Thursday, December 01, 2005



As an economic, financial and investment writer, the Author follows journalistic and scholarly writing tenets. If he quotes someone else, he attributes it. If the material is drawn from another source, he attributes it. And the Author has no proprietary interest in the subjects he discusses. He discloses if he owns an investment that is discussed and advises readers that investments discussed are concepts for consideration only. They may not be appropriate for readers and they must do their independent analysis.

He also seeks objectivity, but not absolute stenographical “balance”. For example, he has demonstrated through research that the “Buy and Hold” investment strategy is ineffective and counterproductive in this current Secular Bear market. If effective arguments in favor of “Buy and Hold” are discovered, he will address them. In fact, in yesterday’s post he addressed the pro and con arguments for “Buy and Hold”. The cons won.

A criticism of the current state of journalism is that journalists do not research issues and events and provide objectively accurate information. Instead, they have become “stenographers”, repeating the events or claims of participants without making any determination of the accuracy of the information provided. They simply parrot the “facts” that are given them and do not do independent investigation into the veracity of these “facts”.


For example, if a politician claims that her anti-crime law has reduced crime by 80%, this claim must be independently verified. If the police dispute this claim and have statistics that show that crime has not declined or has actually increased, then the politician’s claim must be reported as inaccurate and not verifiable. It cannot be reported as the “opinion” of the politician simply to be weighed against the “opinion” of police.

It is against this backdrop of lazy, cowardly, or disingenuous journalism that the following film review should be considered. Also, the Author is confident that none of the journalists that read this blog are of the “stenographic” school, but are dedicated to the journalistic ethics of men such as Edward R. Murrow.

Last weekend, the Author saw the masterful and profoundly trenchant film, “Good Night and Good Luck”. He was going to post on the topic, but blogger “Hughes for America” wrote a review of the film that is profound and vital. Hughes’ post on the film is below. It has been edited by this Author with the deletion of a couple of paragraphs. And the Author has included three comments in brackets [ ]. Here is the review from “Hughes for America”:

[Murrow speaking in the film at an awards presentation for journalists] “And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live.”

When Edward R. Murrow, played brilliantly by David Strathairn, begins "Good Night, and Good Luck" with that prophetic statement, I found myself depressed at how little we've progressed in the nearly 50 years since he spoke those words.
Then, as now, Murrow was right. Our broadcast media are failing us. This, perhaps even more than the gripping political drama, is the greatest lesson to take from a viewing of George Clooney's important movie. And the media will continue to fail us as long as those in power believe the bottom line to be more important than an educated populace. [But the American populace needs to educate itself about topics beyond that of their favorite NASCAR driver or which big-box store is selling the cheapest wide-screen television. Racing, sports and entertainment are a part of life, not the whole of life.]

Blown away and, at the same time, distressed, I left the theater thinking: Where are today's Murrows? Where are the anchors, correspondents and journalists willing to speak truth to power? Where are those brave broadcasters who view their craft as performing a service for America, not as a self-serving, self-promoting chance at celebrity?

The closest heir to Murrow's legacy, Keith Olbermann, is a testament to the devolving media climate. His show, which consistently speaks truth to power, challenges conventional wisdom and speaks to an enlightened citizenry, also consistently struggles in its time slot. That "Countdown" regularly loses out to "The O'Reilly Factor" shames the institution Murrow skillfully crafted.

If the problem only existed at the top level – where corporate-owned networks protect their interests and chilled "journalists" pander to the lowest-common denominator – it wouldn't be as systemic. No, this cancer has spread. The no-news-is-good-news, infotainment-first environment has spread to the next generation of broadcasters.
Curiosity, as I've written before, has all but died among a sizeable portion of people my age – journalists included. The path to the top doesn't run though public affairs reporting any longer. It runs through the soundbite-driven, high-sugar, low-nutrition world of breaking news, celebrity breakups and political punditry. The schools that once produced the next Murrows are busy producing the next SportsCenter anchors. The next Republican talking-points machines. The next Rita Cosbys. And that's a shame.

What's an even bigger shame is that audiences are eating this fluff up. While a large portion is aching for some real coverage, an equally large – if not larger – segment simply wants to know if Nick and Jessica are breaking up. [The Target Audience for infotainment shows is middle class, and upper middle-class, 18-39 year old females. That is why Lacy Peterson is a household word.] And the longer this trend progresses, the more atrophied news operations become, the less capable they'll be to deliver upon their promise when needed most.

As Murrow said then:
“To those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.
This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.”

Here is the link to the Hughes for America Site: