Business Journalists Blew the Story on the Economy

The business sections of newspapers have become doomsayers for the nation. Sensationalistic journalism decries of the failings and crises that have done our economy irreparable harm.

Rewind to a couple of years ago, and the print media was content with profiles of personable CEOs and pages upon pages devoted to the kitschy Mergers and Acquisitions. Where was the hard-hitting reporting that could’ve opened the public’s eyes to the failing economy much sooner?

“I'll attest that business journalists as a rule are as smart, sophisticated, and plugged-in as they seem”, notes former Wall Street Journal reporter Dean Starkman in a recent article for Mother Jones. And yet that army of professional business reporters – an estimated 9,000 or so nationwide in print alone – for all practical purposes missed the biggest story on the beat. Why?”

Starkman suggests the print industry’s own declining financial health may play a role. In the last decade alone, the New York Times profit margins have fallen from 24 percent to a meager 8.5.The newspaper industry’s failing has also resulted in a 25 percent loss of jobs in the business reporting field alone.

He adds that business journalism’s insistence on clinging to outdated formulas could play a role. The focus on consumer-pleasing and personality-driven stories – “not deconstructing balance sheets or figuring out risks” – seems part of the problem.