Is ‘chicken little’ journalism missing the mark?

The panic on Wall Street certainly seems real following the U.S. House vote Monday against a $700 billion bailout plan for ailing financial institutions. A 777-point drop of the Dow Jones index was the largest one-day fall ever, and the blame game ratchets up with another vote possible later in the week.

But should the media shoulder some of the blame for the hysterics? Howard Owens thinks so, saying that a gullible mainstream press corps hasn’t done its job questioning Bush Administration claims of imminent recesssion without a bailout:

“You would think that a press corps that believed itself badly burned by Bush on Iraq would be a little more skeptical of the president now. It might demonstrate just how firmly entrenched Lippmann’s brand of official source journalism is in most reporters’ minds.

That would be Walter Lippmann, the famous 20th century columnist who strove for an elitist strain of objectivity to counter the yellow journalism of his time. Owens asserts the modern-day press has turned into lapdogs on the bailout, following Lippmann’s prescription that a reporter “should merely regurgitate the facts as observed or offered up by official sources.”

As for the actual coverage of Monday’s colossal day on Wall Street, Alan Mutter found that the mainstream press was outdone by Matt Drudge:

“It is true that Drudge depends enormously on the mainstream media to populate his site. If the MSM suddenly dried up and blew away, Drudge wouldn’t have nearly as much to Report.

“But with all due respect to the penetrating stories, elegant writing and dazzling multimedia presentations the mainstream media create, they can’t get the hang of delivering breaking news when their readers/viewers – and potential reader/viewers – most crave instant enlightenment.

“By effectively conceding this opportunity to sites like Drudge, the mainstream media forfeit in significant measure their value and credibility, which, in turn, will constrain future audience growth and revenue prospects.

“When are they going to learn how to compete?”

And there’s this: Should the newspaper industry get a bailout? And if so, who might do it? And how would it be done?

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