“no shit, Sherlock.” Of course, as a business writer himself, Plummer dances around the root cause, while still identifying many symptoms of the illness:
“Business journalists have always been bedeviled by an inescapable conflict — they’re largely promoting the very subject they cover.”
“To meet growing demand, media companies expanded business news staffs in the past decade, only to scale back in many cases when the economy retreated.”
“In the late 1990s, Bloomberg was the news source for the investment community…. More than any other media organization, critics say, Bloomberg led the drumbeat that drowned out cautious reasoning prior to the Nasdaq’s crash.”
“Industry and company stories during the bull market were based largely on observations of a since wholly discredited group – Wall Street analysts.”
“many [business journalists] lack the basic knowledge to perform their jobs.”
Certainly, all these things are true. But only the first reason begins to strike at the core of the problem: media companies are big business themselves. What incentive do they have to question all the same assumptions and presumptions that drive their own profits? NONE. Just as individuals those business reporters have got investments in all those companies they report on — their riches are at stake. Would you poop in your own dog bowl?
It amazes me how well we as a public can be brainwashed by the predominant “free market” pro-business ideology of the last 20 years that we will simply ignore outright obvious common sense in favor of this ideology. Here we rely on media conglomerates to keep us informed about what’s going on in corporate America, and to even expose scandals and corporate crimes, when they’re corporations themselves, nose-deep in the same shit. No mainstream politician or corporate shill would ever suggest that prison inmates should also be responsible to guard the prison.
Yet somehow we reasonably expect corporate media to keep a watchful eye on corporate behavior? Why are we surprised?
The only reason we see anything approaching critical and investigative reporting on criminals like Enron and WorldCom is because they’re too big to ignore or wish away. If they’re to maintain their image as actual watchful journalists they have to pay attention to the crimes that slap us in the face. But we also then see all the rhetoric about how these criminals are the exception, or about how necessary it is for business to police itself to restore the faith of the American public. Bullshit. Just like a den of thieves, they don’t mind when one gets taken down because it deflects scrutiny on their own misdeeds, and gives them more time to bury the corpses in the backyard. And don’t think that the Tribune Company, Viacom, GE, and their compatriots don’t have stacks of corpses somewhere.
Want some real, honest and truly critical business reporting? You’ll have to look outside of the corporate press. But be prepared, because what you’ll see ain’t pretty.