Another (cheap) shot at financial journalists

Someone seemed to be capitalizing on the buzz Jon Stewart has created.  Taking him to be “not rude enough,” a columnist for the Wall Street Journal published today a piece taking another shot at financial journalists. Yes, that includes Cramer and people in CNBC. The writer went as far as citing Hayek and Friedman’s realization of the “world’s perverse refusal to learn certain lessons, even when history itself drove them home.

But what about the syndicated columnists and the beloved stock pickers and the authors of personal finance best-sellers, the industry for which CNBC is the perfect symbol? How did they manage to miss the volcano under their feet?

Who says CNBC was the perfect symbol? I probably have a personal bias by saying they are the better network, but it doesn’t make sense to point at them as the “perfect symbol” of the group he and Stewart are blaming to have missed what was about to come.  I wonder what the writer’s recommendations are for people not only from CNBC but also Bloomberg and Fox Business News who didn’t unveil (and prevent) the impending crisis? After all, they were part of the one big group who didn’t forewarn everyone.

Mr. Stewart wasn’t rude enough to ask it, but over all his inquiries there hung the obvious question: Why do you still have a job, Mr. Cramer?

I suppose it’s because as intelligent as Cramer was, his job was not focused on investigative journalism.  He was out there to provide a lesson on Investing 101 to everyone who dare learn about and play the markets.  What do you call his persistent criticism of corporate officers who were not performing the way they should? What he does already shows effort.  The reason why he has a job is because CNBC thinks he is serving the masses well.

Maybe knowing about bank leverage of 30-to-1 should have been a sign yet where was the government and the Treasury to prevent the collapse from happening? More than it is the financial journalists task, it was similarly (if not more so!) the fault of the government officials to feast on the bull market celebration which lasted until last year and not impose stricter regulations on bank leverage. Dare you ask, Why does the government still exist?

Plenty of people did see the disaster coming. Most of them were marginalized, however, laboring at out-of-the-way econ departments, blogs and B-list think tanks. They were excluded and even ridiculed because their larger understanding of the economy was not one that fit well with the sort of Wall Street worship preached by the likes of CNBC.

I wonder if the writer himself was including the newspaper where his commentary was being published as one of those who marginalized the ones who predicted things? After all it is part of financial journalism (and a leader at that!).  Or how about Fox Business News? It seems to me he is also pointing fingers at the people from the sister company of where he writes for not doing a better job.  (Or a cheap shot at CNBC in order to elevate the status of their network?) Maybe people from the WSJ and Fox need to do more investigative work and invite more of these “B-list” analysts to write commentaries on the paper and appear on TV to warn people of future crises?

Adversarial voices are few. Criticism is sacrificed for access.

The writer certainly is one of those “adversarial voices”.  And yes, probably the world needs more of people like him. To criticize not after the fact or when people such as Stewart have already made a buzz of the supposed lack of responsibility and accountability of people from networks such as CNBC.  It is indeed faster to ride the wave and beging criticizing when someone has already done so.

Many have not predicted the crisis, and perhaps many have done so. Yet those who have not, financial journalists in particular, cannot be blamed.  They probably could’ve done more but to point at them as if it was their fault is both unfair and unnecessary. The basic reason these financial journalists exist is to provide information, accelerate the transfer of information, and create a venue where the most pressing issues are analyzed and discussed.  Anything else beyond that is like icing on the cake.  If one’s notion, if the writer’s notion of perfect journalism is one that does all functions above AND uncover all the financial shenanigans (which is probably more the task of institutions such as the SEC, Treasury, and whatnot), then maybe CNBC is not perfect. Hence, not the perfect symbol.


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