One of my first memories involves a lesson that applies to today’s economy. I was about 7, and my dad and I were on our way home from a movie. Its title is long-gone from my mind, but I remember that one of the main characters had
cried in the film. I was impressed.
“How does an actress make herself cry?” I asked Dad.
“I could never do that.”
He smiled. “Sure you could. Just find the saddest thing ever
and think about it really hard, and pretty soon you’ll start
“OK.” I closed my eyes and imagined my mother dying. I
pictured life without her, zooming in on every detail I could think
of, and then suddenly I was crying. Hard. “See?” my
I saw, but I couldn’t stop. My mother’s death had
swiftly become much too real, and it felt as if she were actually
gone. I cried and cried.
“Hey.” My father put his arm around me. “Remember
Sweetie, you can always bring the tears, just don’t start a
Today, 77 percent of Americans think the media is actually
worsening the economic situation by projecting fear into the minds
of consumers, according to the Opinion Research
Conducted in December, their poll found that, “the financial
press, by focusing on and embellishing negative news, is damaging
consumer confidence and damping investment, making a difficult
situation much worse.”
The federal government, the media and the American people are
constantly engaged in a sort of conversation that ricochets round
and round, building volume as it goes. That conversation forms our
The experts selected as sources for stories, and how their ideas
are presented, can go a long way toward influencing behavior on a
national level. Fear is contagious, and as I learned that day with
my dad, it’s also self-perpetuating.
Though I blame the mainstream media for its role in worsening the
situation, I also understand it. On the Website of Builder magazine
there’s a discussion of the nation’s 15 weakest housing markets, as well as the
15 healthiest. The healthier markets proved to
be extremely popular with readers, generating a record number of
page views…until the weakest markets were released.
As of today, that scarier, more depressing list is pulling the
highest number of eyes to the page. (Both rankings are actually
interesting — though not surprising.)
There’s an old motto in journalism that says, “If it
bleeds, it leads.” But to my mind that doesn’t justify
scaring an entire nation to the point where firms are laying off
workers just in case their revenues continue to drop. Today, most
people are too frightened to spend a dime, which makes me wonder
how this country is going to recover if we don’t believe we
I realize I’m a bit of a curmudgeon, but last night I sent a
letter to four major news organizations complaining about their
fear mongering and asking for more solution-oriented coverage. We
have a flood on our hands — let’s clean it up before
it’s too late.