Balancing good and evil

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Americans’ perception of the world at large is unbalanced. If something is not in the media, it is ignored.

However, if the media sensationalizes something, people go into a panic mode. There is no happy medium and no balance. The media is the puppet master pulling our strings.

The economy had been steadily declining for years under the Bush administration. Gas prices doubled within a short span of time. Groceries became increasingly expensive. People lost jobs as small companies folded. Yet, people ignored it. They continued spending money and carrying on with life as usual.

Then Washington Mutual and other banks, like investment house Lehman Brothers, toppled. A media hurricane swirled around the disaster. It was just like Y2K, only better. There was more than just speculation of disaster. There was proof. Nothing sells more than a catastrophe.

Washington Mutual made bad business practices. They overextended themselves with bad mortgages, overvaluing the worth of homes and lending to people who couldn’t afford the loan payments. Yet, their demise was the symbolic beginning of this economic crisis.

One must contemplate where we would be if the media had been more proactive about reporting the steady decline of the economy leading up to Washington Mutual’s collapse. Perhaps if people had been warned and had been able to congregate, brainstorm and demand solutions from the presidential administration, we wouldn’t be in such a dismal state today.

Or, maybe if the media had brushed off Washington Mutual as an anomaly, people would have kept spending money and we could have continued limping along in denial just a bit longer.

Having to compete with Hollywood new releases and reality TV shows is something that the media has struggled with for a while now. They think they need to use sensationalism, stretching the truth, to attract viewers. But it’s due to the sensationalism that no one trusts the media.

The economic crisis should have been predicted and prevented by the presidential administration first and foremost. But it’s the media’s job to let the people know when the government is not doing a good job. That way there can be an intervention before hundreds of thousands of people lose their jobs and their homes.

But now, everywhere you turn, there’s almost nothing but news on the economic crisis provoking fear. People are too scared to spend money and, as a result, the economy continues to worsen. The media needs solutions, not just scare tactics. The media also needs to ensure accurate and fair reporting.

Since the fall of Washington Mutual, people have lost faith in financial institutions. Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank were two of the strongest banks because they didn’t get involved with bad loans like Washington Mutual, but recently have been leading the decline in stock values.

A few weeks ago news articles reported that upon receiving bailout money Wells Fargo decided to treat the higher-ups to a wild time on the Las Vegas strip.

What the reporters failed to mention was that the trip had been bought and paid for well in advance of even considering to accept bailout money, that the trip was for managers who stayed in a small hotel off the strip and that the point was to convene with Wachovia, the bank Wells Fargo purchased months prior.

As a result of the sensationalist journalism, faith in banks plummeted further. To maintain good public relations, Wells Fargo also canceled their award trip for low-level banking employees. These employees were top bankers who won a trip to Hawaii in February. The trip was bought and paid for last summer and the money is nonrefundable, but it was canceled nevertheless so the media wouldn’t blow it out of proportion.

U.S. Bank followed in Wells Fargo’s footsteps, accepting bailout money and canceling trips. An award trip for top performing low-level banking employees was bought and paid last year for Cancun, Mexico, in March. Even though the money was not refundable, the trip was canceled to avoid a media fiasco.

Employees who had worked hard to exceed expectations feel disappointed and betrayed. They had already scheduled time off for the vacations and started making preparations. Some of these proficient bankers quit on the spot. Some have lost heart. This is the price of sensationalist journalism. It’s not the head honchos that pay. It’s the little guys.

We need a media that dons neither rose-colored glasses nor the dark veil of fear. We need a media that lays out all the facts and allows the rest of us to sort out the implications. We need balance.

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