Friday, November 21, 2008

Update: Apparently, Americans Do Fear The Economy. Check Back Later For More Updates.

Jack Healy, the Times reporter who reported that bizarre quote mentioned below from analyst Ryan Detrick about Americans and fear, has done an about-face in the last 12 hours -- and in the paper's lead story on page one.

Healy has dropped the Detrick quote and instead (with reporter Vikaj Bajaj) quotes an analyst making the exact opposite point. In fact, the entire thesis of today's lead story derives from the notion that the markets are consumed by fear. Consider the lede:

As a new bout of fear gripped the financial markets, stocks fell sharply again on Thursday, continuing a months-long plunge that has wiped out the gains of the last decade.

So Americans are afraid! That's what we thought.

Healy has replaced his Detrick quote with one that better fits his new thesis:

“This is a response to real fear,” said Marc D. Stern, chief investment officer at Bessemer Trust, an investment firm in New York. “We each have to look inside and say, is the fear warranted?”

It's worth recalling that FDR's famous "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" line came from his first Inaugural address in 1933, and in response to widespread fears among American who had lived through four years of a brutal economic collapse. It might make sense for reporters like Healy and Bajaj to give some serious thought to the role of fear in fueling the markets, fore blithely inserting conflicting opinions about it in their daily updates.

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