One very striking feature of much of the reporting on the ongoing financial crisis, especially in America, is the emphasis which is being placed on the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average; I say that this is striking because if there's one thing any journalist who's been through Finance 101 should know, it is that the Dow Jones is an extremely narrow and unrepresentative collection of stocks which don't necessarily tell one very much about the state of the broader market as a whole.
If one were intent on using an equity index to track the general state of the financial markets, the S&P 500 would be a much better choice than the DJIA, and even better still would be to use the Wilshire 5000.
Now, it would be great if more financial journalists were aware of the information above, but the thing to keep foremost in mind is that the ongoing financial troubles are rooted in a credit crisis, stemming from the fact that major banks all across the world are now extremely reluctant to lend to each other because they have no good way of telling which of their peers are likely to go belly up without repaying. As such, by far the best way to keep track of how effectively the world's governments are handling this crisis would be to track directly the rate at which banks are willing to lend to each other (which is called "LIBOR"), and the rates which investors expect from government bonds (which are generally as safe as it gets in the developed world). The gap between these two rates is called the "TED Spread", and as Brandon Fuller explains here, the spread is currently at levels which have never been seen before - in fact, as the Financial Times reports, the TED Spread is currently at levels dwarfing the heights reached on Black Monday in 1987: in short, it is not an exaggeration to say that conditions in the credit markets are far worse than even the plunging Dow Jones Industrial Average would indicate, and the likely consequence of failure to act effectively would be an economic rerun of the Great Depression. In case you think I'm talking out of my hat about just how dire the TED spread indicates the situation is, I recommend reading this post by an actual working economist.
While we're on the subject of the financial crisis, let me note here that I am hardly a fan of government intervention in markets in general, but the scale of the unfolding disaster is such as to sweep aside my usual objections. I remain convinced that libertarianism (or to be precise, minarchism) is about as good as it gets as economic and political philosophies go, but I am also a student of financial history, and as such have a little familiarity with how the world worked in times when concepts like "central banking" and "fiat money" had yet to impinge on anyone's free market sensibilities: in particular, when I see or hear doctrinaire libertarians insisting that government action is unnecessary and a bailout is nothing but waste of taxpayers' money, I only have to draw on the example set by the panic of 1873 to know that the "do nothing" alternative they suggest would give rise to a depression which would make even the biggest of bailouts look cheap. Those who advocate government inaction in the face of this financial meltdown are nothing but ignoramuses mindlessly parroting ideological talking points.