Financial news sucks

Friday, March 13th, 2009

If you haven’t seen Jon Stewart’s interview with Jim Cramer, you can watch parts one, two and three on Comedy Central’s website. It’s an interesting interview.

One of the things that struck me the most about this interview was how Cramer kept talking about how people had “lied” to him, and lied to his network, and that is somehow an excuse for their pathetic excuse for “journalism”. Softballing CEOs who have run the biggest corporations in the world into the ground and made billions doing it is not journalism.

Journalism is asking real questions, and when you (astonishingly) don’t get answers from the people involved, you go digging. Woodward and Bernstein didn’t blow open Watergate in a 6 minute interview with Nixon on Bloomberg.

I worry that with the popularity of The Daily Show1 and the rise of blogs, we’re losing a generation of investigative reporters. Shouting from the sidelines doesn’t stop cover ups. Stewart and bloggers (like yours truly) adroitly fill the role of observer and commentator2, but the world is full of all sorts of chicanery. We need investigators in these trying times.

Does Woodward really have to be the Woodward of our time? Are we that bad off? Seriously, if you know of (young) people doing solid investigative journalism, leave a comment.

Update: Great comment from Jay O’Conor on how the newspaper business failing is driving this trend.

As I understand it, the revenue model for newspapers was almost entirely based on classified ads — reporting itself doesn’t bring in a lot of direct money, and subscription fees & news stand revenue are largely negligible.

So, to put it in the most oversimplified and pithy way possible, who do we have to thank for the paucity of good journalism? A guy from San Francisco named Craig.

  1. It’s the primary news source for plenty of people. 

  2. I’d put Olbermann and Maddow in this category too. 


  1. Jay O'Conor replied on March 13th, 2009:

    When we have newspapers failing left and right, and what’s left is in the hands of one or two organizations, investigative journalism is all but dead. TV news has been a sham for decades. Those of use who are more technically oriented have become used to obtaining our news (such as it is) for ‘free’ via the Internet. I’m not aware of any serious Internet based news venture that has been financially successful. Personally, I get my news via New York Times, L.A. Times, and Washington Post, all online.

    Being old enough to remember Walter Cronkite, I’m amazed that the news outlets (particularly television) have been satisfied with the military ‘embedding’ for reporting on Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m confident that the Vietnam anti-war effort would never have materialized if we had not been fed a constant stream of images from the front lines. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been completely sanitized for our consumption, and I think we’re the worse for it.

    Frankly, I don’t know where to turn for real news. I guess the New York Times is about the best we have, but even they have fallen short in recent years. It think the situation is going to get worse before it gets better. Hopefully, observers and commentators will continue to draw attention to the problem, and someone smart will figure out a market for real news in a post-newspaper era.

  2. AllOfTheStreetsMen replied on May 2nd, 2009:

    “Journalism is asking real questions, and when you (astonishingly) don’t get answers from the people involved, you go digging.”

    — Postulation itself contradicts what our heros Hoffman and Redford showed us in such a proverbial fashion. Kramer got paid to just “retweet” mainstream rss/atom feeds coming from the mainline wall.street. Ergo, his entire worldview could have never perceived it becoming a carcinogen—granted I just recycled a com modified piece of wisdom—hopefully with some humor. Now, granted the financial system has a greater magnitude of reach than, say, some “Techcrunched”-startup-now-a-http-redirect-to-a-germane-company-with-funding, the same cycle seems to always happen. The wisdom from this, and precisely on target, is covered by Taleb’s works. If you research the five years leading up to all of his, he went from “idiot moron with ideas contrary to what works” to “How did you know so far before?”. While a poor analogy, I recall Einstein had similar attenuation with his ideas…