Opinion Columns & Blogs

Why the recession deserves coverage

After several years of digging out of this economic mess, just hearing the word recession might be like nails scraping a chalkboard.

Every day, it seems the news is peppered with headlines about high rates of unemployment, homes in foreclosure, failed businesses and shattered dreams. Some economists have declared that we are slowly on the mend, but to many in our community, it is dragging on with no end in sight.

There’s little doubt that recession fatigue has set in, and as a journalist who has covered the effects of the economic crisis, I am aware that some readers have had enough gloom. (A few told me so in recent weeks as The Tribune has sought families to help tell the story of the psychological toll the recession has taken on them.)

However, as someone who has interviewed those who have been affected, I understand why the recession is worthy of coverage.

The most obvious reason is that news organizations have an obligation and responsibility to report a complete picture of the most important events in our world. That means writing articles about suffering as well as joy, and it can be a delicate balancing act. The stories we publish can be painful and uncomfortable, but I believe that we would be doing a disservice to the public if we ignored the critical issues of our time.

What would happen if there were no coverage of the sit-ins and marches during the 1960s Civil Rights movement or of the Vietnam War, if the cameras stopped rolling and reporters and photographers thought it was too grim to cover?

What would happen now if we ceased all reporting of the soldiers dying in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? What if we didn’t stay on top of the BP oil spill that has polluted the Gulf Coast region because it’s too depressing?

Perhaps I prefer to see the glass half full, but reading and hearing about the ways in which we got into this economic abyss — and how we are attempting to climb our way out — can be a learning opportunity, a chance to begin anew and a way to take control of our own lives.

We have short memories, but history has shown us that this isn’t the first time that we’ve been slammed by a recession, and it likely will not be the last. But at this moment, what can we take away from the financial meltdown that will leave us better-equipped than we were before, and how can we hold our leaders and ourselves accountable so that we can prevent future shocks?

What lessons can we teach future generations about making smart financial decisions and not taking prosperity for granted? Better still, by learning about what’s ailing those in our community, maybe we can reach out to help those less fortunate and give hope to those with none.

It’s tempting to pull the covers over our heads, turn the music on full blast and drown out the stress swirling in our heads.

I acknowledge that even we in the press need a breather sometimes, and if that means taking a break from the 24-hour news cycle to reduce the anxiety, then by all means do so.

In time, we will get through this. For now, pretending that this economic reality doesn’t exist isn’t going to make it go away any faster.