Media and the meltdown

Where was all the good news of 2008, wonder Canadian business leaders.

Business leaders give the federal mini-budget high marks.

Positive economic news is the most underreported or ignored issue of 2008, according to a web poll of 138 CEOs conducted by COMPAS Inc.

Nearly 35% of the respondents believe the media missed covering the companies and areas of the country that are successfully weathering the downturn, and that negativity in the media is “sowing panic and misleading the public and government about appropriate action.”

“The media are too uniformly negative about the economic situation and are partly responsible for self-fulfilling prophecies [that] make our economic situation worse,” wrote one respondent.

“Why do the mismanaged major corporations get the headlines?” asked another CEO. “At the very least, there should be comparisons to solid businesses in the same sector that have made the necessary adjustments.”

Nearly one-fifth of the CEOs wanted more stories about government policy risks and errors, such as the potential long-term effects of various stimulus measures, whereas 13% wanted more reporting on the banks, particularly the sector’s exposure to the financial meltdown, its lending practices to individuals and businesses, and an examination of the conditions attached to any loan guarantees.

The challenges of industry sectors outside of auto manufacturing also did not receive enough attention, according to 9% of the CEOs. “Forestry is significantly more important than auto, which is a six-riding issue,” wrote one respondent. Likewise, 4% of the CEOs felt insufficient attention was paid to manufacturers that do not rely on the auto industry.

Another 6% said Western Canada was underrepresented in national media. “There are industries in the west suffering just as much as the east. The western ‘boom’ is industry specific,” wrote one CEO.

There were a host of other perceived underreported issues raised by smaller numbers of CEOs, such as the country’s lack of qualified workers for various jobs, the effect of a global recession on China, and the environment.