Struck and Stricken

Jan. 19, 2011

I am awestruck by the speed with which information is disseminated across the globe in today’s world of all-news television channels, Internet and radio. I am sad-stricken, though, that this race for speed compromises fact-checking and accountability. We the people accept national media spin as fact, when often it is opinion.

The image of banking has suffered in this phenomenon. For most of my 41-year banking career, the public regarded banks as trustworthy. By contrast, during the past two and a half years, the image of banking has been a casualty of the Great Recession. These days the public rates the banking industry on par with Congress. Interestingly, the public views their own bank and their own Congressman as trustworthy—it is the banking industry and the full Congressional body that they do not trust.

When the mortgage mess first caught the public eye, those cited as guilty by the national media were Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, AIG and mortgage brokers. None of these institutions—many of which have since gone bankrupt or have been sold—is or was a bank! Banks are deposit-taking institutions that make loans directly to the public. None of the above entities qualify as banks, yet they were characterized as banks by the national media.

It was frustrating for the banking community to listen to our nation’s president speak of “greedy bankers,” then rattle off names of nonbank institutions. My vision for the future is that accountability return to our communications industry.

– S. Joe DeHaven

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