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Editorial: In Economy’s Dive, TV News Triumphed

Sep 28, 2008  •  Post A Comment

At deadline, the verdict was out on how, exactly, the federal government would act to minimize the financial shockwaves endangering the U.S. economy. But we can hand out a grade on how the TV news industry performed in covering the crisis: It’s a solid “A.”
Cable news networks and morning and evening broadcast news shows lived up to the highest aspirations of TV news, delivering information that educated the public. In turn, those voters raised their voices and participated in the political process, guiding the outcome.
The unfolding of the story provided a storyline that any producer worth his or her salt could only dream of: Some of the biggest names on Wall Street go down in flames and the market tanks. The executive branch proposes a $700 billion bailout that put taxpayers on the hook for the mistakes of the ultra-wealthy and the market soars. Members of Congress demand protections for taxpayers and the market tanks again. An agreement in principal is reached and the market soars again.
If Major League Baseball could deliver a World Series with this many ups and downs, the sport’s ratings would go through the roof.
And so it went with the cable news networks that covered each turn of the screw. CNBC (its most opinionated personalities aside), CNN, Bloomberg TV and Fox Business Channel covered an unprecedented crisis in an even-handed manner. CNBC in particular deserves recognition for breaking news ahead of print and wire services.
Collectively, the cable news networks did in real time what TV news people always strive for: informing the citizenry so it can influence the decisions of elected representatives.
The proof in the pudding in this case was the flood of comments from politicians who said constituents were outraged by the initial terms of the proposed bailout. That anger trickled back up the political chain and resulted in a negotiation that eliminated the blank-check aura that hung over the initial proposal.
So, out of abysmal financial dysfunction, news organizations rose to the challenge. Hats off to the TV journalists who proved their value to a public that uses our medium more than ever to monitor the status of their investments.

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