Nov 26, 2008

Didn't heed the messenger

Before September, mortgage backed securities and credit default swaps didn't sell newspapers. It was hard to cash in on a story about Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Big packages on the looming threat of a housing crisis took time, research and copious editing to get straight - and a relatively few people read the results. So few, in fact, that when the trouble finally hit, everyone seemed to forget the stories were ever written.

AJR took a look and found that, to a larget extent, the media did warn of the coming doom. But it wasn't the news most of us thought we could use:
Andrew Leckey, director of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University, compares the situation to an unwanted Christmas present wrapped in shiny paper and a bow: Nobody wants to open it up to see what's inside. The reading public wants to read only what it wants to believe. Brauchli agrees: "The notion that the business press wasn't paying attention is wrong, and the assertion that we were asleep at the switch is wrong. We were attentive. We were aggressive. We were aware. We wrote abundantly. But it is very hard to get the public's attention for stories warning of complex financial risks in the middle of a roaring, populist bull market."

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