Max Collins, Brent Petrone, Stephanie Steinberg, Ely
NPR’s News Coverage
of the Financial Crisis
What is important to the average
1. Useful knowledge for an average listener
2. Explanation of terminology
3. Relating to the audience
News Coverage Before
September 7th, 2008
• NPR was informed of the subprime mortgage crisis and was
reporting from “outside the bubble”
• Coverage was very fair and did not point fingers
• Brought in contrasting and expert perspectives
• Used personal stories
• Lacked sensationalism
• Did not use complex financial terms
• Lacked coverage during first half of the decade
• Coverage needs more financial advice for the individual
September 3rd, 2001
This was the first coverage that NPR had featuring subprime lending.
The bubble is beginning to grow.
Afterwards, there is no coverage on this financial issue until 2005.
This was useful for the average listener because the broadcast talked about how there
was an “easy availability of credit” and “people could obtain mortgages through subprime
loans that carry higher than normal interest rates.”
Subprime mortgage loans have tripled since 1995, and have hit the big banks.
Americans owe more than $5 trillion on their mortgages.
The terminology was clear and simple except when defining the terms:
Perspectives from the following sources made the broadcast easier to understand:
David Gibbons: Deputy Comptroller for Credit Risk with Comptroller of the Currency
“The growth in the subprime marketplace really has been sort of a wild west in our
marketplace, motivated by people seeking quick profits.”
Robert Leighton: Economist from the Brookings Institute
This broadcast relates to the audience because:
Relationship between banks and borrowers are told:
“In some instances banks and finance companies are simply taking advantage of
borrowers: Hiding punishing interest rates and other fees in complicated loan
“Loans are too risky- That could make it harder for consumers with blemishes on
“Mortgage Failures Rise; So Do Risky
February 9th, 2007
Payments increase from year to year, and defaults have risen
More Americans defaulting on mortgages than at any point in last 5 years.
Defaults most prevalent people with subprime mortgages.
Possible solutions from both sides:
“Martin Eacks told the Senate banking committee this week, banks and brokers should be required to make
certain that borrowers can repay a home loan in full, not just the artificially low teaser payments. He also says
mortgage brokers should be required to act in the best interest to their clients, just like stockbrokers, lawyers
and real estate agents.”
“Doug Duncan argues there's no need for new regulation, since mortgage defaults are not threatening overall
economy. Duncan admits many of the risky loan types made popular in recent years have not been widely
tested. But he says the market will adjust on its own.”
The terminology was simple.
Perspectives from Experts:
CEO Martin Eacks, Center for Responsible Lending:
“Brokers and subprime lenders are not bad people, but their financial incentives are different than what we saw just
20 years ago. Now, their financial incentives are to close as many loans as possible as fast as possible, regardless
of risk. Whether the borrower can repay the loan is really not of their financial concern.”
Chief economist Doug Duncan of the Mortgage Bankers Association
Relates to the audience:
Real life example of an American affected by these high interest rates.
What is being done now:
“Banking giant HSBC says it's already getting choosier about the loans it buys. And other investors are also
pushing banks and brokers to be more careful in the loans they make…”
“The Mortgage Market: What Happened?”
April 26th, 2007
Uses many different statistics and facts:
Nearly 23 percent of all mortgages taken out in 2005 were interest-only ARMs, and more than 8
percent were payment-option ARMs, according to First American Loan Performance.
Subprime loans expanded to 20 percent of the mortgage market in 2006, from 9 percent a decade
Explains terms like adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) and subprime mortgages but does
not explain refinancing.
Use of perspectives from experts:
Federal Reserve executive Roger T. Cole
Kathleen Keest of the Center for Responsible Lending:
"They took the riskiest of products and sold them to the weakest borrowers to compound risk.”
Relating to the audience:
Provides an example of a person and how their monthly mortgage payment has increased.
Provides solutions/what is being done now that this problem exists.
“Several lenders are taking steps to curtail the rising tide of foreclosures.”
Citigroup and Bank of America
State of Ohio
“Renegotiating loans – lowering the interest rate or extending the payment period – may be more
attractive than foreclosing.”
News Coverage Between
September 7th, 2008 & October 3rd,
•The news surrounding the financial crisis was well reported.
•NPR brought in a variety of different sources to cover the story:
• Editors of economic sections in newspapers
• NPR correspondents
• Government officials
•Previous knowledge is not required to understand a story and the
coverage teaches the listener.
•The stories provide alternative perspectives.
•Sources and/or journalists admit when they do not know the answer
to a question.
•Most of the news segments we found were broadcasted in the
beginning of each show.
“AIG Gets OK to Borrow from Subsidiaries”
September 15th, 2008
All Things Considered
This article has some useful knowledge for the average
reader including facts about AIG and its possible bailout.
It spells out what they need and why they need to be
Stock is down 90% this year and fell more than half today.
The women being interviewed (Diane Brady, Business
Week) uses some confusing terminology that is not
“Credit derivative portfolio”
“Rampant short-selling of stock”
“Sovereign wealth funds”
The article only relates directly to the audience in this one
“They do not want this company to fail. It's in too many
areas, it's too big, and the ripple effects would just be too
“Financial Giants Falling: Lehman, Merrill
September 15th, 2008
This has useful information for the average listener because it
informs them of what President Bush is doing to take action.
This broadcast does not use any confusing terminology and thus the
average reader with no background information can understand it.
This relates to people on Main Street (people outside of the financial
One option: “The willingness and capacity of financial institutions to
lend to consumers and companies will decrease. The economy may
Other option: If we get past the next few days and lending doesn’t
decrease “then we may get through this with just a period of rough
growth, but not a very deep recession.”
“The key is how much lending goes into the economy.”
Sources in the article relay their doubt about what will happen with
AIG and are completely honest with the listener.
WSJ Economics Editor, David Wessell
He admits that he does not have the answer to whether the financial crisis is
“Foreign Investors’ Exit Causes Lehman
September 10th, 2008
All Things Considered
This broadcast completely explains as much as Adam
Davison (NPR’s global business correspondent) knows
about Lehman Brothers and why it is not being bought
by foreign banks.
The interviewer asks if Lehman Brothers will be bought by a
foreign bank and he says: “not that we’ve seen but who
knows what is happening in secret.”
It does not have any confusing words and is very easy
for any listener to understand.
Davison makes sure that the audience knows that the
US government is has their best interest in mind:
They will not let the foreign banks get a controlling share
(more than 5-10%) of Lehman Brothers.
“Under Pressure from Bailout, Lawmakers in
September 25th, 2008
All Things Considered
The broadcast is useful to the average reader because it
describes how the bill impacts legislators and their
Interviewed both Republican and Democratic Congressmen
Does not have any confusing terminology. It is even too
simplified at times which makes it informal. This is not
necessarily a bad thing.
“I want to make sure that there aren't individuals somewhere
sitting on a yacht eating shrimp and drinking champagne that
have taken advantage of the American people.”
The broadcast is entirely related to the average listener
because it explains the importance of the bill but also the
drawbacks to it and the Congressman's hesitancy about it. It
“Doing nothing at this point will bring those same uncertainties
into the marketplace and could start a run on banks and cause
failures that end up hurting Main Street.”
News Coverage After October
•Even after the crisis ended, NPR continued to break
down terminology to help with listener understanding.
•Broadcasts included historical context about other
•Comprehensive one year anniversary coverage
recaps key events of crisis.
•Explained what the government should do to prevent
future financial crises.
•A variety of sources from universities, investment
firms and economic research institutions.
October 24th, 2008
Useful Knowledge Terminology
The story gives useful knowledge
for the listener than makes it
easier for them to understand by
relating to other financial crises in
1990s = Japan
Harvard Economics Professor
Jeffrey Frankel on Great
Depression and Japan’s
recession: “Both were ushered
in by the crash in real estate
and stock markets. Hopefully,
the difference is we know how
to handle it better this time.”
Overall the story used simple
terminology and even defined
the word recession:
“(Economists) say a
recession is ‘a significant
decline in economic activity
spread across the economy’
that lasts for more than a
few months and that
manifests itself in real gross
domestic product, real
industrial production and
wholesale retail sales. The
term ‘real’ refers to figures
that have been corrected for
“Two consecutive quarters of
decline in real GDP growth.”
Photo gallery from this article.
A YEAR OF FINANCIAL CRISIS”
outlining financial crisis
from Sept. 2008-Aug.
2009. Provides the viewer
with key events and is
useful for basic
•Provides details from the
beginning of the crisis to
the passing of Obama’s
stimulus plan and its short
term impact on the
“Series Overview: Examining The Financial Crisis”
September 7th, 2009
Breaks down crisis into different segments.
Offers comprehensible and quick explanations of
these segments with links to more detailed
Consolidates the financial crisis coverage into
one comprehensive page for the online reader to
“The Bailout And Fallout: Adding Up The
September 15th, 2009
All Things Considered
Knowledge for the average reader: explains what determines
if the government’s actions will be a success.
“How fast the economy recovers.”
“How many banks pay back the Treasury's TARP money. “
“How much the Fed will get for dicey mortgage-backed securities
it bought from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.”
“Whether Chrysler sinks or swims.”
Relates to the audience: puts the financial damage into
The bailout could cost taxpayers around $600 billion.
"In this new world — what we call the new normal — economies
will grow less rapidly,” says investing firm Mohamed El- Erian.
"It's going to take us a long time to work our way out of this crisis.
And therefore, the ability of the U.S. economy to create jobs is
going to be less than it has been in the past.”
Erian explains the next generation will face increased taxes and inflation.
Impact of loss of confidence in American market.
“Will The Global Economy Learn Its Lesson?”
September 17, 2009
Terminology: Relates to the Reader:
Pinpoints the problem
Makes a complex
issue simple in the
“The world economy
was out of balance.
Countries with the big
trade surpluses, like
China and Germany,
had too much money to
spare. They lent it to
countries with big
deficits. The lending
Offers suggestions on
how to prevent a future
Economists: The U.S.
needs to sell more
goods abroad and
Borrow less money
from China and other
Opposite of solution to
What was their approach to financial
NPR attempted and succeeded and at simplifying
complex issues for the average listener who may not
The short segments (especially from Morning Edition)
helped to not flood the listener with too much information
at one time.
NPR’s broadcast transcriptions were in a reader
Throughout the coverage NPR brought in a variety of
different sources from several credible institutions.
What could they have done
NPR’s coverage before hand was somewhat
limiting although they did cover it briefly in 2001.
NPR could have included more examples of how
the crisis impacted averaged citizens, instead of
reporting mostly hard, financial news.
Some human interest pieces are OK.
Overall, was NPR’s coverage
NPR had useful knowledge for average listener:
It offered information that average listeners could
understand and relate to in their life.
Explanation of terminology:
The terminology was generally understandable for
anyone who did not have any prior financial
Relating to the audience:
The broadcasts related back to how the crisis
affected Main Street and the average citizen.