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Ann Pettifor

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For Today's Media the Economic Crisis Is Yesterday's Story

Posted: 10/07/09 03:51 PM ET

Could it be that all those 'top stories' in the media are just for the top people?

The media -- with the Huffington Post an honorable exception -- appears to have a blind spot for the suffering of Joe, the now chronically unemployed plumber, and an equal disregard for Josephine, that hard-working homeowner who was evicted from her foreclosed home.

According to a broad survey of print, broadcast and online media by the Pew Research Center, the media has lost interest in stories that go beyond Washington and New York -- including coverage of the suffering of millions of everyday Americans living the reality of this economic crisis.

So perhaps it's not surprising that "Covering the Great Recession -- How the Media Have Depicted the Economic Crisis" has been largely ignored by the media itself. After all, their major concerns, it seems, are with the few in banking, institutions and big business, not with the many enduring the pain of the crisis.

"Covering the Great Recession" shows that while news of billions of dollars for bank bail-outs, the administration's stimulus, and the auto industry dominated, people in the media were far less engrossed in the issue that affects the lives of millions of Americans: unemployment.

News of job losses, according to Pew's research "filled just 6% of the newshole."

Having a roof over their heads is of immense importance to people across the country. And given the high burden of debt borne by most homeowners, movements in house prices are of nail-biting concern. Furthermore mortgage defaults and falling house prices were both the trigger of the crisis, and have since been in the very eye of the financial storm.

Yet housing and foreclosures made up just 6 percent of the total economic newshole and the high-water mark of media coverage of housing issues occurred back in February.

One can only assume that the media considers the housing and foreclosure crisis over.

While bankers continually grabbed the media limelight, stories exposing the devastating impact of this "Bankers Recession" on ordinary Americans were reflected in only 5 percent of the economic coverage by news media that the Pew Research Center tracked.

The bankruptcies and failures of the industries that grow, make, produce and distribute the goods and services vital to the real economy, barely got a look-in from the press: only 4 percent of coverage.

Our ongoing 'Bankers' Recession' is a top-down crisis, and unsurprisingly it turns out that this crisis is reported by the media in a top-down way. While we hear a lot about bank bail-outs in Washington and stock market moves in New York , there is far too little about the debt virus that is mutating into a pandemic of bankruptcies, foreclosures and unemployment in the inner cities, suburbs and rural areas outside of these two conurbations.

While the media keep us informed of measures to bail out the rich and powerful, with good tidings of how those at the top are recovering from the crisis, there is little about the suffering of people in the middle and at the bottom.

This might help to explain the widespread confusion as to what is really going on in the economy.

And it might explain why, despite the fact that a quarter of a million Americans lost their jobs last month, many have been persuaded by the media that the recession is yesterday's story.

 

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