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Liz & Whitney: Final Paper1

(tama, 2011)Bernie Madoff: "they had to know"

Bernie Madoff: “They had to know”

The Madoff investment scandal broke out in December 2008.  Anyone who pays even the least bit of attention to the news or has any sort of office occupation knows of the infamous scandal.  It was the largest investor fraud ever committed by an individual; Bernard Madoff.   It is called a Ponzi scheme, where a company pays profits to different investors.  The company does not use their own money, but rather the money from previous investors.  Simply, it is a fraud that uses new investors to pay off the older investments.  These Ponzi schemes are usually discovered when the newer investment pool weakens (Bhattacharya, 2003).

Recently, there has been a new possible discovery that the banks that were schemed “had to know,” says Madoff. Both mainstream and alternative news sources have covered this news-breaking story.   While looking at Reuters’ Madoff: Banks ‘Had to Know’ of Ponzi Scheme and Disinformation.com’s The United States Economy: One Massive Ponzi Scheme? it is interesting to note how the take on this recent news differs between the two articles.

Disinformation is an independent media company that is located in New York City. The news site is very up-to-date with their web technology and offers many different media sources on Disinformation.com. They have Disinfo.com, their web portal, which fosters more of the idiosyncratic news articles submitted by the website’s viewers. Podcasts and many earlier editorials published years ago are also offered in which Disinformation states; “Whether it’s text, audio or video, if it’s offbeat or unconventional, you’ll probably find it here.”

The site was first launched in 1996 and was originally designed to be a search service on politics, current affairs, and concealed information that is usually not included in the more mainstream news sources. It was originally funded by Tele-Communications Inc. (now Comcast).  Soon after the launch of the new site, TCI canceled all funding for the new website.  The founding Disinfo team kept the site going and it turned into a popular news source.  Disinfo’s articles still address many issues of “What you know is wrong,” which was their initial tag-line. They are a very progressive news site, though in their description, they “are not close-minded to conservative views or reports.”They believe that if they were to rule that part out, there would only be one side to any story.

Reuters Group Unlimited, or Reuters, is a global news agency  headquartered in London, United Kingdom. The agency was formed in part of an independent company, Reuters Group PLC, which was also a provider of financial market data. The Thomson Corportation merged with Reuter’s on May 15, 2007. A rule of 15% maximum ownership was overlooked because, as chairman of Reuters Founders Share Company, Pehr Gyllenhammar says, “The future of Reuters take precedence over the principles. If Reuters were not strong enough to continue on its own, the principles would have no meaning.” Thomson now controls about 53% of the company and the Reuters news agency forms a part of a single Markets Division that combined all of Thomson Reuters’ financial market data activities.

Reuters has a strict policy towards upholding a journalistic objectivity. Many journalists are hired however, they are often put in risky situations that can result in death. Although the agency has been criticized for being harsh on its journalists and word usage, the Reuter’s Global Managing editor, David A. Schlesinger states that it is “my goal is to protect our reporters and protect our editorial integrity.”

On February 15, 2011, Reuters first reports claims from Madoff about the knowledge the banks had on his Ponzi scheme. The article provides us with evidence that is not used in the disinformation.com article. The Reuters article includes quotes from both JP Morgan as well as two Mets principals.  The quotes both simply state that their companies knew nothing and were not participating in the fraud.  By adding in these quotes, both companies can almost directly tell the reader that they had nothing to do with the scandal.  When the writer introduced these quotes, there seems to be no bias attached to them to sway the reader into believing they are telling the truth or not. The Disinfo article most likely would have approached these quotes differently, introducing them in a fashion that would believe them to be lying.  In the Disinfo article, the writer wants to make it clear that more people knew about the Ponzi scheme.  For example “There were many who should have known and done something about it.  The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulators for one.” Because Disinfo did not have these quotes in their article, they are not giving JP Morgan and the Mets any way to tell the public they are not guilty.

In the disinformation.com article, The United States Economy: one Massive Ponzi Scheme?, unlike the Reuters article, there is evidence from other publications that suggest the claim against the banks is true. The website brings light to the New York Times interview that is also being disputed in other publications such as the New York Post. Irving Picard, court-appointed trustee, has been representing thousands of Madoff victims while stating that the banks involved were complicit in Madoff’s scheme. He denied having any direct communication with Madoff, although the Times had earlier reported other wise. This evidence presented by disinformation.com shows that maybe Picard is right about his claims. The article refers to a report by the New York Post that says “The Times later changed a quote from Madoff and altered some text online that had implied Picard personally visited Bernie in the Butner, NC, lockup where he is serving a 150-year sentence. Picard did not dispute that his legal team met with Madoff.”Disinformation provides readers with this evidence to promote bias against the claim against J.P Morgan and MET. By showing the controversy of the subject, disinformation.com gives us reason to believe that Irving Picard may have been receiving information from Madoff all along about the involvement of the banks. Reuters, on the other hand, doesn’t provide the reader with any controversial facts from other publications against Madoff or the bank in order to seem unbiased.

Reuters continues to differ from disinformation.com by providing information about Madoff’s family that the reader can connect to. The article describes how hard the collapse of the Ponzi scheme has been on him and his family. By providing us with information about the potential bankruptcy his wife may face and the suicide of his son, Reuters reminds readers that although a fraud, Bernie Madoff is too, a human being. Disinformation.com, however, portrays no sympathy for Madoff or his family . The article begins with sarcasm directed right towards Madoff as well providing little jabs at him throughout the story, such as “ Keeping with the deceit that has served him well over the years, he names no names.” When referring to which banks “should have known.” It is clear that the writers of disinformation have no sympathy for Madoff and are persuading readers to share their feelings instead of providing news at face value.

After reading the two articles, it has become apparent that Disinfo is the betters source for this particular article.  Disinfo in fact gave the readers more facts that Reuters did not.  Reuters tried to stay un-biased the whole time in the article in order to keep a wide variety of readers.  Reuters gives facts, but does not elaborate on them.  Even though biased papers are not usually the more credible sources because they are framing the readers to look into a certain specific view.  Disinfo may show some biased opinions in their articles, but by adding these in, the reader can become more interested in the article.  The Reuters article was less interesting and by the end, it really doesn’t have any impact on the reader at all.  In other words, without the biased opinions in this type of article, the reader finnishes the article wondering just why they read it.  Especially in this kind of article, where there is no proof and not much factual information proving either side to the argument.  It is just an article about a possible idea and by adding in a voice and opinions into the writing, the reader can get more of a sense of why they are reading the article.

The style of writing is easily detected right at the beginning of both of the articles. The Disinfo article begins with “Thank you, Bernie, for breaking your silence-even if you are still clinging to that cover-up mode you adopted since you took the entirety of the blame for your crimes.” The article then goes on about how it is more punishable to rip off the rich than it is the poor.  This is a much more capturing hook that writer Danny Schechter uses.  It adds in biased opinions and starts the article with a very negative approach towards Madoff.  In the Reuters article, the writer begins the article with the exact issue.  He does not give any bias in this part.  It is very straightforward and gets to the point.  Reuters has a larger audience than Disinfo does and a much bigger name.  Reuters is not trying to be as bias as Disinfo is because they want to hold their large audience.  Disinfo’s writers are biased in their articles, but this may just be how they keep their viewers intrigued.

Like the introduction to the article, disinformation.com does a good job grabbing the reader’s attention at the end of the article as well. Schechter concludes his argument by questioning the United State’s ability to act upon the crisis at hand. He criticizes the way the Internet is used, implying that we are not using our resources to our capacity. He explains that “Many activists say they want to emulate the Egyptians, but who will organise anything as effective – even in a land that used to be known for people’s movements – to raise hell? In Egypt, young people used the Internet to organise and mobilise for change. In the US, the Internet seems to function more as an escape valve, consuming hours of our time and giving us another way to talk to each other – and ventilate against the government. Social media here seems to be more for socialising.”  Schechter gives us something to think about. He brings up the issue as to why, if the banks truly did know about what was going on, why didn’t they do anything? And why aren’t we, as a country, doing anything to prove that they did? Why is the population so passive? He provides us with quotes to evoke our curiosity in the subject and then, unlike Reuters, closes with a note to Madoff; “That is our problem, Bernie. Even if the people want to know, it is not that easy to find out. Let us thank the media and our government for that.”  Disinfo is trying to get their voices heard by taking a different approach than news agency such as Reuters. Not only is the style of writing different, but the site allows readers to be interactive and give their input on the subject by giving them the option to comment on the article. Comments are important because they have the ability to change a reader’s outlook on the story as well as further provoke thought on the subject.  Disinformation.com presents us with thoughts that the mainstream media often seems afraid of expressing. The purpose of this article was to inform readers of the current state of our government and society and encourage people to do something about it. The persuasive voice, examples, and thought-provoking questions help support this goal.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 24, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Good paper over all, it is well organized. You might want to address which news source is more credible overall at the end of the paper. You brought in a lot of good examples that makes it easy to understand. Double check spacing after you have embedded a link ex: crimes.” (http://www.disinfo.com/2011/02/the-united-states-economy-one-massive-ponzi-scheme/)The

  2. February 24, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    I really liked your paper. The organization was really easy to follow and logical, and you did a fantastic job of working quotes into the piece that fit really well with the rest of the content. I would make your thesis a bit more clear, and make sure that your argument is made a bit more forcefully in your conclusion. It was not immediately clear to me which source you were arguing for.

    Good Work!


  3. February 28, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Great background info on Disinfo and Fox. You really did your homework well there. However, it seems that the story you chose that ran in Fox was actually from Reuters, which is a news wire service like the Associated Press – not an individual. Thus, this story was available for numerous news sources. Was Fox the only one that picked it up and ran it in entirety? If not, then your first section should be about Reuters rather than about Fox, as they’re the ones that generated the report (and they are a mainstream news source).

    Good comparison of how the Reuters story (on the Fox site) conveys a certain sympathy for “frail” Madoff that is completely absent in the Disinfo site. However, the fact that this article quotes the bankers as saying they knew nothing doesn’t seem to add to Madoff’s case. If anything, it seems as if it’s there to communicate to the reader that the reporter got “both sides of the story” – defined in this case as “did they or didn’t they know?” Unfortunately, this report doesn’t seem to ask the important follow up questions that the Disinfo site raises: who knew what? How can they be held accountable? What’s in it for Madoff (who’s got a book coming out) to bring this up now?

    I like your analysis of the questions that the Disinfo site raised that were missing from the Reuters story, which focuses on the individual (Madoff: sympathetic or not? and bankers: knew or didn’t?) instead of the system (why don’t we hold the banking system rather than the individual at fault?).

    Make sure you check for some spelling errors. Also there are some awkward sentences: e.g. “this is a much more capturing hook that writer Danny Schecter uses.” That needs to be rewritten. In a few places, I think you mean “biased” rather than “bias” – but I’d rather hear evidence of how you think the article is framed differently than your evaluation of whether or not something is “biased,” as that is a subjective judgment. You do seem to imply that “bias” has something to do with what the news sources perceive about what their audiences want (e.g., you say it’s “how they keep their audiences intrigued”), so please elaborate on what they say and how they say it rather than merely arguing that it is bias(ed).

    Very nicely written overall, and good concluding sentence.

  4. February 28, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    Great work on the paper guys! Like already said in the comments above, you did a great job researching and organizing the background information on both Disinfo and Fox. I really liked your selection of quotes and found your links to other pages very helpful! I found some lines to be confusing however, so you might want to try and read your paper out loud to make sure it makes sense and flows nicely. I also think you might want to make your position more clear throughout your paper because I was not really sure which side you were arguing. Overall great job though! -Riley

  5. March 3, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Good paper. It was really easy to understand the story and what each news source was saying about it. The organization was good so the flow of the paper is easy to follow. One thing I would add is to have a strong thesis that cleary states how each news source is telling the story. That way the reader will have a good idea of what to expect from the rest of the paper.

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