The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism

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The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark, given its in-depth analysis across the landscape, steeped in history, and Starkman’s keen understanding of the business of journalism, can stand as a potentially enduring case study of what went wrong and why.

(Alec Klein, director of the Medill Justice Project and award-winning investigative reporter formerly with the Washington Post)

Starkman is literally a reporter’s reporter. As such, he gets to the bottom of the story of how the U.S. business press could miss the most important economic implosion of the past eighty years until it was too late, and he does so with prose that is intelligent, engaging, and erudite. I recommend The Watchdog without reservation.

(Eric Alterman, Brooklyn College, and media columnist, The Nation)

Here is the missing piece in the financial-crisis mystery: how did our vaunted business-journalism sector manage to miss the problem with mortgage-backed investments? The answer, as Dean Starkman shows us in this amazing autopsy, is that the business outweighs the journalism and that it is getting worse, not better, as we go forward.

(Thomas Frank, author of Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right)

Journalism was complicit in the predation and corruption that brought down world financial markets and wrecked the lives of millions. Obsessed with shallow scoops, giddy from the laughing gas of access, financial journalists abjectly failed to connect dots, and left abusive, reckless, and criminal corporations free to drag the global economy into the abyss. Dean Starkman is the author we have been waiting for to tell this story. He not only puts forward a keen, subtle, and fair account of the journalistic default, he names names.

(Todd Gitlin, author of Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives)

With American journalism at sea, here comes a navigator who really knows its mission, the riptides it is facing, and the ports it must reach. Starkman tells it all with the heart, clarity, and dry wit that redeem business journalism even while showing how it lost its anchor and compass.

(Jim Sleeper, former editor and columnist at Newsday and the New York Daily News)

Journalists did not miss the subprime lending that spun into the devastating financial collapse of 2008. Excellent reporting was available, from the Financial Times to the Los Angeles Times to a small alternative publication, Southern Exposure. Yet Dean Starkman shows that even reporters who were on top of things buried the lead: the story was not new financial instruments, risky investments, or high-pressured Wall Street. The story was corruption. There were old-fashioned, greedy villains. Old-fashioned moralizing was called for. It would have had the advantage of being both true and fascinating. So how did so many fine journalists miss the big story? Read Starkman’s powerful and disturbing analysis of how business journalism came to write for an audience of investors, not citizens. You may not share his every judgment, but this account has the advantage of being both true and fascinating.

(Michael Schudson, Columbia Journalism School, author of The Power of News)

As fair and balanced as a solar-plexus punch can be.

(Kirkus Reviews)

Starkman provides keen analysis of how the media failed in its mission at a crucial time for the U.S. economy.


About the Author

Dean Starkman is an editor and Kingsford Capital Fellow of the Columbia Journalism Review. A former reporter for the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers, he was part of an investigative team that won a Pulitzer Prize for the Providence Journal. He is working as a fellow for the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute in New York and also holds a fellowship at the Center for Media and Communications at the Central European University, Budapest. He is also lead editor of The Best Business Writing anthology series and contributes to GoLocalProv.

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