Friday, January 23, 2009

Blame The Media, Again?

Dan Gillmor writes a pretty interesting piece suggesting financial journalists should have played a larger role over the last ten years in warning the country about the looming financial crisis:
"Journalists are notoriously thin-skinned, defensive about even legitimate criticism. But this lapse has been too blatant even for reporters to miss. Two-thirds of financial journalists in a recent survey said the news media "dropped the ball" in the period before the crisis became apparent. (Still, almost none of them assigned the press any responsibility for what has occurred.)"
Gillmor goes on to suggest that the media should play a larger role in warning the country about this and other disasters:
That common practice suggests an opportunity. When we can predict an inevitable calamity if we continue along the current path, we owe it to the public to do everything we can to encourage a change in that destructive behavior.

In practice, this means activism. It means relentless campaigning to point out what's going wrong, and demanding corrective action from those who can do something about it."
Although I like Gilmor's article very much there are some things I'd like to point out:

First, he's overly critical of print media journalists, suggesting their reporting might have been skewed in favor of their advertisers, even though, from my perspective print media journalists (and blog journalists) were much more responsible in reporting about the building bubble than electronic media journalists.

Secondly, he makes no mention of the obvious fact that although financial journalists were far too optimistic five years ago, helping build the bubble, they have also swung too far the other way now and their pessimism might slow the recovery.

I'm very much in favor of activism among journalism, but you have to temper it a good bit, because, sometimes these guys have no clue what they're talking about. If you're going to follow an activist journalist on any issue, it pays to also read another one on the opposite side of the issue so you can forge your own sense of the truth out of the middle.

It should be pointed out that Gilmor himself is a print (and blog) media financial journalist, who made a name for himself writing about the bubble, but failed to accurately predict its ultimate bursting.

You can read the entirety of Gilmor's article here: The Media's Role In The Financial Crisis

I recommend it, but with the reservations noted above.

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