Over the past month or so, I have been following the Fight Club brawl between Dennis Kneale at media goliath CNBC and Tyler Durden at indie blog Zero Hedge. In Round One, like a shocking incident of spontaneous combustion, Kneale went on a rant calling top indie finance blogs such as Zero Hedge a bunch of idiots who “live in their mothers’ basements.”
In Round Two, Kneale dishonestly represented an invitation to debate Tyler Durden on the air. After Kneale declined Tyler’s renewed invitation to debate in an objective third-party arena, we judged Rounds One and Two in favor of Zero Hedge.
Another “hated” indie journalist is Rolling Stone editor Matt Taibbi. Matt exploded on the Wall Street most-emailed list after dropping detailed and easy to read accounts of how the financial collapse occurred and who was behind the great scam.
I interviewed Taibbi a few weeks ago and he responded to Goldman Sach’s (NYSE:GS) non-denial denial of his accusations in “The Great American Bubble Machine”. As with Kneale, haters from major media outlets took Goldman’s PR cue and immediately branded Taibbi as a rogue conspiracy theorist.
For example, Megan McArdle blogged a piece for The Atlantic in which she dismissed Taibbi as not having her financial pedigree and misrepresented Taibbi’s work as naively blaming “one person or group” for being “powerful enough to take down a whole system” (Taibbi’s article “The Big Takeover” is a laundry list of the culprits involved). Most importantly, McArdle’s half-baked opinion is at odds with Congress who seems to have enough facts to start reeling in most of the people Taibbi (and Zero Hedge) have fingered. Those are the indisputable results of excellent reporting.
Now that Zero Hedge and Matt Taibbi have officially won the Fight Club battle with their critics and mudslingers, we should all ask ourselves whether Kneale and McArdle’s behavior is an expression of something much more important: major media losing market and mind share to more nimble and thorough reporters willing to do the job of the First Amendment. Apparently there’s some validity to my thesis because although at first we were not quite sure why the largest financial cable channel was wasting air-time inciting WWE-style smack downs, last week we learned that CNBC viewership was down a whopping 28%!
As a businessman who runs a financial media site, I think CNBC’s new Jerry Springer strategy seems like the desperate avenue taken by an eyeball-magnet which needs increasingly shocking tricks to make the audience look back a few more times while permanently emigrating to more meaningful pastures. And, as with Lot’s wife, those looking back are only receiving crap that will turn them into salt.
Are people sick and tired of losing money because they have been duped by entertainers posing as journalists? Are sites like Minyanville and Zero Hedge slowly dealing TV a TKO like newspapers and other print media? Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture has shared how he thinks we can fix financial TV. Now it’s your turn. Join the conversation (comment below) and let your voice be heard.