WSJ: Why cover a recession when you can instigate one?


The current economic spiral highlights another disappointing feature of our modern media: they consistently celebrate the impact they have on their audience, yet do nothing to responsibly assess and manage that impact.

What the freak does that mean? I’ll break it down a little more. The press knows and loves that they strike fear into the hearts of millions, and they are far more interested in enjoying that power and upselling their product than they are in using it wisely.

The economic situation stands as a fine example. I’m squarely in the camp of minds that believe that the recession is pretty much unavoidable. However, its severity and duration will be determined by how much panic is induced.

Hello, Justin Lahart of the Wall Street Journal? May I get your insight?

Mr. Lahart’s January 21 piece on a study that indicates a significant downturn is brilliantly structured (to be fair, we can probably credit editors for this piece of work as much as we can the reporter). Here we go…

  • Sky is Falling Headline
    “U.S. Warning Signs Point Toward a Deep Recession”

  • Sky is Falling Point 1
    “…The U.S. has suffered recessions only twice in the past quarter century and both were short and mild. There are good reasons to fear that the looming recession, if it arrives, could be worse.”

  • Sky is Falling Point 2
    “…the current crisis appears on track to be at least as bad as the five most catastrophic financial crises to hit industrialized countries since World War II.”

  • Sky is Falling Point 3
    “…if the United States does not experience a significant and protracted growth slowdown, it should either be considered very lucky or even more ‘special’ than most optimistic theories suggest…”

Let’s face it – there are an awful lot of readers who are going to jump up and run with that information.

Fewer folks will read to the bottom of the article, where the silly, uninteresting, positive material is buried. Those who prefer to exert that extra effort may be able mine these little gold nuggets and escort their neighbors off the window ledge:

  • “Congress and the White House are both promising a fiscal-stimulus package, with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke pushing for a plan that would help boost spending this year.”
  • “Companies, at least those outside of the banking and housing sectors, might also take some of the sting out of a recession. Their finances are in far better shape now than they were in 2001, and credit so far is still widely available.”
  • “Exports, which have been growing rapidly and account for more than twice as large a share of GDP as home construction does, will continue to post strong growth, easing the pain of the housing decline.”

Reading closely, it becomes clear that the real truth of the article is encapsulated by the final line…

“Even if the country is in for just a mild recession, the pressure on spending, coupled with what has happened in the housing and mortgage markets, may make it feel a lot worse for most Americans than the last two downturns did.”

Wow. God help us all.

Shame on WSJ for this kind of escalation. Can I blame Rupert Murdoch yet?


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