Monday, June 29, 2009

Non-Profit-News News

A report in today's Washington Post raises questions about what's happening to the American economy, government and journalism.

Headlined "How a Loophole Benefits GE in Bank Rescue," it details how the world's largest company wormed its way into the Obama bailout and profited from issuing almost a quarter of the $340 billion in debt backed by the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program, qualifying by owning two small Utah banks but at the same time escaping regulation of its huge financial operations.

The story exposes one element in a complex process but, beyond that, in its provenance, reflects wider problems in helping the public understand what's going on under the surface of government handouts and conventional reporting in these days of shrinking investigative journalism.

The Post notes: "This article was reported jointly with Jeff Gerth of ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. ProPublica is supported entirely by philanthropy and provides the articles it produces, free of charge, both through its own Web site and to leading news organizations."

It's not only disturbing to find such charity behind the work of Washington's hometown news source but to consider the complications of how much attention it will generate in such GE-owned media outlets as NBC, MSNBC and CNBC.

Half a century of working in journalism and as a media critic have made me leery of conspiracy theories, but it will be interesting to see how much, if any, play this particular news gets tonight from Brian Williams, Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Jim Cramer and other corporate employees.

It's same to assume that the President of GE won't be on the list of contenders for Worst Person in the World.

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