURE:
The Press Is Still Missing The Story Of Fraud and Economic Decline Ahead
By Danny Schechter
Author of the Crime Of Our Time
We know that Wall Street has not learned much from the crash it helped instigate. We know that our government, whatever its stated desire to clean up the markets and reform the financial behemoths, lacks the willingness and perhaps the clout to rein in the real power centers. We are not sure if they have been "captured" by them, or just lack the guts to take on institutions and individuals that helped fund their rise to power.
But do we know that, even now, much of our media, despite the sheer volume of coverage may be missing the real story? Do we know that if we want to find missing facts and the real context we have to turn away from the failed media system that never really investigated the failed financial system
The Project on Excellence on Journalism that examines media trends released a study charging "that the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression has been covered in the media largely from the top down, told primarily from the perspective of the Obama administration and big business, with coverage reflecting the concerns of institutions more than the lives of everyday Americans."
Why is this? I asked several journalists in making a film and writing a book about the financial crisis as a crime story. A number agreed that the media itself is "embedded" in the culture and narratives of Wall Street, like reporters embedded in Iraq. They lack the ability to be critical of the sources they rely on. They bring little perspective and context to their work.
Max Wolff who works in the financial industry, and also teaches about it, shared his view as we stood outside the New York Stock Exchange:
"I think the media mostly did unpaid press releases for various businesses looking to sale financial products and while that made sense given the advertising driven the media, they became cheerleaders instead of critics and that took of the table out of the discussion a critical voice that would have help people realize what was going on, stop it before it got too big and deal with the crisis in a way that was relatively transparent, democratic and broadly beneficial as opposed to quite and partial and very muddy and unclear.
I pressed him to reflect on why, "It seems like there is still a tendency to amplify rumors on one hand, and then try to reassure that everything is ok while at the same time tell us that the world is about to end""
"Well we get a wild volatility, with a blind set of stories, everything is fine, nothing to see here, remain calm or if you don't do x,y and z or tomorrow life as we know will come to a stretching hold, water won't come out of your faucet, electricity won't come on, and you will live the rest of your life regretting that you just didn't listen to me when I told you what I wanted. And that is a bad way conduct a social discussion. And it makes the public more scared and quite reasonably less confident in leadership whether that is corporative leadership, politicians or the media itself."
The tendency on the left is to bash the frenzy of free market hype on Fox but not look to carefully at other channels and mainstream media outlets.
Often, even when they run good stories, they don't probe deeply enough. The Naked Capitalism blog offered up one recent example in the New York Times:
"The New York Times features a generally very good piece, "Buyout Firms Profited as a Company's Debt Soared," by Julie Creswell that falls short in one important respect: it fails to call a prevalent and destructive practice of private equity firms by its proper name".
George Akerlof and Paul Romer called that activity looting in a famous 1993 paper and depicted it as criminal: "Bankruptcy for profit will occur if poor accounting, lax regulation, or low penalties for abuse give owners an incentive to pay themselves more than their firms are worth and then default on their debt obligations"."
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