Economist Hutton Blames Media Credulity for Credit Crisis

25 November 2008

VALENCIA: Addressing the News Xchange 2008 conference in Spain via a video-link, economist-journalist Will Hutton (pictured) didn't mince his words as to the sycophantic and unquestioning role played by business and other journalists in the current financial crisis.

Hutton, a former stockbroker before becoming editor of respected UK Sunday newspaper The Observer, is now executive vice chair of think-tank The Work Foundation.

He told the conference that journalists had "lost their senses" in the years leading-up to the current fiscal fiasco, blaming reporters who "suspended their judgement" and thereby failed [or refused?] to predict the onset of the financial cataclysm.

"General journalists, as well as business journalists, are really guilty in this. They have indulged madness in the last five years, we should have been better at whistleblowing than we were."

These reporters, he accused, had failed to question the means by which banks and other financial institutions piled-up immense profits over the years. He did not exclude himself from this catastrophic myopia.

Reporters were culpable for accepting what the business community told them – a credulity wholly absent when reporting on other issues.

"We all kind of believed that we had fallen upon some kind of alchemy, that capitalism had changed and I think everyone got carried away.

"Even sceptics in the end found it was pretty difficult to maintain scepticism in the face of the tsunami of apparent easy money … We lost our senses, all of us journalists, politicians.

Hutton then realigned his crosswires on the financial industries  where, he argues greater pluralism and self-criticism is needed.

"With business and finance we basically take the truth as it is handed down to us by the business and finance communities; this is particularly true in the [United] States. There wasn't enough challenge, there wasn't enough robust interrogation of what these guys were saying and doing.

"[Not enough] looking at their business models and just saying, 'look this just sucks, this can't work' and we don't have enough people in the business community to come forward and challenge what their competitors are doing."

Reporters needed to be "clear-eyed" and Hutton urged them not to buy into "fashionable doom" of the current crisis the way they bought into fashionable optimism of the proceeding years.

"We as business journalists, especially into the next two years, have the obligation to be much, much tougher in the questions we ask," Hutton counselled.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff