Media failed to alert the public to the dangers of excessive borrowing according to RTE Economics Correspondent Sean Whelan.
The Irish and international media failed to alert the public to the dangers that excessive borrowing posed to western economies before the 2008 crash, RTE Economics Correspondent Sean Whelan said at the University of Limerick today (March 28).
The media in particular missed the story of leverage - the spectacular growth of borrowing since the mid 90's in the western economies, and the dangers this posed to economic and financial stability, Mr Whelan said.
“Put simply, the question ‘where is all this money coming from?’ was not put with sufficient consistency, nor was there sufficient tenacity in seeking an answer to this question,” Mr Whelan added.
“Exploring the leverage question would have entailed hard work and a "hard sell" from journalists to editors: documenting the spending of all that money was easier and more fun,” he said.
Speaking at a joint economics and journalism seminar at the University of Limerick, Mr Whelan said the media was not the key institution that failed - the key failure was that of the banks, followed by regulatory organisations and governments.
“But the media - domestic and international - has a small part to play and failed, in my view to play it as well as it could have,” he added.
The RTE Economics Correspondent said that the media also failed to fully appreciate the consequences of European Monetary Union (EMU) and its impact on European politics.
“The ‘game changing’ nature of EMU was not, I believe, fully understood by most media, and as a result they failed to adapt their coverage of European political and economic developments in line with the new realities,” Mr Whelan said.
The media, as part of an interlocking set of institutions both domestic and international, failed and as a consequence contributed to a varying extent to the emergence of the economic crisis, he added.
“This was nowhere near as serious as the failure of the bond markets to understand the nature of sovereign risk under the rules of EMU, but I am a journalist, not a bond trader, and so I will concentrate on the industry I know best,” Mr Whelan said.
The UL seminar: “Catastrophe: the Irish Media and the Economic Crisis” was jointly hosted by the Kemmy Business School (KBS) and the Journalism Department at the University of Limerick.
Dr Helena Lenihan KBS Assistant Dean Research and Head of the UL Organisation of Science and Public Policy said: “We are delighted to welcome Sean Whelan to Limerick to give our students an insight into the role played by the media in the current economic crisis.”
Head of Journalism at UL, Tom Felle said: “This is the first collaborative seminar organised by the Journalism Department and the Kemmy Business School and it aims to give our journalism and economics students and better understanding on how both disciplines interact.”
Sean Whelan has been the RTE Economics Correspondent since 2009. Before that he was based in Brussels and was RTE Europe Correspondent from 1999 to 2003 when he was appointed RTE Europe Editor. He became a journalist in the RTÉ Newsroom in September 1991 and worked in a number of areas including the Foreign Desk. He reported from the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo and on the return of Hong Kong to China. He has a degree in History and Politics from UCD and a postgraduate diploma in journalism from NIHE, Dublin.