Credit crunch cliches

20 November 2008 at 12:07 pm 3 comments


Andy Stubbings writes:

One of the great lines in the film Network is when the news anchor Howard Beale covers the news of the 1970s recession by telling viewers,

“I don’t have to tell you things are bad! Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression!”

But in the days of 24-hour rolling news channels and multi-supplement newspapers, such brevity is no longer good enough. There’s a correlation between the amount of actual ‘news’ anyone can report, their level of knowledge of the subject, and the amount of cliche they generate. The formula for this is probably M x I = C, where M is how massive the story is, I is the journalists’ general level of ignorance, and C is the volume of cliche. There are even blogs which celebrate the best crunch cliches. Here’s my list of current favourites.

  1. Brokers with their hands on their faces. The first and possibly still the best.
  2. The dramatic falling red line on a graph. It’s like the classic cartoon graph, which plunges off the edge of the chart, and never (well hardly ever) has scales or axes.
  3. The knock on effect. The human interest story designed to explain economics’ multiplier effect: the local corner shop skimps on window cleaning, so the window cleaners have cut back, so the chammy leather business is struggling, and in no time at all we’re at 3 million unemployed by Christmas.
  4. The unlikely winners. The little-known (but still beaten-to-death-in-popular-journalism) phenomenon of unlikely goods, usually discretionary luxuries, succeeding in the prevailing economic environment. Examples cited include pizza home delivery, condoms, dining in for a tenner, and even Karl Marx.
  5. The unfortunate loser. Sometimes seen alongside number 4. This sometimes appears to be the publication’s revenge on things it’s never liked much, from smoothies to BMWs.
  6. The credit crunch as Malthusian check to greed and selfishness. To achieve full cliche status needs to include the phrase ‘financial wizardry’.
  7. The undeserving bankers. If they aren’t about to be sacked (see number 1), they will be drinking champagne at an ING-sponsored party on the proceeds of the tax-payers’ bail-out.
  8. The worst….since the great depression. Or other periods of general purpose crisis, such as the Second World War, Roosevelt’s New Deal, rationing, the Blitz, etc. The Sun is the runaway leader here. Its “Backing British Business” campaign even uses the slogan “Your country needs you“.
  9. The list (ahem). Usually money saving tips which can be constantly recycled from one story to another.
  10. ‘The credit crunch’. The biggest cliche of the lot. Used as shorthand for everything, and shoe-horned wherever possible into every other Sunday supplement article e.g. ‘credit crunch chic’, ‘credit crunch lunch’. And now being seen in other company as well – as in “the oil crunch“.

Thanks to Josh Hunt and Joe Ballantyne for their contributions. The picture at the top of this post comes from Brokers With Hands On Their Faces, and there’s a lot more there.

Entry filed under: economic downturn, media.

Grant Park’s tipping points Almost like the real thing

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Phil Clark  |  23 November 2008 at 10:20 pm

    A very good summation of journalistic cliche. For a full gallery of heads in hands activity see the right hand column of this blog It’s great also to hear the upping of the ante of over-dramatic language. One accountant I know called it the ‘credit quake’ earlier this month.

  • 2. Brian  |  14 August 2009 at 10:57 pm

    I am a window cleaner out in Southern California, and I have definitely felt the credit crunch on my commercial accounts. Jobs that you have been doing for years suddenly drop your service and you are left scrambling to find another account to fill in for that lost income. As far as my residential clients I havent felt it too much. Hope im not speaking too soon.

  • 3. Window Cleaning San Diego  |  20 April 2010 at 4:29 am

    The credit crunch is hitting all corners it seems. Been trying to get a new truck for my company, but it seems that the banks are slapping some pretty steep percentages on just about everything!


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