Friday's Times has, at last, a story we've been waiting to read for a while: what does everyone want to call this situation we're in? It needs a name!
Unfortunately, reporter Brian Stelter didn't come anywhere close to an answer. He mumbles something about how The Great Depression wasn't The Great Depression until 1932, but that's because people were too busy starving to come up with anything.
Stelter spends most of the article quoting Jonathan Wald, the senior vice president for business news at CNBC, who hasn't got a clue. "The news always feels the need to name everything," Wald whines. But the news business hasn't come anywhere close to a consensus on the current economic mess, leading to a number of deeply dissatisfying alternatives. Among then: The Great Recession, credit crisis, credit crunch, financial downturn, and economic mess.
Our personal favorite came in the story's headline: Financial Pickle. And this isn't just because we think it would look especially funny in stories by Detroit correspondent Bill Vlasic.
Stelter's story does implicitly raise one significant question that his story failed to address head-on: what is the Times calling this situation? Why hasn't the newspaper of record come to its own conclusion about a proper name for our national whatever?
We have conducted an informal and unscientific search of the Times index for the last 90 days to determine the relative popularity of several different phrases, by the number of mentions. No distinction was made among use of the word in headlines, quotations, or articles. Remember, we did say it was unscientific.
Here's how it turned out:
1. "financial crisis" -- 2,009
2. "recession" -- 840
3. "economic crisis" -- 507
4. "credit crisis -- 380
5. "economic downturn" -- 307
6. "hard times" -- 154
7. "credit crunch" -- 89
8. "wall street crisis" -- 30
9. "economic mess" -- 12
10. "financial pickle" -- 1
11. "great recession" -- 0
Obviously we've got another crisis on our hands -- a crisis of crisis-naming creativity. Any suggestions? The Stelter article is obviously a desperate cry for help.