Thursday, 22 January 2009

Journalism meets complexity

I was wondering why the reports of Adair Turner's speech didn't really say anything. Having had a quick read of the speech (which is here) the reason for the vague reporting, I suspect, is that it's actually got a lot of stuff in it. It's a serious attempt to have a look at the crisis and how to respond. I'll need to set aside a bit of time to read it properly, so pity the poor journo trying to summarise it.

For example, the Beeb says:
There must be profound changes in the banking system if a repeat of the current crisis is to be avoided, the Financial Services Authority has said. Lord Turner, head of the City watchdog, said parts of the regulatory system were "seriously deficient". He recommended that banks should be forced to build up capital during good times, so they could more easily weather an economic downturn.

And The Torygraph says:
In a lecture to business leaders, Lord Turner said: "We need to increase capital requirements not just marginally but by several times."
Banks would be required to build up substantial capital buffers in good economic times - well above minimum levels - so they can run them down in tougher times.
He accepted that these changes would result in "a significant contraction in the scale of trading books".
In the future, the FSA would regulate liquidity as well as capital adequacy, he said. In line with capital requirements, banks would have to have a certain level of liquid assets.

Reading either of the reports of the speech, I think you would get the impression that Turner was trying to [consults pre-fab meejah-phrase handbook] "talk tough" and/or acknowledge the regulator's own failings. Both reports capture very little of the content of the speech, and (because of the need for a news hook) suggest an emphasis that (as far as I can see) wasn't really there.


UPDATE: Charlie correctly points that at least one journo - Paul Mason - did read the speech in detail, and get into the meat of it.


CharlieMcMenamin said...

But I don't think you can tar Comrade Pauk Mason from Newsnight with that particular brush. I think he's got the message - see this

Tom Powdrill said...

cheers Charlie - good spot!

PS shouldn't your Morph image be wearing a black armband this week?

CharlieMcMenamin said...

I've posted that picture

Mason is an essential read I think. He's not been blogging much recently as he's written a book on the credit crunch which I must say I'm looking forward to.
He appears to have a particularly colourful political past - look him up on wikipedia - but I think he's a great journalist.

Tom Powdrill said...

haha nice one.

wasn't Mason in the IMG or something? I keep meaning to read his book on the labour movement too.

CharlieMcMenamin said...

From memory, wiki says he was in Workers power - i forget which group they split from, could have been IMG. it doesn't matter - he is an impressive figure. His Labour Movement book is largely syndicalist in tone and very, very enjoyablly written.