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The Economic Mess and Journalism

Websters.com defines Solipsism as “extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings, desires, etc.; egoistic self-absorption.” That really is the only term that I can think of to describe this Frederick News-Post editorial.

A U.S. Senate hearing of Jan. 21 on the financial crisis asks, “Where were the watchdogs?” Well, don’t look anytime soon for the traditional watchdogs to be on the lookout, as the newspaper industry falters more each day, scraping by with fewer resources at the same time it faces loomingly larger responsibilities.

As the traditional model of the newspaper industry continues to be degraded, our very democracy is threatened. How can newspapers be expected to serve as vigilant watchdogs when economic factors and insane banking practices slaughter major newspapers seemingly daily?

The very financial institutions that need watching the most are the ones responsible for pressuring newspapers out of existence. Does anyone out there see the irony?

Joe Leiberman asked, “Is the existing U.S. financial regulatory system adequately equipped to protect consumers, investors, and our economy?” A new report from the Government Accountability Office “lays out a very persuasive case that the answer to that big question is ‘no.'”

Our very democracy is threatened by the fact that journalism, and specifically time-honored print journalism, is facing economic hardships that the industry may not survive. Layer on top of these dramatic industry changes this current economic crisis, and join the predictors of the newspapers’ demise.

The FNP editors believe that the failing banks are punishing the newspapers they have lent to by forcing newspapers out of business and thus there are no watchdogs left.

This newspaper actually believes that because newspapers report news that might be harmful or critical of the banking system, that the banking system is out to get them. I am sorry, but that is the height of egotism. This newspaper is of the mindset that the financial and business crisis in the newspaper industry led to the demise of our financial system. Could there be connections? Maybe, I don’t know enough to say for certain, but based on what I see, there are no causal connections.

Print media has been hammered by the rise of internet reporting, fast access, less than 24 hour newscycle cable news and interet reporting for long before our financial system began melting down. Would the financial mess have been headed off or made less worse if we knew about it from newspapers earlier? Perhaps, but unlikely.

Is journalism a watchdog in our society? Yes, I would say that journalism, whether in the august print medium the FNP lauds or the new, internet based media is a watchdog of government and society as a whole. There were lots of people raising red flags about the shaky financial structures in America and most of them were not journalists, but experts and insiders. The early information about the cracks in the structures were not from beat reporters but from people who reported directly to the world. The ease of putting ideas and information directly into the public sphere has rendered the printed newspaper a little less necessary than it used to be. The people that once were the “Deep Throats” and other sources for newspaper writers can now go straight to the public forum and be heard.

This editorial though highlights the problem of American print journalism–they have an over inflated sense of their place in the world.






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