Friday, March 13, 2009

Brawl Street

"You say the name of a stock, and Mad Money's Jim Cramer tells you whether to buy or sell." — Lightning Round OT.

"I understand you want to make finance entertaining but it's not a fucking game." — John Stewart, March 12, 2009.
I'll try to go easy on the wrestling metaphors, because what I saw last night on The Daily Show was actually real journalism. Jon Stewart's interview with Mad Money's Jim Cramer was adversarial but civilized... barely. Here is part 1:

But the real inquisition begins in part 2. I cheered when Stewart rolled out this 2006 video from TV. The 2006 Cramer boasts that short selling (and crushing the average investor) is very "satisfying." Then the 2009 Cramer squirms. Watch:

Stewart makes it clear that he is holding all financial news shows to the same standard. They should all illuminate what's really going on in the market. They should all strive for journalistic integrity. But Cramer and his show are the face of this financial crisis. The man obviously has some fine market acumen, but the seriousness of guarding people's wealth is incongruous with the hyper theatrics of a show called "Mad Money."

Finally, in part 3, Cramer tries to defend his show saying, "the market was going up for a long time, and our real sin, I think, was to believe it would continue to go up a lot in the face of what you describe..."

The final handshake and Cramer's promise to be a better person were nice touches. Of course, it's not the end. Today I see Cramer's long defense from his pay-to-read blog shared on Hullabaloo. He's trying to do a bit of damage control, but in the end, the blogosphere will just dig harder.

But let's not forget there is nothing unique about Jim Cramer. The larger issue is about media cowards who never investigate claims made by CEOs or government officials. Too many stars of cable news lazily amplify lies and mislead the public leaving the real reporting to comedians.

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