Official: End of Banking Bashing

Bashing bankers seems to be an international past time, evoking strong backlash from the banking industry. Stephen Hester has made the statement that the excessive amount of criticism has made “the job harder” and a former stockbroker has even gone as far as to take the issue of how he is portrayed in The Wolf of Wall Street to the courts.  However, this past time might have been greatly overblown. An Oxford study has shown that in newspaper coverage of banks, from the financial crisis in 2008 until today, has been equally positive and negative. Reuter’s Institute for the Study of Journalism has stated that “There is no evidence that the media as a whole appear to pursue vendettas against banking or other financial institutions,” puncturing the idea that banks have been unfairly targeted throughout the tumultuous past few years.

The study consisted of 138,000 articles about banking from 12 different European newspapers being examined. The articles were drawn from between 2007 and 2013, neatly covering the financial crisis until the present. The study discovered that 24% were positive with regards to banking, while 25% were deemed to be negative about banking. A solid 51% were neutral or completely ambivalent about the banking industry. A representative from the Reuter’s Institute, Robert Picard, has made the statement that “Things are not as negative as people think they are,” clearly referencing the fact that the media does not seem to hate banks as much as it claims.

Why is this? One answer to this question is that journalists and other people who work in the media are very hesitant to make an enemy out of the banks and alienate them. Business journalists depend on the banking industry for readership, so if they were to speak in overly negative tones about the industry, a great deal of readership would be lost. Another answer is that, in the study, all tabloids were not included. The tabloids tended to be the most critical of the banking industry.

The study also found out which banks had the most positive press and which banks suffered the most negative coverage. HSBC and Deutsche Bank were found to have enjoyed a fairly positive relationship with the media, while USB tended to have the majority of the articles written about it be in a negative tone. Despite the fact that the hatred of banks in the media has been greatly overstated, the industry still inspires criticism, especially in the form of the recent Oscar Nominated film, The Wolf of Wall Street.

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