Wednesday, July 27, 2016

- The Trouble With Journalists

First, if you haven’t already, I need you to go read this piece by Jonah Goldberg. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

OK, so several years ago when I working in research at an unnamed Hedge Fund, a buddy got the two of us in to see the people who produce Reuters business news. We took a tour of the facility and met with the editors. The whole while reporters scurried to and fro giving us dirty looks. I assumed it was because we looked like two hedge fund guys strolling around the place with their bosses, and everybody hates hedge fund guys. The bosses themselves only looked like they were putting up with us because it meant that they could get an expensive lunch on their expense account. But eventually, we sat down and they asked us what they could do to make their product more competitive.

I told them that what they should do is expose their editorial process decisions as an expensive elite product delivered to just the few very large investors who could afford it. Instead of telling us what happened yesterday (which we already knew ahead of them in most cases anyway) they should tell us instead what they planned on working on tomorrow. You’re sending 2 people to this conference, and another to interview that person etc. They didn’t have to tell us what they said in advance. That would be unfair. Just tell us who they’re planning on talking to and how many of their relatively scarce news gathering resources they’ll be committing to it.

Since it would be a limited access product it would maintain its market value, and though they were charging upward of a million a year for access to 100 or so of the investors who could afford to pay for it, people would stand in line and beg to get it. We could use that data to infer you see. Knowing our markets better than they do, we could tell what was likely to be said before it’s actually published. That would be a huge advantage and would easily be worth a million a year. There are several products like that for the bigger investors already. This would only be different because it’s a news service rather than a research firm.

They scoffed at the idea of course. We talked about that a bit and it eventually came out that the reason they didn’t want to expose that data wasn’t because of some ‘fairness’ issue or legal constraint. They were just lazy, and didn’t want anyone to know how little they actually worked. They didn’t want to make it so apparent that the news service was really just one big echo chamber where all they did was follow around all the other journalists, and repeat what was said among themselves. It was all a bit of a joke really. And that was the business news section, not the political news section. The business guys were by far the tallest midgets in the room when it comes to character.

I don’t have much of a bigger point here except this:

There is a reason people think so little of journalists without ever having to meet them. It’s because they are the scum of the earth, and like Hillary, they aren’t sophisticated enough to hide it well.

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