Top 10 Articles
Is Journalism Too Pro-Business?
Aug 24, 2010
As I no longer subscribe to the New York Times (I'll let Joseph Epstein explain), I am late in discovering this astonishing essay by Chrystia Freeland, global editor at large for Reuters. According to Freeland's evidence, the allegation is going around that business journalists are too favorable to their subjects. In fact, it seems that this thesis is exemplified by three best-selling novels (called the Millenium trilogy) written by a Swedish socialist who was himself a business journalist. (I confess that I had not heard of them, having given up on pop culture circa 1965.)
Inasmuch as Freeland's essay appears in the newspaper that publishes Gretchen Morgenson, one of the most viciously anti-business reporters now writing, the author could neither concede the charge (because it is so obviously false) nor refute it by citing Morgenson's bias (and destroying the Times's claim to objectivity). Thus, what Freeland argues is that business journalism is too personal, because it attempts to explain large-scale economic events such as the financial meltdown as the work of individuals. "The bigger, more complicated truth about the financial crisis," she says, "is that it wasn’t caused by evil businessmen. The overarching story is one of systemic failure, not individual wrongdoing."
Well, Miss Freeland is on the trail of something, but I'm afraid she hasn't quite reached the end of her journey. It is true that the financial crisis, the housing bubble, the Internet bubble, and the Great Depression were not caused by evil businessmen. But it is false that they were not, ultimately, caused by the behavior of individuals. Nearly every significant change in a society can ultimately be traced back to the behavior of certain individuals--if you know where to look for them. If the change is technological, one looks among the technologists and the scientists behind them. If the change is cultural, one looks among the culturati and the intelligentsia behind them. And if the change is in a nation's political economy, one looks among the economic regulators and the legislators behind them. The history of an economy need not be bloodless, or devoid of clashes between good and evil, but one needs a proper moral code in order to get the story straight.