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Columbia Journalism Review

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Bernanke–the Wilderness Years:  Audit Deputy Chief Ryan Chittum writes that not long ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke issued a public call for congress and the president to pass another round of stimulus for the battered economy—and nobody noticed. Chittum noted a while back how odd it was that a press corps that likes to parse the Fed chairman’s every word for evidence of what he’s thinking, and which thought Alan Greenspan’s 2001 support of the Bush tax cuts was worth reams of coverage, and which has devoted front page story after front page story to the Two Old Guys’ Report on the deficit, somehow didn’t think Bernanke’s cry was that big a deal. Two weeks later, The Wall Street Journal finally gets around to it.

Inured to “Trillions”: The Federal Reserve is forced by Congress to reveal who it secretly bailed out with trillions of dollars in loans. How does the press play such a stunning story? In many case, surprisingly poorly.  Read Chittum on who gets it and  who doesn’t.  Preview: Huffington Post, Bloomberg do. Other big MSMers? Not so much.

WSJ Caught in an Overdraft: Chittum writes that back when the Federal Reserve adopted rules forcing banks to make customers opt in to overdraft “protection,” it looked like aggressive press coverage might break the back of a $40 billion a year scheme that charged 4,500 percent APRs for what were effectively short-term loans and hit poorer customers disproportionately. But The Wall Street Journal reported a few days ago that banking-industry consultant Moebs says that a stunning 75 percent of customers have opted in to overdraft protection, which would mean all those pieces about the demise of “free checking” may have been premature. Unfortunately, the Journal’s piece is a good example of how not to do a story.

BizPress, Examined: Chittum provides a smart roundup of what other writers, including The New Yorker’s John Cassidy’s, the Financial Times’s Gillian Tett, are saying about the  pathologies of the business press.

Expertise Overreach: CJR’s Peterson Fellow, Felix Salmon, notes that when Chris Whalen appeared on Tech Ticker with Henry Blodget; he said, in the accurate-if-sensationalist words of the Business Insider headline, that CALIFORNIA WILL DEFAULT ON ITS DEBT.  The interview was actually pretty intelligent and informative, by the standards of financial TV. But Brett Arends of Marketwatch didn’t like what he was hearing and decided to push back a bit with a few emailed questions, the results were illuminating

NYT Lags: Chittum says The New York Times is trying to play catchup with The Wall Street Journal, which has dominated the hedge-fund investigation story. But based on a recent day’s offerings from the Times, he doesn’t think  the WSJ is hearing footsteps just yet. http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/the_prosaic_mosaic_theory.php

Tweeting Rumors: Um, that’s a bad idea, says Chittum. He’s written before about how press standards tend to go wobbly when it comes to Apple gossip. Well, the NewarkStar-Ledger recently offered a stark example.

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