Thursday, 28 March 2013

Cyprus- bank run or crawl?

So far, the expected 'bank runs' of savers emptying their accounts that were expected when Cyprus re-opened its banks today (28/3/13) don't seem to have materialised. However, I don't think the lack of the predicted 'stamepedes' by depositors trying to get their cash out is thanks to any measured reporting of the story by the media. Coverage by the BBC shows a scrum of journalists and film crews outside the banks in Nicosia before they opened, and the article also comments that some banks had more journalists than depsoitors queueing outside!

This issue highlights to me how the reporting of such events risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy, and in a previous post in March 2012, I looked at how media reporting of 'panic' buying of petrol can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophesy and represents what psychologists call a social dilemma, as what may seem a sensible indvidual choice is not in the collective interest if everybody does it. This can create a difficult situation for the media, as they may not want to be responsible  for creating a self-fulfilling prophesy of reporting bank runs, but they may also be concerned not to be seen as repressing legitimate news stories (which would probably emerge via social media anyway). There's an interesting clip from Radio 4 news on march 20th, which discusses this dilemma for the media. There's no easy way to completely overcome this dilemma, but I think it highlights the importance of not sensationalising news coverage in these situations, or relentlessly pursuing a particular angle on a story that may not be supported by events on the ground. Otherwise the media risks creating the stories rather than simply covering them. 

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