We looked at nine business-news outlets:The Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Forbes, Fortune, and BusinessWeek. Searching on the Factiva database, we looked under various screens matching commonsense terms with major Wall Street institutions that ran into trouble and the lenders most closely associated with the subprime meltdown.
Wall Street: AIG, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley. Lenders: Ameriquest, Citigroup, Countrywide, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, IndyMac, New Century, Washington Mutual.
Wall Street: Mortgage backed securities; Securitization AND mortgage; Collateralized debt obligation(s); Derivatives. Lenders: Mortgage lending; Predatory AND lending; Subprime AND mortgages; Bubble AND housing.
Factiva searching is an inexact science and the number of word combinations and institutions is potentially endless. And there were plenty of technical problems, chief among them that the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg, and the Financial Times aren’t on Factiva in meaningful ways. The FT’s online archive doesn’t go back before 2004, etc.
Probably the most important step in the search was to ask all the news organizations for help in finding their best work. All but The Washington Post (which expressed regrets) pitched in. We are grateful for the cooperation we received.
Finally, we came up with a list of reporters whom we had come to know as producing the best stuff and did a final cross check using their names.
Is the List airtight? No. Does it fairly present the best warning coverage about Wall Street and subprime lenders during the period? We believe it does.
The List Remains Open. We welcome corrections, suggestions, and/or candidates for inclusion. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also welcome your reaction to “Power Problem,” our analysis based on the List, either by email or in comments online.