Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008 - 3 comments

The Sanctimonious NY Times

When I first saw David Carr’s piece, “Media and Retailers Built Black Friday,” I was somehow pleased that the NY Times was taking some of the responsibility for the tragic events that took place at this year’s After Thanksgiving Door Buster on Long Island. It just demonstrates my naïve nature, I guess.

Carr criticizes the media industry for inciting the public with strategies, maps, and so forth. He even specifically mentions a couple of other newspapers and a reporting service. Meanwhile, he notes that the NY Times’ coverage was much more sober, only talking about the grim economic situation. He quite correctly talks about the connected interest of the Media and the advertising that the retailers spend with them. But of course, the NY Times is above being influenced by such things. As I read the article, I was treated to an embedded ad on the web page.

I have one thing to say to Mr. Carr. The NY Times is just as responsible as any other media outlet for the anarchy of Black Friday. I would even go so far as to say that they [media outlets] are partially responsible for the current economic crisis.

Our economy is driven by the purchase of consumer goods. Like it; hate it. This is an undeniable fact. The reduction of consumer spending causes a recession. Reduce that spending enough, and there is a depression, period. Carr appears to think that it is unseemly to make purchases during an economic downturn, and that encouragement by other media outlets is irresponsible. What does he propose we do, sit in our little hovels next to a candle waiting for this crisis to pass? Why don’t we put all of our money in our mattresses while we’re at it?

Mr. Carr, consumer spending creates demand for manufacturing, which creates jobs, which creates need for support services, which creates jobs, which creates demand for housing, which causes real estate values to go up, etc. If everyone decides to stop participating, we’ll be in a depression faster than you can blink your eyes.

Of course, this does not explain the NY Times’ culpability in the craziness of last Friday. I suggest that the “sober reporting” of the NY Times produced a panic of sorts in and of itself. Dire warnings of what it means if the retailers don’t have a good Black Friday makes consumers that much more desperate to find the best deal they can. And how convenient, all the ads and specials are included in the center section of the paper. It’s almost like it’s a last chance situation before that last bit of ledge collapses beneath us. It fosters hopelessness. Who would not be desperate? What do they have to lose?

This leads directly to my assertion of the Media doing its part to create the conditions of this financial meltdown in the first place. In the environment of the 24-hour news cycle with so much competition between the cable news networks, broadcast, print media, and now the internet, the majority think that they have to turn everything into a crisis in order to attract an audience. (Maybe they do. All it’s done for me is to make me tune everything out.) Even the Weather Channel gets into the act where every weather event becomes the “Storm of the Century.” This causes two problems. The first is the “Boy Who Cried Wolf.” When the Media makes everything a crisis, people stop paying attention. Then, when there really is a crisis, panic ensues. The other problem is that the Media is not really trying to inform the public, but rather is screaming as loudly as possible over the voices of the others like a carnival pitchman to get the customer to look at them.

I’m not suggesting that the presentation of the news cannot or should not be interesting or entertaining. (I should think that these things aren’t mutually exclusive.) But, it’s primary purpose should be to inform the public, and it certainly dropped the ball with this financial crisis as badly as the intelligence services did prior to 9/11 or the existence of WMDs in Iraq. If the Media were doing its job rather than commenting on Paris Hilton’s undergarments or making fun of the way President Bush says “nuclear,” perhaps this financial disaster could have been averted.

And maybe not … It’s just a theory. ;)


I don't know about the media contributing to the economic crisis ...

I sure do agree about the endless panic mode!! Expecially when they do those little blurbs followed up by 'film at 11' - when the actual story comes on there really was no crisis - they were just pulling us in.

I think I also agree about the need for consumers to spend - I wish I knew more about economics to sound more intelligent, I just know what makes sense to me.

What I do wish is that consumers would spend more wisely and with better intentions. So much seems to be wrapped around bigger than anyone else, or things = love, not to mention being manipulated by ads.

The tragedy on LI appears to have many to blame ...

Wal-Mart clearly was not staffed correctly and they had NO security. this was illustrated by their sudden security presence the next day

Nassau County police were called to the line BEFORE the store ever opened by people ON the line.

Officers arrived, were told the line was getting unruly and, according to many there, stood around for a few minutes and then left

there was NO further police presence until the poor man was trampled

so even if all the other conditions prevailed leading up to Black Friday - and I fear they always will - this could have been prevented that day if ...

Wal-Mart were not so greedy and so fixated on its bottom line


if Nassau County police (among the highest paid in the country) had done their job

this was a great, thought provoking post lady!

We are all complicit in this current crisis, just as we will all be complicit in turning around the economy until the next economic downturn. Thus is the cycle of a capitalist democracy.

Those of us who are secure must spend, reasonably and responsibly. We needn't go nuts. One person can't spend for 10 or 20 others. But if we can afford to spend, then we must.

And we must stop the panic-speak of government and media. I know it's a bad time and I know that people are suffering. I narrowly missed becoming a statistic in the current recession.

But the economy will recover. Those who are struggling need to hunker down, and those of us who are not need to get out and spend reasonably and responsibly.

You're both right. Responsible spending, that's the key, in good times and bad. I've never been a "keeping up with the Jones'" kind of person, so that all mystifies me.

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