The big problem with Bloomberg’s story is we’re not told exactly how this is new information and what separates it from what is already known about emergency federal lending programs. We’re told about how the process of analyzing the information was new but not why the result was. We needed at least a couple of step-back paragraphs that told us how it fits in with previously reported information.

For instance, here’s a Bloomberg story from December, “Fed Names Recipients of $3.3 Trillion in Crisis Aid.” Like today’s story, it talks about examining 21,000 Fed transactions. But back then the headline number was $3.3 trillion number, which eight months later has become $1.2 trillion. What gives? It’s only two trillion dollars, you know.

Bloomberg does have some great context in here, though. Like just how big is $1.2 trillion, anyway?

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s unprecedented effort to keep the economy from plunging into depression included lending banks and other companies as much as $1.2 trillion of public money, about the same amount U.S. homeowners currently owe on 6.5 million delinquent and foreclosed mortgages.

That’s way up in the third paragraph. Very good.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.