Friday, January 2, 2009

News media ignored economic collapse

From the 05 January 2009 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

Since November of 2007 I’ve been telling not only my coworkers, but my readers and listeners as well, that our country was in a recession. It’s too bad that I was one of the few ringing the bell when it first needed to be rung. It’s even more unfortunate, especially for our nation’s collective financial security, that the mainstream news media - cable news and national and metropolitan newspapers – failed to educate the masses on what was happening in our economy. Not until the whole world fell apart in September did the news outlets place a greater emphasis on economics.

By then it was much too late.

In the days since, the stock and financial markets collapsed and most businesses found themselves ill-prepared for what befell them. Almost overnight, they fell into crisis mode, unable to handle the sudden lack of credit and/or customers. A good many businesses, all of them recently vibrant, have been forced to layoff millions or shutter their doors. Plant closures and downsizings have been inordinately high, even in the once-indestructible automotive and chemical industries. The collapse of retail establishments has been greater: Some 160,000 retailers have closed shop in recent months and nearly a quarter million more have been pegged to do the same in 2009.

As the businesses failed (and fail), so have their one-time workers. Millions of individuals are now jobless. Positions that they thought were careers became but blips on the radar of their lives. Cast into a job market with millions more workers in supply than demand, they have only a slim chance of finding a decent income anytime in the next two, three years. Had they known, they could have done much over 2008 to batten down the hatches and ready themselves for the inevitable if not unthinkable.

Similarly, the retired were not informed that the mother of all recessions was upon us. Had they some inkling that we were in a world of hurt they could have pulled out some of their investments in the Spring or Summer before they lost huge amounts of their value in the Fall of 2008. But, they didn’t see it coming.

This suddenly crept up on most Americans because the populace was led astray for most of 2008. The national print press and trusted broadcast sources like CNN, Fox News and their brethren focused their efforts on fluffy news. They put all their best reporters and a vast percentage of their airtime on the celebrity worship that we call the presidential campaign. For every day of every month for what seemed like the longest, most drawn out campaign in American history (which it was, running from January of 2007 to November of 2008), you could not escape the bombast that was spewed by the candidates or the pundits who analyzed their every word, as relentlessly repeated as they were. You could not turn on primetime news without hearing Obama-this or McCain-that. More often than not, prior to the Fall bankruptcies and bailouts, economic news was hidden, pushed way back in the pages or left to many television minutes after being inundated with the useless political analysis of the nightly news.

That’s why you need to be very careful where you get your information. Don’t rely only on CNN or just Fox. Watch other news stations. Read newspapers, either in print or online. Open your mind to the vast information network on the web. But, tread lightly. Even academia cannot be fully trusted. The economists who now provide sound bites to news agencies are many of the very same who have derided my column over the past year-plus. The most spiteful hate mail I’ve received is not when I’ve written about controversial issues. Instead, it arrives after I’ve written about economic factors. When I first wrote of the impending economic collapse professors and educated economists from across the US blasted me for my supposed ignorance. They sounded almost McCain-like, saying that the fundamentals of the economy were sound. Ultimately, their theory-bred outlook failed to what I was seeing in the real world.

So, basically, you need a wide-variety of trustworthy sources in order to properly ascertain what’s going in the economy. You can count on your hometown newspaper as one of those sources. Business and economics have been recurring themes in my columns. In 2009 they will become the dominant themes, perhaps more than three-quarters of my columns. Hot button issues like energy, the environment, education and international affairs will take a backseat this year as we weather these unprecedented and downright frightening times.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bob the American news media is the worst information gathering/disemination institution in the world, it is the antithesis of Alexandria, Egypt. Your right to say that sourcing your info. from multiple sources is the correct way to be informed.