If you want the latest news about the American real estate boom—and whether it's about to go bust—you have plenty of options.
The news pages of Google, Yahoo!, and other Web sites offer a constant stream of wire stories about the state of housing markets around the country. The Wall Street Journal and USA Today follow the big picture with front-page stories about bubble worries. Local newspapers track their own markets, though reporters are often hampered by the Babbittish tendencies of real estate professionals, many of whom will invariably say the market's just humming along, even when it's stone dead.
This is all fine, as far as it goes. But for a story this momentous, one on which the financial well-being of so many Americans, not to mention the economy itself, is riding, most of the coverage is pretty thin. Real estate has never been a plum newsroom job, and there just aren't many reporters who both 1) recognize the boom for the dramatic economic and human story that it is, and 2) have the talent to cover it in all its fullness.
The most striking exception to this rule is David Streitfeld, a reporter in the San Francisco bureau of the Los Angeles Times who has been writing housing stories on and off for the past two years. (Disclosure: The Times published an op-ed by me last Sunday.) Though Streitfeld doesn't cover the beat full-time, when his byline appears over a housing story, you know you're in for something smarter, and a lot better written, than the usual fare. His work isn't just a cut above—it delivers the boom as a tableau vivant of life in America right now.