Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Doom and gloom

Had Chris Morris not been given the go ahead to film the The Day Today episode where he announces "It's War!" (YouTube) ("The stretched twig of peace is at.. melting point." Ha!) he would have filmed a similar episode where he proclaimed, "It's Recession!". That much we know.

For recession is one of the few times when the press play a greater than half-share in making the news.

When I was at uni, and flirting with a career in international journalism I went to a graduate recruitment presentation by Reuters. One of the people leading the talk opted to illustrate with an example what the job was all about. He related how one day George Bush had off the cuff made a minor, equivocal comment about the US economy whilst preoccupied with other matters on a state visit to Italy. The Reuters people in Italy picked up on this and reported it as a big story. This story rocketed around the world unaltered - i.e. just the raw facts with no analysis as to whether there might be any substance beyond the childish ruminations of a befuddled president - and share prices began to plummet. About 36 hours later Alan Greenspan was forced to deliver a statement to the effect that the US economy wasn't in crisis and that the world wasn't ready to end just yet.

After relating this story the Reuters rep turned to the audience beaming. "As you can see," he said, "what we do here at Reuters really does make an impact."

What! You nearly cause a financial meltdown because of sloppy, knee-jerk reporting? And you're proud of that! That is the single example you've chosen to represent how crucial your work is. I dread to think what other calamities they've nearly foisted on the world if that was the one to be most proud of. I was always taught (always - every morning, before breakfast) that Chernobyl was caused by Russian scientists carrying out tests without proper safeguards; that the Exxon Valdez ran aground on rocks; that the famine in Ethiopia was caused by a number of dry years and exacerbated by civil strife... but I wouldn't discount the hand of global news corp Reuters behind it all.

So anyway, a very long-winded way of saying that surely I can't be the only one to wonder if booms and busts would happen at all without the media. (Yes there would be up and down fluctuations, but if so much is dependent on consumer and market confidence, would they ever reach mammoth proportions?). And that Land Securities, for one, don't seem too shaken, so a few London buildings should still get built.

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