OLD Media Moves

The conflict that is CNBC

March 11, 2009

Gabriel Winant of Salon writes what he perceives to be the inherent conflict at CNBC after a day of watching the business news network.

Wisnant writes, “What I found was a paradox at the channel’s core — one that seemed, late on the afternoon of Monday, March 9, to make Jim Cramer want to claw his own skin off. The station’s business model rests on its claim to insider wisdom and market smarts. CNBC’s army of analysts marshals a host of data to tell the daily story of the markets in the language of the markets. From that angle, the disorienting effect that hours of watching had on me is not surprising: I only sort of understand what derivatives are. No wonder my head was spinning.

“At the same time, however, the network depends on a particular industry, and thrives on good economic news, which is in short supply. Nobody wants to tune in to cable day after day to hear yet another dirge for yet another one of their stocks. There is a financial imperative for the pundits to keep their core audience of investors coming back, and therefore an obligation for the pundits to distort empirical reality to make a grim future seem manageable. Or, as one commercial puts it, ‘In an unpredictable market, one man has the answers, the vision, the experience you can trust. In Cramer we trust.’

“And yet the financial future is starting to seem unmanageable, even to the all-knowing pundits of CNBC. Someone must be to blame. Thus the essence of CNBC circa 2009 is an uneasy mixture of despair and boosterism, made to cohere with the liberal application of pure venom. And the venom is directed at the most convenient target: Barack Obama.”

Read more here.

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