Monday, March 23, 2009

This Economic Downturn is Different

This weekend I was struck by the level of desperation in the reporting on the U.S. economic downturn in the Washington Post. Nearly every section of the paper was dominated by this bad news and worse prospects, from politics to business and even the normally style and food sections. Soon we will see articles on garbage bag fashions and stone soup recipes.

Perhaps this pessimism is warranted by the sheer scale of the problem, and the unfortunate results from the cures being attempted. But I think another factor in the reporting is that it comes during the final gasps of paid journalism as we know it. Reporters are not just sitting on the sidelines and excoriating the rich and the greedy. Unlike previous recessions, they don't have to go far to talk to people who have been laid off. They just have to visit the cube next door.

Therefore, the economic crisis is up close and personal for reporters, and the sense of desperation is real. Will this new perspective lead to better, more accurate, or at least more interesting reporting? Will the reporting make the recession last longer? Only time will tell.

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