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This effort has been very gratifying in demonstrating that many of you really do value having an alternative to the mainstream media that provides hard-hitting commentary. Moe Tkacik, who often writes about finance (venues include Reuters, the New York Observer, and Daily Finance), wrote us:
I just want to make the point that old-school journalism doesn’t work anymore, even when it’s done the right way; even when it should. Long, thorough, painstakingly researched features do not have the impact they should because you need to have the energy for information warfare, and most journalists are honestly just bummed by that process.
It has to do with that three-part Detroit Free Press investigation into Fannie/Freddie’s fire sales. If you read it, it was shocking. Reporter spent 8 months piecing it together. It shows in very vivid detail how economically irrational Fannie/Freddie’s scorched earth foreclose-at-all-costs has been. I’d seen a lot of evidence of this in the NC comments section, but the story really did an admirable job laying it all out. They analyzed thousands of transactions.
Reporter told me she spent a week compiling questions for the FHFA. And they just refused flat out to comment at all.
8 months of investigation, the daily newspaper in a very hard-hit city, and they JUST DON’T FUCKING COMMENT. Because her questions suggested she had an “agenda.” Ed DeMarco sent a stupid letter to the editor denying everything without denying anything.
There is something so hysterically off here. This is not how things were when I got into the business. The government had a basic respect for investigative journalists. This kind of story would have an impact. Instead they didn’t even bother COMMENTING.
Anyway, story gets no traction. None. Partially bc reporter is completely unskilled in the self promotion component of this industry, and she went on vacation right after it ran, but seriously.
When I wrote about the FHFA, it was such a complicated story that it became a two-parter. I realized there were so many layers of spin suffocating those two enterprises that it seemed very plausible that there was no actual grand moneymaking scheme driving the whole thing, that it was just a byzantine bureaucracy staffed by people solely focused on covering their asses.
After the first part went up, my editor got an angry call from the FHFA. She couldn’t *believe* Reuters would actually post a second part. He asked what factual assertions she took issue with. She could not name a single one!
I call her back to follow-up and her message has two parts, one for the media and one for homeowners trying to refinance. That’s how highly these people value the public they ostensibly serve; one fucking flack is supposed to handle calls from both journalists and millions of homeowners. (The OIG had actually investigated this and concluded that the FHFA really needed to stop treating consumer complaints as a media relations function, but apparently they haven’t found time to fix the problem.)
Anyway, NC is pretty much my last hope for anything at all.
Hopefully we really aren’t the last hope, but Moe’s comments tell us how hard it is for even dedicated journalists not to be ground down by the way the powers that be refuse to play ball with the Fourth Estate. That makes independent sources of expertise even more important, and this community’s collective knowledge and skepticism is an important resource in the effort to challenge corruption among the elites and diseased orthodoxies.