Sunday, November 16, 2008

When the News is Too Complicated for the News Media

The economy is big news right now. We’re all absorbing as much of it as we can, but is it helping ... or hurting?

According to Poynter Institute Media Business Analyst Rick Edmonds, most newsrooms are doing their best to cover the ever-changing economic story, but it's so complex, it's almost a losing battle.

"Local reporters and certainly national reporters can definitely handle the 'how it's impacting individuals' angle," he says. "But let’s face it, trying to explain complicated financial economic terms is a losing game."

Realize that, if you have experience in the business world, or have a master's degree, you may well be able to understand the situation better than the reporter on your TV screen. Grab a book on economics or investing from your local library, and soon you'll be pointing out the flaws in the TV news.

Add on the fact that news is ratings-driven, and colorful words and dramatic headlines are the norm.

"It's a practice that has crept into coverage over the last decade," says Edmonds. "When there is a big story, ratings go up. You can’t just say, 'we're reporting on the war in Iraq,' you have to have a title for your coverage."

So what should consumers do to keep up-to-date on financial news?

"Having access to professionals in the financial industry is your best bet," says Edmonds.

Remember, the people on TV weren't hired for their understanding of complex economics. They were hired because they look good, and can use their voices in impressive ways. Get yourself an ECON 101 textbook, or a FINANCE 101 textbook, and ten minutes of reading will tell you more than a week's worth of the evening news on TV.