Flashback: Media Focused on the Election, Missed the Imminent Economic Crisis
September 24, 2008
Boehlert had a masterful column yesterday about the media's failure to report on this impending crisis as it developed. While they were obsessed with puerile, campaign trivia, the economic system was melting down -- and the public, according to poll after poll, was clamoring for information.
That's for sure. But then, when you have a Village punditocrisy led by people like Chris Matthews, who believes we should just give the treasury secretary monarchical powers, there's really no reason to report on all that boring "financial skigamadoo." let Daddy take care of it and we'll all go back to talking about just how much Michelle Obama hates America.
The press had its Story of the Year, thank you very much, and it wasn't going to budge off it, not even a little.
Preoccupied with covering a presidential campaign that reporters and pundits deemed to be fun and entertaining, the press, for much of the year, walked away from its responsibility to inform the public about an array of different topics simultaneously. Instead, the press, and especially television news, pretty much announced that it could only (or would only) cover one big story at a time (the campaign), unless a hurricane arrived, and then it would cover two.
"Rather than focus, in those [preceding] days and weeks, on the incidents that led to today's [stock] plunge, general-interest news outlets focused fairly myopically on ... the presidential campaign," noted Megan Garber at CJR.org.
And that wasn't just a hunch. It was a fact. Here's what the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism concluded last month after undertaking an extensive study of the media's handling of economic news: "While the public considers the economy its No. 1 concern, for instance, the media have been far more interested in the presidential campaign -- by a factor of nearly 5-to-1 between January 2007 and June 2008."
Talk about a disconnect.