In This Review

The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism
The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism
By Dean Starkman
Columbia University Press, 2014, 368 pp

This interesting book is basically a history of business journalism in the United States during the past century, with an emphasis on investigative journalism, whose virtues the book’s author, a journalist himself, extols. For a variety of reasons, some reflecting the growing importance of television and digital sources of information and the resulting financial decline of newspapers, investigations of businesses and financial markets receded sharply over the past decade; in Starkman’s terms, “accountability journalism” gave way to “access journalism.” The result was much more coverage of current earnings and successful or colorful business personalities, rather than analysis of the underlying sources of those earnings or the impressive compensation those personalities earned. The book adds most financial journalists and their bosses to the list of people culpable for the financial crisis of 2008; better investigative journalism would have exposed more of the misleading sales pitches, outright fraud, and systemic corruption in the U.S. mortgage market, perhaps even in time to sharply diminish the severity of the crisis.