Local Media Oblivious to Credit Reality

Like most blogs, this blog often takes up space discussing the media, but I don’t like to think of this site as a media watchdog, particularly.  If the media is discussed, it’s often because in order to discuss the story adequately, the media’s role in it is necessary background.  I criticize local media even less because, frankly, I don’t pay attention to much of it.  Often on issues of national import, where a great opportunity lies to make those issues local, the opportunity is missed by a media culture that chooses to view Rochester as exceptional.

And if there’s one issue in particular where the local media adds no value – and in some cases, seems to have actively engaged in doing the Rochester public a disservice – it is the subprime lending crisis, which has now bloomed into the global credit crunch. This story has been out there for a year and a half, but you’d never know it by the local media coverage.

When the shit really started hitting the fan and the story became impossible not to cover about eight months or so ago, the story locally became about those people in California and elsewhere.  The D&C, in particular, ran stories claiming that because we don’t have the swings in real estate values other places had, we’d be just fine.  Rochester, we were told, was exceptional in that way.  We’re just a sleepy little town that the “Big Issues” don’t affect.  We’re not like California, heavens no!

When reports came out on how Rochester and Monroe County were being affected, the local media promptly reported that the report came out. . . .  no analysis, no deeper coverage, no exploration of the places affected by the Subprime foreclosure rate, just a report that the report happened.  No one noticed, for example, that foreclosure rates bloomed not only in the inner city (as is in keeping with the obliquely racist and classist narrative on the national level), but in the outlying suburbs as well, particularly on the east side.  It might have been illuminating to Rochestarians to know that it wasn’t just a poor people problem, it wasn’t just a brown people problem.  It might have prepared them for what’s come next if they’d known how big a problem this really was and is.

And now that the credit crisis has moved into a new and more malignant phase, freezing global credit markets and causing Wall Street to tumble, the story has moved to the Business section, where it can be once again ignored.  The direct line that could be traced from Medon, through JP Morgan Chase, through Avenida D, through – yes – California, and through Washington was never traced.  Best of all, this morning, the creme de la creme of benighted journalism steped in with the following doozie:

Markets oblivious to rate cut | | Democrat and Chronicle

For the second consecutive day, the Federal Reserve took action in hopes of staving off a global financial collapse. And again U.S. financial markets failed to calm, extending losses for a sixth straight day while shrugging off a Fed-led, globally coordinated half-point cut in interest rates.

. . .

“The fundamental problem here is around expectations and around psychology,” said economist Kent Gardner, chief executive of the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester. “The interest rate cut will stimulate demand to some degree. They’re trying to calm the waters.”

Wow.  It’s the Markets that are oblivious, are they?

Imagine this: you go to Gentile’s Farm Market in Penfield and discover that they’ve sold out of corn.  They announce to you that, in order to sell more corn, they’ve reduced the price by half a percentage point.  You leave and wait till there’s more corn to buy.  And the next day, the D&C puts out an article proclaiming “Local Corn Consumers Oblivious to Corn Price Reduction.”

If there’s nothing to buy, the price doesn’t matter.  There’s a credit freeze sweeping the planet – banks are afraid to lend even to other banks, hence there is now or soon will be no credit for the rest of us.  It’s as simple as that.  Meanwhile, the rate cut is there to protect the *financial* markets, not Wall Street.  Normal lending and borrowing are not conducted on the Stock Market: stocks are sold on the Stock Market.  ((Sheesh, I would have thought that fucking-a obvious.))  Further, if companies are maintaining profits by holding investments – and many do – then those holdings may be now worthless and the stocks must necessarily fall in value.

But the local media has gone to such lengths to bury their collective heads – and our own – in the sand on this issue, it’s not difficult to imagine that they’re bound to be uninformed.  Local media continues to be noticeably absent on the issue, preferring instead to rebroadcast wire stories without the slightest context.  The crisis continues to be treated like just another Business Section non-issue that people don’t care about.

The D&C for it’s part has been studiously unwitted in its modicum of reporting and now, after years of supporting Republican candidates and swallowing Republican talking points, they remain true to type and adopt the same faux-Populist outrage as their Conservative political counterparts.  They now write headlines which seem to tremble with rage over the “oblivious” Wall Street.

There are no mysteries in the current crisis and no surprises.  All of this has been written on the wall for a long time, now, for those of us who cared to look.  What’s more, it’s been written on this blog, as I’ve done my best to try to report the goings on as they’ve happened.  I’m one guy with a day job and no real resources to speak of and as far as I can tell, I’m doing a vastly better job of reporting the issue than the entirety of Rochester media.  Prove me wrong, Ed.  I’m not saying I’m doing a great job – I’m not – I’m saying my half-assed job is embarrassing local media.

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.