The Age of Hyperbolic Reporting

“They are in the pressbox; you are on the playing field.” – Doug Kass

Much media attention this fall has centered on the fiscal cliff, the recent election and our divided Washington leadership, all of which have consumed the airwaves with every sort of media fanning the flames.  Serious sounding and breathless reporters provide opinions and predictions about what may happen and what the results will be.  As we near the New Year and continue to worry about the upcoming fiscal cliff and other uncertainties, it is wise to try to keep things in perspective.

One of my favorite financial commentators, Barry Ritholtz, has a regular blog, called “The Big Picture.”  He does a nice job of keeping his eye on the ball and providing “big picture” thinking from a variety of sources.  One of this week’s posts really caught my eye – the post was about keeping the news media in perspective.  The quote is attributed to financial commentator and author Doug Kass:

“By and large, the media have an agenda that is different from yours. It doesn’t make them bad guys — their objectives of a growing audience and higher ratings are inherently dissimilar to your objective of making money.

Moreover, as I have recently chronicled, the media’s reaction to events of the day (e.g., the sovereign debt crisis, the Presidential election, the fiscal cliff, etc.) is often hyperbolic and simply wrong-footed (from an investment standpoint).

Always remember that they are in the press box, and you are on the playing field.

Too many investors forget this.”

While Kass is talking about investing in particular, his comment really has broad application to the spectrum of “news.” You cannot very well avoid the media, but at least understand what makes them tick.  They are there to sell advertising and keep your attention and they are very good at it.

Things do not usually turn out nearly as bad or as good as the media makes them out to be and we are well-advised to keep that in mind (and turn off the television now and then).

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year!

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