The New York Times

Columbia Journalism Review Assesses Failure of Business Press to Warn of Crises

Hat tip to lambert on correntewire for providing the link to the latest cover story in the Columbia Journalism Review, Power Problem: The business press did everything but take on the institutions that brought down the financial system, by Dean Starkman.

Starkman and a team of researchers set out to examine how well the nation’s business press did in providing warning of the coming financial crises in the past decade. They selected a list of the nine business-news outlets they considered the most important (Wall St. Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, Bloomberg, Forbes, Fortune, and BusinessWeek) and the financial institutions with leading roles in the collapse (Wall Street: AIG, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley. Lenders: Ameriquest, Citigroup, Countrywide, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, IndyMac, New Century, Washington Mutual).

The Professional and the Amateur

Bill Keller, Executive Editor of The New York Times, recently spoke about the state of journalism. While his attitude is refreshing and his thoughts are generally on target, I do have a few nits to pick:

Keller, when he speaks of the founders’ view of “the press” elides the fact that the conception of “the press” at the time of the writing of the Constitution and (more significantly) the Bill of Rights was quite different from what it is now. There was no profession associated with “the press,” for one thing—“the press,” in the sense meant by the founders, was an entity of politics, not of news gathering and dispassionate analysis.

In writing that the press should be seen as “supplying citizens with the information to judge whether they are being well served by their government,” Keller ignores the absolutely partisan nature of the press in the early years of the Republic. He says he spends his time explaining “why the founding fathers entrusted someone like me with the right to defy the president.” Thing is, they didn’t. Cloaking himself in the mantle of the founding fathers is a disservice to history and, I believe, to the press of today.