In Defense of 'Bad News': It Is News

We don't often have much "bad news" about real estate in this Sunday section.

The mechanics of hard negative news, whether it concerns politics or government, business or real estate, sports or entertainment, usually appears for use first in the daily main news section, with follow-up stories in metro, business or sports sections.

Bad news can't be--and shouldn't be--held over until Sunday. It would have lost all its news value and certainly would have been heard and seen on radio and television long before then.

Yet, in almost all areas of reader interest, we find that news critics quickly blame the media for overplaying the bad news and making it sound worse than it is.

How many times have you heard the plaintive outcry that media reports were "all out of proportion?"

How do you report the worst-ever stock market crash? Or a plane crash? Or a case of fraud? Or a major freeway toxic spill?

No one wants to hear bad news, certainly not in home buying or home construction, or home finance. But the very nature of the real estate business periodically results in up-and-down cycles of good and bad times, tied directly to mortgage interest rates. When such rates move dramatically, it's front page news.

An example of typical media criticism appears in a current monthly newsletter from John Burnham & Co., a San Diego-based insurance and realty services firm. Its president blames the press for overdoing or over-reporting the historic Oct. 19 stock market debacle.

Robert J. Lichter, in a lead editorial dealing with reaction to the stock market drop, describes a conversation with a friend.

The business associate, a leading San Diego chief executive, who--in response to a question about the state of affairs in his business dealings after the stock market plunge--said, ". . . (no problems) but I want to be prepared, because I fear the ripple effect from all of the negative news."

Lichter wrote:

"Unfortunately, the media has taken it upon itself to dwell on the negative and, in so doing, create a recession mind-set."

He also noted that after the notorious Wall Street happening, the Dow Jones average returned to January, 1987, price levels and that productivity now is at a near all-time high, unemployment is near an all-time low, purchasing power of the consumer is high, the national debt is being reduced, our dollar has properly fallen in order to strengthen the balance of trade, and "like it or not, we soon will be led by a new President who will begin with a 'honeymoon (period),' thus allowing important things to be accomplished."

After such a positive summation, it would appear that this particular critic's judgment of the supposedly negative impact of the press coverage missed its mark, widely.

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