Monday, July 14, 2008


I just turned 60, but I’m far too young to remember first-hand when Orson Wells broadcast a fictional account of an invasion from outer space, so real that it caused panic in the streets. Unfortunately, the news reports and analysts covering things like the price of oil, the housing crisis, etc., are causing a similar upheaval.

The dramatic radio landing of aliens took place in a New Jersey park. Today there is a very “real’ monument to the invasion in the park noted in the drama. It was all based on an H.G. Wells novel, as was the film version three years ago.

News reporters and editors don’t appear to grasp how much public confidence plays into the financial markets. How careless reporting can stampede people. Or how self-fulfilling news reporting can be when obsessed with what Dr. Barry Glassner documented as the “Culture of Fear.” Market and consumer confidence, like self-confidence can be very fragile.

I’m sure the folks doing the reporting have 401K’s and children to put through school. But I sense, if not outright glee, then a stubborn tête-à-tête each morning as reporters dance with experts in a kind of “yes it is,“ “no it isn’t” dialogue with no big picture perspective, driving apprehension with every new tidbit.

But the risk here isn’t failure to understand or lack of awareness or access to information….the risk to all of us is when the news media doesn’t merely report the news but begins to seem vested in trying to “be right” or “sustain” a story, then our shallowed “freedom of the press” comes with a terrible financial risk to all of us.

So if you’re a reporter or editor pumping the price of gas story…or the mortgage loan crisis…or the health of the financial sector…keep in mind the speculation generated might just be creating the story…so we have stories fueling more stories…far beyond what the facts support. Are we truly benefitting…will we be better off?

The news media is going through some major transformations right now. And one of them is by a growing number of responsible journalists who take responsibility for the sheer weight and intensity created not by “bigger” or more important stories…but by the sheer weight and intensity of so many enterprises covering the news.

No comments: