Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Nexis Of Reporting And Blogging

This paragraph, in a New York Times analysis of President Obama's week of improvisational responses to the AIG story, seemed strange:
It is not clear whether the spasm of anger set off by news of the bonuses paid to A.I.G. executives was a one-week affair or a sign of a larger political shift driven by a sense that American-style capitalism in the last several decades has become fundamentally unfair.
What is reporter Jeff Zeleny getting at? If "the last several decades" means three or four, then he's suggesting that the fundamental unfairness of capitalism had been rampant since 1) 1969, when the stock market was in the doldrums or 2) 1979, when American capitalism was languishing at the end of the Carter administration.

Or maybe his "several" stands for "two or three," thus bracketing in the Reagan era, when income disparities between the rich and poor became more pronounced and Oliver Stone provided Gordon Gecko as a convenient archetype for rapacious business practices. If so, beyond the fact that everyone just kind of knows and thinks that about the Reagan and Clinton years, does Zeleny have anything more to go on? At the same time, more and more Americans got their own stake on Wall Street through pension funds and individual investing. Millions are reeling now from the loss of value in portfolios that they might not have owned several decades ago. Is that part of the fundamental unfairness, too?

What about Zeleny's "it is not clear"? Does it mean he had an authoritative source who injected the possibility of a sea change in people's attitudes about their economic system into a conversation but asked not to be quoted or described? Does it mean that he really tried to see if there's any polling on shifting attitudes toward capitalism but couldn't track anything down in time? Does it mean that he didn't try but definitely thinks there's something in the wind based on what his family, friends, and colleagues say and stuff like that? Or does it mean, "I sure hope so, so let me see if I can shoehorn it into this story"?

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