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How the Media Covered the Recession

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If you wanted Joe Sixpack's opinion, you should have checked Main Street media.

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In short, there's a whole universe beyond that nation's top 12 news websites and the researchers ignored it.

Attempting to add comments from Main Street to a national story datelined New York or Washington makes no sense and would have all the intellectual snap of the "Eyewitness News" format that once dominated local TV coverage. This isn't the role of Reuters.com, (TRI) one of the websites surveyed, and a top site for financial news.

Imagine this scenario: The Federal Reserve cuts (or jacks) interest rates and Big Foot Media dutifully tracks down Joe Sixpack in Cowflop for a comment. "I don't like it," says Joe. "I don't understand it, but I still don't like it. Come to think of it, I don't like them either."

Worse than anecdotal and edifying, eh?

Details about what the Fed's latest move means to interest rates on credit cards, consumer loans, and mortgages can easily be found in the financial press -- and not just The Wall Street Journal (NWS). It's called division of labor: The national media cover the Big Picture in New York and Washington while the financial and local media get down to the nits and grits of what the news means to individuals and their household finances.

For its next study, perhaps the Project for Excellence in Journalism might want to look beyond the legacy media and review how the new media -- especially websites devoted to the stock market and personal finance -- cover the recession.

This just in: Staff-written stories at Smart Money, Forbes, AOL, MSN (MSFT), Huffington Post, Slate, Kiplinger's, and (warning -- plug alert!) Minyanville get behind the headlines and tell individuals exactly what the news means to their wallet.

Contrary to findings by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the media are serving their readers well during the financial crunch. But no one can cover the entire story, so it's broken into small pieces for different audiences after the national media moves the day's headlines.

In short, the researchers looked in the wrong place to find coverage of what the recession means to Main Street -- and it's all just a few clicks away.

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