Over 5 years ago, I wrote the article “Your Worst Enemy to Successful Investing—the Media,” the content which is still true today.
Al Thomas, author of “If It Doesn’t Go Up, Don’t Buy It!” recently expanded on my thoughts by describing the role of the media as follows:
Every day investors are bombarded with financial news on TV, newspapers and various other publications.
Let’s not mention the unsolicited junk mail on the Internet. All investors are concerned with a 401K, IRA or other retirement plans seeking reliable information. Information that will increase the value of hard-earned money they will need when they are no longer be working.
The radio and TV talking heads have to say something, anything, now, this minute. They must spew forth financial “news” whether it is “important” or not. They are paid to talk.
Newspapers must also say “something”, but only once a day beside printing the closing prices for all the equities.
When listening to the TV pundits, better yet those beautiful cheerleaders it always makes me wonder do they know what they are talking about or are they reading from a teleprompter. The viewers much prefer the young and beautiful. Give them credit as most of them have some kind of college degree in economics or accounting.
Most of the newspaper financial writers have much more experience; therefore, more credibility. Do they have practical experience as investors or professional traders? Most of what they write about is taken from reports issued by the companies which will be heavily weighted in favor of the company. It is sales material. Can it be reliable?
Magazines have the best writers who are allowed to do in depth studies of companies. They may even be allowed to visit with corporate executives or at least do phone interviews.
Again where does the info come from? For the most part from partisan corporate executives who are obviously biased.
Forget the junk mail and unwanted Internet solicitations. It is worthless. Much of this is from the pump and dump crowd or someone with a vested interest.
All of these providers of information are salesmen. Yes, even the pretty cheerleaders. The investor must also remember that none of the above are allowed to criticize the company they are writing about. If they were critical of a company that company might never again advertise on their program or in the newspaper. Money talks; you know what walks.
How many times has any investor seen the writer or commentator tell the reader not to buy this issue or to sell it now?
Almost never. If he did the writer would be fired.
More than 90% of the information from any brokerage company is bullish. Very little bearish news is published because the media knows investors want to hear about what to buy, not what to sell.
The knowledgeable investor understands the “news” and ignores the tout and hype. Almost any of this news is known by the professional traders before it hits the wire services.
The investor must either stick with his own innate wisdom or be lucky to find a good advisory service.
Mr. Investor cannot rely on the major media for profitable investment advice.
I can agree with all of Al’s arguments especially the one about the use of Teleprompters. You can never be sure if someone expresses his honest opinion or if he’s just reading a script. My experience points to the latter.
Some five years ago, a producer from the now defunct CNNfn TV station called and invited me to their Hollywood studio to take part in a live TV news show to discuss one of my articles I had written about no load mutual funds. During our various conversations, she made it clear that “everything is scripted and nothing is left to chance.”
After the interview, I concluded that I had not been able to pass on any worthwhile information, because I was strictly limited to 20 second answers to their pre-selected questions.
Next time you watch a financial news event, be aware that the interviewed has really no chance of truly expressing his opinion. It’s more or less a short Q&A; session squeezed into a tight time slot, which will give the person interviewed great public exposure, but will do little else in terms of conveying useful knowledge.