Every New York Times Depression Porn Story Reads the SameS

Yesterday it was tent cities, today it's Portland on the verge of a descent into a 28 Days Later-like hellscape. The New York Times is on a New Depression jag, and it's bringing us down.

Of course there is an economic calamity going on, and it is news. (And we can't expect the mood to be very cheery at the Times the day after management called for a pay cut.) But today the Times goes to Portland to check out the damage there, and winds up spending almost as much time on anguished hand-wringing about just how fucked we all are as it does on reporting what's actually going on, economically speaking, in Portland.

After leading with the decision by Michael Powell, the owner of Powell's Books, to put off a planned $5 million expansion of his store in the face of a 5% decline in sales, Peter S. Goodman spends a whopping nine paragraphs and 500 words on a grim summary of the "vengeful dynamic," in which,"Falling home prices, weak consumer spending, diminishing investment and a fresh reappraisal of risk are combining to bring more of each. Grim expectations about the future are becoming self-fulfilling prophesies." Ugh, we get it — we are all doomed all even if Timothy Geithner suddenly figures out what the hell he's doing and gets his head around the banking crisis. But wasn't this a story about Portland?

We appreciate the regional reporting about how the downturn is playing out across the country, but if every story needs to be wrapped up in a nine-paragraph recitation of a parade of horribles before we even get to the specifics of the story at hand, it's going to get real grim real fast.

Two weeks ago, the Times' public editor Clark Hoyt entertained complaints from readers that the Times was overplaying bad economic news and hurting consumer confidence with fear-mongering: "The NY Times is becoming part of the problem," one wrote. "How about some balance in reporting?" Hoyt quite reasonably replied that the bad news is the story, and people need to hear it. We agree. But do Times reporters really need to be writing Microsoft Word macros for "this fundamental problem continues to constrict the economy" just yet?