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Should Business Journalists Have Forecasted the Financial Crisis?

(Last Updated On: March 15, 2012)

Should Business Journalists Have Forecasted the Financial Crisis?

Finance blogger Felix Salmon argued at a Columbia University School of Journalism Panel that business reporters cannot be blamed for failing to uncover the dirty dealings that led to the crisis of 08—because no one would have cared.”The public simply didn’t care,” he said.”There’s a reason why these things only come out after crashes….because at that point we want someone to blame. If you do the journalism beforehand, nobody cares.” He added, “If you want public-interest journalism, if you want to interest the public, you don’t want to put it in the business section. The business section is the first section that they throw away.”

Is this a legitimate defense of financial reporters? Or just a whiny excuse for lack of initiative, plus a thinly-concealed jab that Americans aren’t really smart enough to “get” what he writes? Would other financial reporters agree or disagree?

What do you think—would the public have read a story exposing the fiscal misdeeds that led to Crisis ’08? See what other panelists thought of his comments at the panel in our story below.

The Wall St Job Reoirt

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Business blogger Felix Salmon argued that business journalists could not have expose the financial crisis before it happened because no one in the public would have read it.

 

As a former Financial Journalist I would tend to agree with Mr. Salmon. This is fairly evident with regard to the recent crisis where it is fairly clear that even the most senior members of the administration still don’t get it ( bring back Glass-Steagall already).

Where I do think Newspapers are partly to blame is in participating in the dumbing down of society by abandoning long-form journalism with such alacrity. I understand the commercial imperatives and that they feel they are giving the public what they want but the fact that their circulation has continued to fall should be ringing some alarm bells.

The world we live in is a complex one and can seldom if ever be condensed into neat 250 word or even 147 character soundbites. Truly gifted Features writers of the type that used to be employed by newspapers can distill complex issues into 2000 – 4000 words. Sadly this is now increasingly scarce with only the NYT and possibly Forbes Magazine holding up the standard. Fortune, The WSJ and even the once august FT have all succumbed to mediocrity and are now little more than purveyors of press releases and wire service stories. This is somewhat ironic because the wire services ( Bloomberg and Reuters ) have little time for fact checking and editorialising because of their immediacy.

 

 

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