I am with what anecdotally seems to be the majority of people, who thought the Daily Show interview of Jim Cramer conducted by Jon Stewart was brilliant, even while painful to watch.
Jim Cramer had the misfortune of representing all of CNBC, indeed all of the financial news networks (which is what now, 3?). On the other hand, Cramer sort of brought this upon himself, with the over-the-top advertising for him that CNBC provided (e.g. the much harped-upon “In Cramer We Trust”), and the media blitz that Cramer himself engaged upon after the initial salvos were fired that, while featuring him, didn’t focus solely on him.
Stewart’s message though, similar to the withering one he delivered to the (2nd generation of) CNN’s Crossfire, is that these media institutions are woefully mis-serving their audiences. Most of what the financial networks provide is not news- it is commentary. What news they do deliver is already known amongst most traders and professionals, and so useless for any short-term financial decisions, on which the networks unfortunately prey.
What Stewart was asking for was not (as he said explicitly) for CNBC to be a regulatory agency any more than we expect the White House Press Corps to be a regulatory agency. What they ought to be is an investigative agency. Just as we expect the WHPC to probe the administration (whatever its party) and to challenge their communications with facts gathered through investigations, we should also expect the financial news personalities to do some of their own investigations and challenge their guests with the facts.
Stewart showed several clips from a non-public video Cramer made some years ago describing how he and other hedge fund managers manipulated the markets in ways the regulatory agencies couldn’t keep up with and didn’t understand. Cramer’s defense on the show was: don’t we want him to be able to ferret out those manipulations for the audience?
Of course we want that! But when, Mr. Cramer, have you ever done that? When have you gotten on Mad Money, or one of the other shows on which you appear, and explained how markets can be manipulated… how some gossip about Apple for instance (which he discussed in the video) seems like manipulations. When have you ever directed some foot soldier reporters to dig around a little based on a hunch of misdeeds that I’m sure you get when you see certain things happening? No, instead you lead a show that involves making odd noises, shouting at the viewers, paying lip service to fundamentals that average laymen won’t being to understand properly, and making dartboard stock picks.
When has Rick Santelli ever justified his paycheck? I’ve heard a lot from that rambling boob over the years, but I’ve never heard any insightful discourse. He pretty much just tells us highlights from the Chicago Merc. You can be replaced by a news ticker, Mr. Santelli, and let’s see you pay for your house and extra bathroom then.
The tragedy here is that most normal journalists don’t have the expertise to sift through financial data, smell a rat, and dig up a story. People like Jim Cramer and Rick Santelli presumably do have that expertise, but instead of using it to bring us hard financial journalism that might be of use to the regular viewer (if nothing more than to know where to steer clear), they choose to pander to us. Like clowns, they rode out the boom times honking horns and making balloon animals in the form of stock picks; now after the crash, the personalities who should be the clowns (Stewart and Colbert) are forced to be the adults in the room while these guys throw tantrums about Obama’s policies.
At least Bloomberg Network doesn’t make many pretensions about itself. It delivers pretty much raw data… in fact raw data fills up most of the screen, even during commercials. The network is not for laymen trying to decide which mutual funds to select for their 401k, and they don’t pretend to be. They are the Weather Channel of the financial networks, and I don’t have a problem with that.