Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The U.S. press is bad, until you hear all the others 

If you think the press is bad in the US, you should watch an Armenian press conference. I just did at the end of the formal part of this conference. Almost everyone in this conference has said pretty much the same thing: we're in a deep recession, led by a collapse in construction that was the product largely of private money. The government is getting help from foreign aid to deal with the collapse in budget receipts thanks to a 9.5% forecasted decline in GDP according to the IMF.

You then hear all the plans from the government on what to do next. The Prime Minister yesterday was supposed to give a ten minute welcoming statement to us and instead lays out a 45 minute policy speech (as a member of the organization that developed the conference, I have to say we all were tickled.) So what gets covered? "We expect the recession to get worse." (Which is twisting his words, actually.)

A minister presents a paper discussing three scenarios -- bad, worse, awful. All that the press covers is "awful".

The press conference begins with a question to the IMF representative "How bad will it be?" It ends with a question "how can we afford to get out of this recession?" A focus on the negative, a lack of depth. I was standing with an American journalist and asked for an impression. "You hear what they are doing. They can only lead with bad news."

I've been at my share of American press conferences. I've had bad things to say about them, too. But it was many times better than this one. And according to an Armenian businessman, these negative reports are "hurting our economy." Where have I heard that before?

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