Journalists Examine Cable News’ Role in Financial Crisis

By kevin 

TVNewser was up at the space-station that is the Bloomberg building yesterday for the “Covering the Crisis” panel moderated by author and journalist Michael Lewis. The event was co-hosted by Bloomberg and Vanity Fair, and both Bloomberg media CEO Andy Lack and VF editor Graydon Carter addressed the crowd beforehand.

The panel brought together several noteworthy financial journalists to discuss their perspectives of the events of the last year.

Bloomberg TV’s Margaret Brennan facilitated the audience Q&A, but first had an interesting question of her own: what role did financial cable news play in all this?

NYT’s Andrew Ross Sorkin said he watched “countless hours of television to see what people were talking about at the time,” while doing research for his book “Too Big to Fail.” He said he believes cable news did have a big impact: “It was the TV and the actual personalization of it — the actual watching another human being say it — that I think actually changed the resonance for people. I will say it did push the panic…because it was human.”

Bryan Burrough, author of “Barbarians at the Gate,” criticized some of the reporting on Bear Stearns: “The fact is, you guys just had too much time to fill and there were too many places where you can point to irresponsible speculation. Your job — you, a TV journalist — is not to reflect. There may be guys running around the 7th floor opening windows and panicking, you’re job is not to say ‘Gosh Wall Street’s panicking,’ it’s to look at facts.”

Niall Ferguson, Harvard professor and author of “Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World,” had a much different take. “I don’t think you should worry about this actually,” he said. “I think it’s a nonstory, because actually although the instantaneous availability of televised information, the vast explosion of information is a very striking feature of our times and we’re always commenting on it, it doesn’t actually appear to change the nature of financial crisis.”

“This is the medium,” he added. “The medium has changed, but the message, the rumor…that’ll get around, even if by word of mouth.”

In addition to the big names on stage, there were number of big names in the crowd, including PBS host Charlie Rose, whose show, which tapes in the building, is now rebroadcast on Bloomberg. Brennan spotted Morgan-Stanely CEO John Mack in the audience and actually asked him to weigh in on whether the story of his company has been told fairly.

“The media did a pretty good job on this story, not just Morgan Stanley,” Mack said. But he admitted that the relentless coverage and speculation on cable could sometimes be a bit much for him.

The entire panel will be rebroadcast tonight on Bloomberg at 7pm and 9pmET.