News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Friday, December 3, 2010

Read any big news stories lately? Would you know it if you did?

How do you read a news story about the Federal Reserve handing out $3.3 trillion, yes, trilllion, in bail-out money?  If you take a look at the blogs, many of whom assign to Obama the social disease of bailouts, along with his Kenyan birth and personal distribution of AIDS to his Third World cohorts, you find that they probably don't read such stories at all.  That's probably because they are not a Sarah Palin Twitter and, therefore, have no relevance to the world they occupy.  And if they did note and understand the magnitude of the story, they probably chose to ignore it because it is such a huge piece of evidence of who is getting American's money, while the unemployment rate keeps rising and the middle class is systematically being transformed to a poverty class.

 And with all the criticism of the legacy media you seldom find a blogger with enough journalistic savvy to know what is journalism and what is Fox News efforts at mind control.  But the story of the $3.3 trillion came out a few days ago, and it appeared in only the major newspapers or their online editions.  Cable news couldn't handle it.  And the newspapers had their issues in the way they tried to present the importance of the story.  Ryan Chittum of the Columbia Journalism Review took a look at the way the story was handled, and analyzed the news presentations of the story this way: 

The Federal Reserve is forced by Congress to reveal who it secretly bailed out with trillions of dollars in loans. Yesterday it releases the documents, which reveal that:
— Foreign banks were the biggest recipients of the Term Auction Facility and Term Securities Lending Facility bailout loans numbering in the trillions of dollars
— The Fed took on more than a trillion dollars of toxic assets as collateral
— Too-big-to-fail banks that insisted they were healthy and didn’t really need our money and who paid out massive bonuses a year later really did need our money
— The bailouts extended to big, non-financial companies like McDonald’s and Verizon
— Even with all this, the Fed refused to detail the collateral for nearly a trillion dollars in loans (something that Yves Smith shows seems to violate the law)
How do you play a story like that?
Below the fold on page one if you’re The New York Times. Lead page one story across five columns if you’re the Financial Times and lead story if you’re the Washington Post (yay!)
Stuffed inside on C1 if you’re The Wall Street Journal (and fifth in A1’s Business & Finance column items). There’s no excuse for not putting this on page one, but the WSJ does devote four pieces to the story, compared to two from the FT and Times and one from the WaPo. Only a couple of these—a Times piece about AIG and the WaPo one, mention the word collateral.
I understand that there’s a lot already in the public domain about the emergency loan programs, but it’s important to take a step back on this. We’ve become inured to stuff that was unthinkable a few years ago. Think about how awesome (in the old sense of the word) this bailout was, how stark the contrast between what the banks got and what struggling homeowners got (the shaft), and how much risk the Fed took in our name and in secret. It’s too easy to succumb to a sort of savvy complacency here, but the press has to fight that urge.
For my money (which is ironic, because these are the two outlets here which have never got a dime from me), some of the best coverage comes from Bloomberg and—dare I say it—The Huffington Post.

Read the rest of the story at the Columbia Journalism Review.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States