Winners and losers in crisis coverage

NPR’s Planet Money podcast and blog is just great, almost as good as Adam Davidson’s and Alex Blumberg’s shows explaining our mess on This American Life. They’re now doing it daily. Highly recommended. (This American Life has another episode with more on the crisis but I can’t listen to it on my iPod until Monday because, presumably, they want people to happen to be near a radio when it happens to be on a local station. That’s no way to treat urgent news, folks.)

The latest episode of the amazing Peter Day’s In Business on BBC4 was also a special edition, recorded life (and podcast immediately). I wish they’d have him doing it daily now, too.

It strikes me that cable news is caught empty-handed in this crisis. They just don’t know how to cover a story like this – a story with depth. They know how to repeat over and over that the storm is coming or that the white girl is missing or that the politicians are sniping. But they don’t know how to understand and get us to understand as NPR and BBC4 are doing. They also can’t adapt to covering another story just as their favorite story, the horserace, is loping toward the finish line. Cable news is a big loser in the financial crisis.

The Wall Street Journal is a natural winner but now I wonder whether its strategy of breaking out past business news might be a loser. I never buy the physical Journal but I am now because other news outlets – notably TV – are giving me too little.

The Times is doing a decent job. I’m going to international sources – my Guardian, the Telegraph, the other Times, German sites I try to understand – to get more perspective. But so far, the winner in keeping me up to date is NPR because it fearlessly broke its own formats. This American Life is the last show that you’d think would be great at explaining complex news – until they do it. Radio should be the last medium at letting us get depth when we need it – until they start a podcast and blog.

If only I could buy shares in NPR.