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I confess: I caused the housing downturn

Go ahead, tell me. I can take it. Am I to blame for the downturn in the housing market? I mean “me” as in “we” as in “we” in the media. Tim Hamby, the president of a Florida company that does PR and marketing for real estate developer thinks so (or at least his developer clients do). Tim and his team at Renaissance Creative have released a line of T-shirts designed to take a playful (?) swipe at the media for sensationalizing the bad news in housing, and for making the downturn worse by spooking the public. (You can see two of the T-shirt designs at right.)

So are we, the jackals of the press, guilty as charged? Some real estate pros think so, according to this article on eFinance. Heck, I remember when my wife and I were buying our first house outside Washington, D.C., and our real estate agent, who was upset about a bearish article in The Washington Post, told me that the local real estate community should yank all its advertising from the Post to punish the Post. That was 1991. And he knew I was a journalist!

So I’d like to know what readers of this blog think.

But first allow me to defend my profession: Which leads me to say that this criticism is a bunch of hooey. If anything, we are guilty of not sounding the alarms earlier (although I will point out that I wrote stories two years ago warning of how lenders were increasingly pushing “option ARM” mortgages to qualify otherwise unqualified borrowers, and how mortgage fraud was a growing problem. Maybe if regulators had read these stories….oh, never mind.

Seriously, we in the media are criticized when we don’t unearth and alert the public to scandals in the making (Enron, Worldcom) and we’re pilloried when we do focus on brewing problems. Maybe if the real estate/mortgage complex hadn’t been pushing so hard for growth, the housing boom would have stretched out for much longer, albeit at a more moderate, sustainable pace.

Just to prove I’m a nice guy, here’s the link to order one of the T-shirts, which are $20 each, with all proceeds going to charity. Maybe I’ll order one myself.

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