How the mighty have fallen

The always-insightful Barry Ritholtz (http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/ – highly recommended) posted a fitting tribute to film maven Roger Ebert last week, using nothing except Ebert’s own words.

http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2013/04/violence-movies-thoughts-by-roger-ebert/

Aside from the memories conjured up of Siskel and Ebert discussing the nuances of filmmaking on Sneak Previews, it serves as a great reminder of the difference between news and entertainment. And nowhere have the two been more sadly confused than in the realm of finance and investing.

It has been depressing to watch the decay in quality of the once formidable Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Now featuring banner headlines like, “Does my hair make me look old,” and lots of recipes and fashion tips, its legacy as a paragon of serious journalism is dead and buried. It is pretty much impossible to reconcile today’s WSJ with the one described by Warren Phillips in his 2012 autobiography, Newspaperman. The saddest part is how few people seem to realize the loss.

For the individual investor this matters, a lot. I let my subscription to the WSJ expire last year after decades of reading it daily. Frankly, the WSJ had become a bad habit, using up time that could be spent on more productive activities. Much to my surprise, that daily WSJ fix has been replaced with http://www.bloomberg.com. It sure feels like I get better information, and in less time. More focused on business (and politics), the stories behind the headlines tend to be thorough and, on occasion, rather thoughtful.

The point of this rambling is simply a reminder to be mindful of what sources are influencing your thoughts about managing money. There is a lot of meaningless information being bandied about under the guise of “business news” when, if fact, it is nothing of the sort. Let’s face it; the WSJ is just the most blatant example of a storied brand being used to sell inferior products.

On the other hand, as the last bastion of true financial journalism, The Economist is a must read for anyone truly interested in the big picture. As investors, news about individual companies is less important to our decision making than articles providing context for what can influence and impact the decisions we make. An example from a recent issue:

http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21574041-there-more-one-way-savers-lose-out-financial-repression-levy

While not in complete agreement with the conclusions, simply thinking about the notions being discussed can only help to improve our ability to manage money. Using the Cypriot banking crisis as a backdrop, the bigger theme is that our savings are constantly being niggled away, often in ways we don’t see or feel.

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2 Responses to How the mighty have fallen

  1. Matt Mohr says:

    Chris,
    Thanks. I love the Economist. You can read the online version for free if you don’t abuse it. Also, you bring up another important point “Does my hair make me look old”?

  2. Bruce Peterson says:

    I too miss The Journal of old, was a part of my daily routine for many years. The way they turned photos of people into those etchings that looked like what we see on our money, had the effect of making it seem like what was presented was of greater importance. I let go of it when they started running color on the front page.

    My dad used to give me a subscription for Christmas back when I couldn’t afford it. Later when he retired to a slim fixed income I returned the favor – he would send clippings of articles every few weeks with notes to make sure I was aware of something he felt was important or interesting…

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