Editorial: Kudos to Levin-Coburn report; shame on poor media coverage

Editorial Board

If a bunch of senators got together and launched an investigation into Wall Street bankers and regulators, found that these Wall Streeters had played their clients like fiddles and then lied about it to those clients and to Congress, you would think it would be a big story. 

If that investigation led to a report placing the blame for the financial crisis right in the hands of Wall Street executives, calling for more regulation, you’d think that would make it even bigger news.

And if that investigation got liberal and conservative senators alike to agree that it’s time for Goldman Sachs executives, along with other Wall Street higher-ups, to face criminal charges — well, surely, that story would land on the front pages of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

What we’re talking about, in case you missed this story, is the 635-page final report released by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Chairman and Ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, on April 13. The report, “Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse,” is the product of a two-year bipartisan investigation. According to a news release from Sen. Levin, “the report catalogs conflicts of interest, heedless risk-taking and failures of federal oversight that helped push the country into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.”

Where was the story? It landed on page B1 of the April 14 New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal relegated it to C1. 

In addition to Sen. Coburn, some of the most conservative members of the subcommittee are John McCain, Scott Brown and Rand Paul. As Richard Eskow wrote on the Huffington Post, “When four of the Senate’s most prominent Republicans, including Tea Party Senators, endorse more regulation, that’s news.”

It’s discouraging to see two of the nation’s most prominent publications give so little attention to the story of how Wall Street execs lined their pockets at the expense of ordinary Americans. As the Columbia Journalism Review points out, not all media fell short; Bloomberg, McClatchy and the Huffington Post all provided laudable coverage.

Despite the disappointing coverage from mainstream media, we applaud the members of this subcommittee for their investigation of the financial crisis. Levin has made it clear that the subcommittee will send its reports to the Department of Justice, which could lead to criminal prosecution for a few Goldman Sachs executives.

It’s time to start enforcing the law and forcing the greedy bankers who got us into this mess to face consequences that amount to more than a slap on the wrist. And it’s time for publications like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to step it up on their coverage of important stories like this — the stories that bring light to wrongdoing and, more importantly, to efforts aimed at countering wrongdoing.