|As a transplanted East Coaster, I’ve long chuckled over the Los Angeles media’s coverage of weather. The mere prospect of rain always incites some version of “Storm Watch,” warning all of us to take cover from the coming natural disaster – which more often than not manifests in a light shower versus a downpour. Of course, outside of the desert Southwest, rain is a non-event. In Southern California, however, its mere scarcity over-stimulates bored news producers.
Is that what’s happening with the media and the recession? Are producers over-playing bad news because it’s so uncommon? Lots of people think so. And they’re quick to draw the conclusion that all of the drama around the reading of monthly unemployment statistics, for example, is actually exacerbating the situation. Fuel on the fire, so to speak. I’ve even heard some attribute the recession to the media. They reason that we’d all be out there spending, just like we did before the financial crisis, in the absence of the media’s insistence on doom and gloom.
It’s a real stretch to blame toxic assets on TV, newspapers and the Internet. Some are on the other side of this argument, wondering why it took the media so long to recognize the enormity of the situation. But we all had our heads in the sand, and until reality set in, the stuff of economists didn’t typically get our juices flowing. Leave the financial reporting to Bloomberg News …
We find ourselves now overnight experts on market behavior. Securitized mortgages, bailouts, deficits and derivatives are part of our everyday lexicon. My teenager knows what the GNP was last quarter. When AIG is more sensational than Octomom, the financial reporter is no longer the nerd in the newsroom. Is our abrupt education in the ways of global economies borne of genuine interest, concern, fear or sensationalism? How much of this emotion is media-driven, and how should we respond to the relentless recession-babble?
When we’re on Storm Watch, I usually smirk, and then throw an umbrella in my car. Maybe that’s how we should respond to Market Meltdown. Wonder over the drama of it all, and then take some action. If you’re lucky enough to enjoy financial security, then think about how you might reallocate your assets to stimulate jobs. If you’re behind on your mortgage, research some of the remedies that banks are starting to entertain. If you’re job hunting, contact one more person who might point you toward new employment. Do something to channel all that hyperbole into something meaningful. The media’s there to tell a story. Like all stories, put this one in perspective, and use the hype as a catalyst for action.