Lauding ‘Those Who Chose to Look’ at Economic Crisis

By now it’s old news to any reasonably critical observer that corporate outlets’ “business reporters failed to see the crisis in the mortgage and credit markets as it brewed and bubbled,” as former City Limits editor Alyssa Katz puts it (, 9/14/09), but Katz also gives props to others who noticed how “evidence of its unsustainability was plain to see for those who chose to look”:

The fact is, and as immodest as it may seem to say, independents were repeatedly ahead of the curve on covering the mortgage and real estate bubble and in connecting the dots between vital elements of the bigger storyâ┚¬”especially the links between predatory and lending and the metastasizing mortgage-backed securities market.

In 2002, the Nation warned that the mortgage-backed securities marketâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s bottomless appetite for subprime mortgages was financing an epidemic of destructive lending. In 2003, Southern Exposure exhaustively documented Citigroupâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s move into the mass production of high-interest loans designed to drain borrowers’ meager wealth. In 2005, Mother Jones assigned me to find out why the streets of Cleveland were lined with vacant houses. A reasonable question, and I found the answers on the Wall Street credit securities market. Indeed, all through this period, alt-weeklies told tales found in living rooms and legal services offices of homeowners who had believed a mortgage brokerâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s misleading sales pitch and wound up facing foreclosure.

Examining “the fact” that “independent journalists exposed the dimensions of the problem with a depth and timeliness that mainstream news organizations simply and regrettably did not match,” Katz thinks “it’s not about being better journalists; it is about being tuned to a different audience and set of interests.” Read FAIR’s magazine Extra!: “Busted Bubble: The Press Fell Down on the Job on Housing Prices” (11â┚¬“12/08) by Veronica Cassidy.