Dean Starkman's May 2009 Investigative Fund piece in the Columbia Journalism Review has been named a finalist for the Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism. “Power Problem: The Business Press Did Everything But Take on the Institutions That Brought Down the Financial System” is a hard-hitting look at whether the financial press abdicated their watchdog function in the months leading up to the fall of AIG and the spread of the economic crisis.
After poring over more than 2,000 major stories from the leading lights of the financial press, Starkman found that the story was gettable, but it was not got. There were exceptions — such as a 2005 investigation on Ameriquest's “boiler rooms” in the Los Angeles Times and a 2004Fortune story on the housing boom, among others — but by and large, Starkman writes, “sometime after 2003, as federal regulation folded like a cheap suitcase, the business press institutionally lost whatever taste it had for head-on investigations of core practices of powerful institutions.”
The Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism honors work that evaluates news media coverage of significant subjects or issues. Peek behind the scenes of Starkman's investigation with this Q&A I conducted, available in our new Backstory section.