Media Criticism: Too harsh? (No)

On occasion in this space, I have turned the spotlight on the Financial Press. I am all too aware of the tendency to engage in hyperbole or worse. As someone who is involved in that sphere as both a writer and a guest, I feel obligated to address these issues, as it impacts markets, and especially, investor sentiment.

I have, for example, disagreed with Larry Kudlow’s inflation views, criticized Jim Cramer’s columns on Real Money as being over the top, noted the knee-jerk response to Cramer’s show (Monitoring the ‘Mad Money’ Madness), even discussing the show’s tcotchkes for sale on eBay.

I have been critical — in a hopefully constructive way — about the WSJ’s blogging effort, as well as the NYT’s attempts. I have harrassed Dow Jones Newswires to make Market Talk a blog, and derided’s blogging effort.

I tried to reveal a bit of behind the scenes views of SquawkBox. I’ve whined about Squawk Box’s removing the clock and futures bug, and kvetched about the awful annoying sound effects on Power Lunch. I’ve scratched my head in wonder at some of the less comprehensible changes at the network.

Business week was critiqued for a Cover Story. We’ve discussed the overall consolidation in the financial press, and lamented nameless distributors of misinformation;  We’ve mocked that voiceless, powerless entity Squawkbox for Blogging.   

When Bulls & Bears got excessively bullish on the War outcome (Bulls & Bulls?), I’ve called them on it.

I’ve almost never complained about my own coverage (okay, maybe once, but I admitted it was my own fault). I do not use this platform to kvetch about being invited or not as a guest. My criticism is never ad hominem, always relates to how the coverage is done and is concerned with the impact on the investor.

Since I endeavor to be "fair and balanced" at all times, I want to address the Bulls & Bears show I critiqued. I received a few private comments about that, I’d like to clarify that post:

1) From my own experience with Fox, they never put words into guests mouths; I have always been free to say whatevcer I wanted to. If anyone read that into it, that is simply the wrong conclusion;

2) The selection of all uber-bullish guests, however, does move the show away from a "fair & balanced" perspective;

3) Finally, what truly got me crazed was a general blase attitude about the war — Iraq is not going swimmingly. Want to know what the Cost of Freedom is? Over 2300 US service have been killed, with nearly 20,000 injured. I found it offensive to frivolously downplay the danger. It is simply inappropriate when service men (and women) are in harm’s way to be so shallow and superficial on the subject.

4) I rarely discuss this, but I take war and terrorism extremely seriously. My old firm was headquartered in 2 World Trade on September 11; I lost friends, and I know too many people who have lost family members on 9/11 — or in Afghanistan orin Iraq.  I tolerate no bull&*%$ on the subject.

In rereading the Bulls & Bulls piece, perhaps my tone is harsher than it needed to be. I apologize for that.  I was furious, and my sarcasm failed to come across in print the way I hoped.

As to the substance of it, I stand by what I wrote. Anyone who downplays the risks in Iraq or takes the matter in a less than serious manner deserves scorn and ridicule.

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  1. Thom H commented on Apr 11

    Never, ever, appologize for telling the truth.

    Did you get a little push back for your comments from Fox?

  2. JoshK commented on Apr 11

    I thought those sound effects from CNBC were something wrong with our turret system…

  3. Bynocerus commented on Apr 11

    I caught a smidge of Bulls and Bulls at the gym this weekend. Oddly, Gary B Smith, a trader I think a lot of, expressed complete disbelief that we would have a bear market any time in the near future. I think he called a 20% correction impossible (although I didn’t catch the time frame he was referencing).

    On the flip, there was a commentator who strongly believed we would see Dow 10,000 before October, so apparently some of Barry’s criticisms were taken to heart.

  4. rob hone commented on Apr 11

    Fox and CNBC are so offensively stupid as to be comical. When you consider the sophistication of CNBC’s viewer base, the product they put out is amazingly shallow. There is a huge opportunity for some smart trader/econ types without a political agenda to launch a web based video service aimed at the financial community.

  5. Bynocerus commented on Apr 11

    Speaking of TV shows, here’s an idea for one: Fade the Fade the Fade the Open. It seems like every morning for months we’ve seen traders fade the open, then fade the opening fade, then fade the opening fade fade. I guess this is why the buy programs wait a few hours to kick in.

  6. GRL commented on Apr 11

    I guess this is why the buy programs wait a few hours to kick in.

    How come the buy programs always “kick in” around 11:00?

  7. Bynocerus commented on Apr 11

    Good question I don’t know the answer to GRL. Wild speculation includes:

    1. The daytraders have less sway over the market after the first hour, allowing the buy programs to have greater efficacy;

    2. The programs are prohibited from operating before 11:00, and/or;

    3. The Price is Right starts @ 11:00 AM EST. I’ve never missed an episode, and neither has any other trader I know. As such, we let the machines do our dirty work while we stare at Barker’s Beauties.

    Hopefully, Barry or someone else will know the answer.

  8. calmo commented on Apr 11

    Gotta go with rob hone or atleast in that direction: the fact that WSJ and NYT have entered the blogshere is evidence that people are turning away from the delivery of savvy opinion dished out in more or less mainstream media/press.
    It could be that the messages are not up to speed –that the opinions expressed there misjudge an audience whose sophistication is somewhat higher. [Consider, for example, the recent “pure speculation” remarks from the President designed to allay the fears of those incited by Hersh.]
    Some of us are done listening to crap and need to issue correctives if only to save what remains of our self respect.

  9. marty commented on Apr 11

    if you’re going to give sincere criticism then any apologies is needless dilution. I find fox bulls and bears to be mindless cheerleading.

    Larry Kudlow may be smart, but he is a reagan redux who is too “historically selective to be anything other than “bad entertainment” but better than most.

    Im most impressed that cramer once had to sleep in his car, and when he’s through finding his “bull market somewhere” his readers will know what it’s like to sleep in their cars.

    In sum, I respect the potency of your writing. No dilution necessary.

  10. thecynic commented on Apr 11

    i think the programs(have been buy lately but will be interesting to see today) hit around 11:00 because that’s when Europe closes and i’m thinking those macro hedge funds out of London or where ever else are kick starting the programs.. like i said they have been predominantly buy related recently because the trend has been higher, but that momentum can turn on a dime… got another 30 minutes we will see if they can goose it. 1294-1295 now looking like resistance.. will see if they can punch it back thru..

  11. drey commented on Apr 11

    Better to boycott Fox altogether as they are apologists for the administration and unabashedly partisan in their views expressed. It’s a disturbing trend, politicization of the news (some of it subtle and some not) under the guise of a fair and balanced news presentation. In fact, it’s downright Orwellian…

    Totally agree about the need for serious economics and investment related programming. I enjoy Cramer for entertainment purposes but the popularity of his show is just one more sign that the end is near.

  12. thecynic commented on Apr 11

    i’m sorry, 11:00 CST.. i’m in central time.. Europe closes at 11:00 CST and that’s when i see the goose..

  13. Alaskan_Pete commented on Apr 11

    Well, your first error is viewing Faux News channel as anything other than a rank propaganda mill. If they’re “Fair and Balanced” it’s fair to big business/partisan GOP operatives and balancing the far, far right with the radical christian right.

    The channel is a joke and deserves derision at every turn. Although, CNN is hardly any better and CNBC is clownshow of the first order. WSJ news section is fantastic…opinion page? Out to lunch, wingnuts of an especially rabid breed. At least we still have the BBC and CBC.

  14. john commented on Apr 11

    Years and years ago (too many I fear) I believed in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and a whole slew of other myths and makebelieve. I also believed that the news programs were there to keep you informed.

    I have found through the years that with the possible exception of the Tooth Fairy and maybe the Easter Bunny the rest is just unmitigated BS designed to suck you in and keep you quiet until you die.

    Most news reporting is done by people who can read what other people write. And those people generally are filling time between commercials and could give a crap less what it is they put down on the paper.

    Now the only thing I know for sure (with at least 90% certainty) is that the price of the product is pretty close to the truth.

    If you want to know how the economy is doing look at the price of the commodities from apples to zinc. Those prices tell the truth. When they are all going up the economy is good because demand is high and broad. When they are all going down the economy is bad because supply is high and demand is thin. If transportation is going up steadily it is inflationary because there is no reason for transportation to go up steadily. If transportation is spiking high it is because of a tragedy somewhere requiring more trucks than usual. And so on.

    These are the kinds of stories you won’t hear on the business channels because: 1. There is no market for them in a broad sense. 2. They are difficult to understand or comprehend. 3. Pretty girls and hyperactive gents can’t sell soap by talking about them. 4. It is easier to believe in myths than to understand that nothing happens until something is sold (which means of course that something also was bought).

  15. im1dc commented on Apr 11

    High Fives for your comments, Barry.

    You are what they all would like to be but can’t be and that would be ‘honest’, not perfect, not prescient, just plain ‘honest’.

    They are always looking over there shoulders.

    You are always looking ahead.

    Please don’t change.

    Bethany McClain of Fortune is another of your kind who covers big stories like Enron in detail and in depth and let’s the chips fall where they are and makes no excuses.

    Excellence is where people make it happen and the media is not out for excellence but for advertiser dollars.

  16. Mike commented on Apr 12

    Permission to speak freely sir?

    If you ever roll over on your back and spread your legs like that again, I’ll quit reading your comments, erase the bookmarks on my computer, shut off that idiot Kudlow when I see your mug on there and hire hackers to attack your website with newly created viruses.

  17. Roger Bigod commented on Apr 12

    I know I’ll sound like a crank using an antique word that’s apparently dropped out of standard English, but your attitude about the war was once known as “decency”.

  18. bsteve commented on Apr 19

    beware: Janet Yellen on Power Lunch today.

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