Press Coddles Banks With Pulled Punches
In July, when Richard Fuld was blaming rumormongers and short-sellers for troubles as Lehman Brothers, the Times ran a column by finance writer Andrew Ross Sorkin echoing his complaints and calling one of the rumors, that Barclays would acquire Lehman, "absurd." Today, with Barclays buying Lehman's U.S. operations, the Times is still siding with investment banks over investors, depositors and others who benefit from the free flow of information. Here's some data the paper won't be providing about the mess on Wall Street, according to an article it published today:
...said Lawrence Ingrassia, business editor of The Times. “We aren’t going to say, ‘Here are three or five institutions that might fail next week.’ It’s one thing to say an industrial company is having trouble paying its debts, and another thing to say it about a financial institution.”
The Wall Street Journal is also censoring itself on behalf of large banks. Its spokesman said the newspaper would "stay away from" the words "crash," "panic," "pandemonium" and "apocalypse."
And CNN is clamping down on words like "meltdown" and "free fall," according to its senior business correspondent Ali Velshi.
But this just makes the situation worse, by making these media outlets unreliable conduits of information. If investors can't count on the press to call a panic when it sees one, or to differentiate near-failing banks from healthy ones, they are all the more likely to assume a crash is impending when one isn't, or to flee a generally healthy institutions.
A feisty media is just one of many elements of free-market capitalism that investment banking executives find unbearably inconvenient now that they're on the losing end of the system. (Another would be the practice of short-selling.) That some business leaders have become wildly overpaid whiners is predictable. That the press continues to coddle them borders on unforgivable.