Brauchli: Newspapers Warned Readers of Economic Crisis

By Strupp, Joe | Editor & Publisher, October 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Brauchli: Newspapers Warned Readers of Economic Crisis


Strupp, Joe, Editor & Publisher


Don't tell Marcus Brauchli that U.S. newspapers haven't been properly warning about the current financial crisis for years.

Brauchli, executive editor of The Washington Post and former managing editor and longtime veteran of The Wall Street Journal, says coverage of the coming tide of economic woes, stemming largely from the mortgage and credit crisis, dates back more than a decade.

"There was a lot of coverage over many years about the underlying problems in the financial system and the economy," said Brauchli, who joined the Post just weeks ago after more than two decades at the Journal -- including a year in the top editor's post. "If you go back and look at the big American newspapers, you will see it, going back to 1996 when Alan Greenspan coined the phrase 'irrational exuberance.'"

Brauchli's comments come as several major financial institutions have either been taken over or filed for bankruptcy -- along with Monday's 777-point Dow Jones drop. Some observers have pointed to news outlets and asked if they properly covered the coming problems, while others wondered how much was predictable.

"There were good stories throughout, good stories about the risks," Brauchli added. "The truth is, there was always skeptical coverage by the major newspapers. The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, all have written about these issues. The scale of derivatives, the rapid growth of unregulated, over-the-counter securities, the risk in financial institutions."

A search of stories dating back several years found prime examples in several major papers of forewarning. Among them:

* An Oct. 8, 2003 Journal story by Patrick Barta and John D. McKinnon that discussed tougher regulations sought for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: "The two companies have been under intense scrutiny since June, when Freddie Mac fired three of its top executives amid an accounting scandal, causing critics to call for stricter oversight. …

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