Experts criticise coverage of the eurozone crisis

Event highlights need for financial journalists need to improve reporting in light of eurozone crisis.

20 December 2011

nullHigh profile journalists, academics and financial leaders gathered at an event at City University London have reflected on the role of financial journalists in covering the eurozone crisis, admitting that with the recession far from over there is an urgent need for financial journalists to improve their profession.

The two-day symposium, Soothsayers of Doom: the media and the financial crisis in historical and comparative perspective, was hosted by the Department of Journalism at City University London and sponsored by the British Academy and the Institute for Contemporary History, King's College London.

At the event leading economist Professor Charles Goodhart criticised UK journalists for ignoring the big issues in the ongoing eurozone crisis by focusing too much on its implications for the UK. The LSE professor and former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee also said the financial crisis across Europe was far from over.

"We are heading for a great European depression and there is an urgent need for financial reporting to improve," said Professor Goodhart.

Professor Steve Schifferes, who leads the MA in Financial Journalism at City, presented his research which showed that nearly half the UK population felt they didn't understand the implications of the euro-crisis for their own personal finances. He pointed out that there was a very low level of trust in financial journalists among the public.

"Research shows the general public are worried about the financial crisis, but still don't understand it. Much of the coverage of the eurozone crisis is still aimed at the financial sector. As financial journalists we need an in-depth knowledge of the banking and financial systems in order to really understand, interrogate and question the information we are given. We also need the ability to distil complex information into a format that is relevant to and can be understood by the general public," said Professor Schifferes.

Delivering the key note address as the event, Mr Lionel Barber, the editor of the Financial Times, defended the reporting of the financial crisis and pointed out that his paper was among the first to sound the alarm about the economic dangers facing the eurozone. However, he also acknowledged that for a large part journalists had failed to anticipate the first stages of the financial crisis.

"As a general observation, I would say that financial journalists focused on the "good news", the credit boom, at the expense of the bigger, more worrying picture," said Barber.

Barber also highlighted the problem financial journalists tackle in ensuring that financial stories are given sufficient weighting within the major newspapers.

"First, the financial crisis started as a highly technical story which took months to go mainstream. Most reporters working in the so-called "shadow banking system" found it hard to interest their superiors who controlled space on the front page or the air-time on the nightly news bulletin," he said.

A recurring theme throughout the event was the needing for more training for financial journalists media commentator and Professor of Journalism at City University London, Roy Greenslade said that, "There is a need for more journalists who can read and understand balance sheets and be more sceptical of what is reported in the forecasts."

A video with highlights from the event will be available online shortly.