Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fair & Balanced ?

Perhaps the only conceivable thing worse than the Wall Street Journal is a Wall Street Journal owned by Fair & Balanced parent, Newscorp. Such would be case if today's reported marriage were to be consummated.

I have always been partial to the pink sheets of Pearson's Financial Times. I took the habit as a student in US, at the height of the Eurodollar market boom, and continued as a student in the UK, despite the fact that the pink pages were deeply unfashionable amongst the crowd with which I was running and the professors with whom I was studying, most of had a Guardian or Workers Daily under their arm. Nonetheless, despite the unfashionable-ness, I thought it firmly "centrist", and not nearly as obnoxious as The Economist, at the time.

The Financial Times did, and still does, deliver the dry facts. They have no need to pepper the news or op-ed with ideological diatribes, for their readers knew their class and by extension their classes interests. There were few fence sitters in their audience. I appreciated this, for I was keenly independent in thought and found the Wall Street Journal's slant rather vile and insidious. I understood shy they thought it necessary for in America, "class" was primarily economic, far more amorphous, the associated politics more resembled the shifting sands of the Sahara. This meant that there many fence sitters, working-class by birth, middle-class by education, and perhaps upper-middle by profession. They were inherently conflicted and presumably could be swayed by persuasive ideological argument, and/or cynically bent reporting, or deeply ideological op-ed rants.

Today, I still read the Financial Times. And for the most part, they remain "centrist" in the political-economy of their editorial stance (though they've sold out to "the Suits", of late, caving in to vulgarity and the crassest of consumption with their "How To Spend It" and "Property" inserts). But the thought of a Wall Street Journal owned by Murdoch & Co. is, I must reveal, a rather depressing one. As if CNBC's bubblevision weren't sufficiently theatrical with talking heads Kudlow, Cramer, Perky Bartiromo, and their two-minute interviews with the "movers, shakers, and "hot-hands", we know must countenance "Fair & Balanced" in Finance. No more recession. No more pessimism. Your either with us or against us. Bullishness or broker. Bears, skeptics, cyncics, pessimists and maybe even just those this a valid and correct (by contrary) point of view, kind of like France and Germany during the Iraq war will now be ridiculed in print, and in the op-ed. As a result, if consummated, we will have to assign "contrarianism", like Communism before it, to the dustbin of history....ne c'est pas?


Charles Butler said...


"Spanish Property Boom Ends" was FT's headline covering the selloff of property/construction stocks in Madrid. The coverage was pure lowest common denominator fearmongering. Between Lex and Munchau (via his own blog), they'll be having a good many gin-soaked Marbellans' balls in a half hitch.

Pink has faded to yellow with age.


"Cassandra" said...

Of course given the choice, I'd rather peruse IBEX Salad, but quality in the mainstream popular media remains relative, and so I still reach for the FT vs. the Wall St. Urinal, even before Murdoch destroys it.

I have pitied the sad Spanish Med Coast for a long time now, though whatever good hiding the despoilers might now receive will tragically be too late. Ahhh the sordid externalities of uber-cheap money.

Anonymous said...

Look on the bright side, WSJ might get a British "page 3"!

Charles Butler said...

Aside from hijacking your comments to further IS's crusade, the first casualty of said change of ownership be Abelson. We can only hope that the blogosphere would erupt.

Eat your greens.

Macro Man said...

There is virtually no such thing as an unbiased press. The reportage of any facts beyond the most mundane (date, planet of residence, etc.) are coloured by either the reporter's own slant or, more commonly, by the editorial bias of the organ in question. Of course, when said editorial bias agrees with one's own bias, it can become more difficult to detect. There are plenty of gun-totin' good old boys who really do see Fox as "fair and balanced".

The FT, for example, has embraced a cause near and dear to your own heart, Cassandra, namely the "need" for the yen to strenghen. Some of the stuff they were running a couple of months ago on the subject was both limp and factually incorrect. I can also recall a day in 1999 when the front page of the FT trumpeted "Europe to outgrow US in 2000!" Evidence of Cassandra-like foresight? Hardly- it was the release of IMF forecasts that were deemed the most newsworthy story of the day.

The Economist, of course, has a long and glorious history to objecting to what it sees as excesses, which can generally be characterized as any asset that rises in the US. Having had a piece of my own work bastardized by the Economist many moons ago, I've held it in disdain ever since. I still buy it at the airport and read it at the dentist's, but I tend to focus on the obituary and the science/technology section. I am sure there are biases there, but at least I don't know what they are.

"Cassandra" said...

No one's perfect. But the FT IS drier, by contrast, and most certainly less ideological in its political POV. It perhaps has a more cautious and sober macro point of view (was you who term it "Financial Calvinism" ??) relative to WSJ, maybe even FAZ, and Handelsblatt,(and probably the Economist too).

I too still read the Economist (the only populist rag I do read), mostly because I like the oxbridge-inspired arrogance that causes them to take over-the-top chances with their opinions (within of course the realm of their market-orientation) - be it Legalization, Euthanasia, or what have you. But they are behind the curve now, and take their provocative cues from the Blogosphere (Setserr, Thoma, deLong, etc.), which IS where the action is at.

But the WSJ AND Fox are - irrespective of the contrariness of their view to my own - both disingenuine as far as ferreting out something resembling truth or objective reality as a result of trying to find and interpret the intersection of the best varied information source vectors .

Pity the nation should Murdoch triumph, for he obviously values editorial independence far less than operating performance. And make no mistake, demagoguery sells better than honesty and earnestness...at least in Anglo-Saxon countries!!

Macro Man said...

Yes, it is me, in my occasional guise as a financial Servetus, who rails against financial Calvinism.

At the risk of exposing myself to charges of ignorance, I must confess to ignoring the financial press, by and large. I cannot remember the last time that I read the WSJ- must have been at a US hotel- and the FT's strength (dry company news) is stuff that I don;t really get involved with.

I am, alas, a regular reader of a Murdoch paper- the white Times- though in keeping with principles, I generally don't read Kaletsky. Sports, su doku, and letters usually get me through the commute.

So I suppose the question is- if the Dirty Digger buys Dow Jones, the WSJ endorses the GOP candidatein 2008 , and said candidate loses- will we get a WSJ headline saying "It Was the Journal Wot Jinxed It?"