COMMENTS: Clean Sweep for Financial News

So Friday made it a clean sweep. Every newscast this week--all three networks, all five weekdays--led off with the latest development in the crisis in financial capitalism. The week ended with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and President George Bush formally announcing their plan for a federal bailout of the banking system, a plan that was leaked Thursday in order to reassure financial markets and lead that day's news agenda. The Story of the Day led a cluster of financial coverage that accounted for 57% (32 min out of 56) of the three-network newshole. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 368 to close at 11388. After the week of downs and ups, the DJIA ended just 34 points lower than where it began.

"The end of an extraordinary week!" exclaimed CBS' Anthony Mason. On NBC, CNBC's Carl Quintanilla described Paulson's plan to purchase debt-ridden securities from the banking sector as taxpayers buying up "toxic mortgages nobody wants." Besides that buyout, the Treasury Department will also extend insurance coverage to mutual funds based in the money markets; the Federal Reserve Board offered banks an additional $50bn in emergency loans; and the Securities & Exchange Commission prohibited speculators from making bearish bets--selling short--on the financial sector.

ABC's Betsy Stark called it "intervention in the nation's financial markets on a scale unseen since the Great Depression" that followed a week of "watching stocks swoon, banks fail and credit markets grind to a near halt." ABC anchor Charles Gibson inquired how much Paulson proposed to spend on all that bad paper: "In excess of $500bn but probably less than $1tr," Stark replied. "That is a lot of money." Even before this plan, CBS' Mason pointed out that the feds had already "put up more than $800bn" for Bear Stearns, FannieMae and FreddieMac, AIG and the FHA.


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