Monday, November 24, 2008

Story Idea: A Follow-Up On Today's Lead Editorial.

The most provocative piece of investigative journalism in today's Times sits just below the masthead on the editorial page. That's where an unnamed writer takes predatory brokers to task, for the sometimes-shady dealings of loan companies that offer to help cash-strapped homeowners, for an unfair price.

In "Return of the Predators," the Times editorial page tells us that predatory brokers have come back to haunt us in the form of what it calls "loan-modification companies." According to the editorial, these low-life businesses market their services by sticking flyers on windshields offering to "reduce your mortgage rate by 4%. No refinancing -- no closing costs."

Nope -- just one percent of your outstanding loan, half of it in advance.

The editorial is careful to point out that the business isn't illegal, just immoral -- offering a service that's already available to homeowners through the government and through nonprofit agencies. It cites one such group, the nonprofit Long Island Housing Partnership, which says that these scammers often crash their meetings by "posing as troubled borrowers, then working the crowd with sales pitches."

It's a great story -- and it hasn't appeared anywhere in the news pages of the Times, or anywhere else in print, for that matter. The Times editorial page prides itself on operating with complete independence of the news operation. Often, such as today, that's to the reader's benefit.

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