But then there’s a big hole where the whole production jumps to September 2008 and the decision by the government to let Lehman Brothers fail. Where’s a discussion of the vast crookedness in the mortgage industry, fed by and encouraged by Wall Street? I don’t get much sense from this video of the gigantic CDO machine that stretched from Orange County to Wall Street. But then, this is somewhat characteristic of the Journal’s coverage overall.
In the third part there’s a moving moment when Berman talks about having his faith in our nation’s institutions utterly shaken—but then, in the same breath as he blames banks and regulators, also blames the rest of us as consumers.
That’s quickly followed by Moore’s assertion that:
The flat screen TVs and the two homes and the two cars—we all thought we could participate in that.
And Kansas piles on:
For too many years people borrowed too much, spent too much, lived beyond their means, and the time of reckoning has come to all of us.
This everyone-is-to-blame worldview is almost an article of faith among business journalists generally, not just those at the Journal.
Sure, there are lots of people who over-borrowed to buy things they didn’t need—not that the money wasn’t handed out like candy after a heavy bombardment of marketing—but the big problem, which goes unmentioned here, is wage stagnation for everybody but the top one or two percent. I’m not denying that lots of us have overspent, but real wages have gone nowhere over the last four decades, and declined over the last several years. It costs a fortune to go to college and a mini-fortune to pay for health care every year. Don’t you think that’s a bigger structural, macroeconomic problem than folks buying HDTVs on their credit cards?
(Audit Recommendation: News Corporation should buy all staffers copies of Two-Income Trap by bankruptcy experts Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi or give everyone an hour to read this M.I.T. study.)
That said, I do like that the documentary is straightforward in pronouncing how bad things really are. You can see it in the reporters’ faces and hear it in their words: It’s like they’re somewhat shell-shocked covering a war gone very bad.
All in, it’s a great effort by the Journal’s new media team and an interesting look at what its news team can do when unleashed from the written word. It’s a glimpse of what journalism could become a few years from now.
But first, it’ll have to overcome technical challenges. This piece was supposed to have been posted yesterday, but the wsj.com video player crashed repeatedly on multiple computers.
So viewers who thought they’d devote half an hour to watch faces made for print (kidding! You’re beautiful—all of you! Don’t ever change!) talk about financial history probably gave up somewhere about five minutes into it, which is when the player crashed on us for just the second of at least fifteen times.
Fortunately for you, I’m paid to do this kind of thing, so I persevered through five crashes to watch it in its entirety (helpful hint: when it crashes, you can easily drag the scroll bar to where you left off). You may say I’m quibbling here, but this is $26 billion News Corporation, not, say, an industry trade show! As of 2:15 p.m., the video just flat crapped out.
We’re hoping they’ll fix it. Despite an editorial misstep or two, it’s worth watching.