Category Archives: journalism

No. Just No.

I’ve had it. I’ve had it with whataboutism. I’m done with false equivalency. No more political correctness. You can take your gaslighting someplace else. I’m tired of demonizing, of disinformation, of scapegoating, of rationalization and of lying and deception of all kinds.

Thirteen pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats, including former presidents Obama and Clinton, and other Trump critics. That’s a fact. The FBI has arrested Cesar Sayoc, 56, and charged him with a long list of crimes in connection with the bombs. That’s a fact. They also impounded a white van, which they say was Sayoc’s, its windows covered with political images and stickers of President Trump and his critics, including pictures of some of the bomb recipients with gun sights superimposed on their images. That’s another fact.

This is the time when you would expect calming words of reassurance from the White House. The kind you would have heard from Ronald Reagan, from George Bush (both of them), from Bill Clinton and from Barack Obama. What did we get from the current occupant of the Oval Office?

TrumpBombTweet

That’s right. Trump blames “Bomb stuff” for distracting from his political message. Yes of course the alleged bomb sender Sayoc is a nut job. But this is not the same as the case of James Hodgkinson, shot and killed by police after he opened fire on Congressional Republicans practicing for a charity baseball game. Hodgkinson wounded four including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who  nearly died.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders immediately claimed an equivalence. But it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Hodgkinson once volunteered for Independent Senator Bernie Sanders during his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. But there is no record of Senator Sanders urging violence on his supporters and the Senator, upon learning of the loose connection, took to the Senate floor saying, “I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be, violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”

Trump, on the other hand, has a long history of exhorting his supporters to, well, just read the quotes yourself:

TrumpQuotes

Of course Trump didn’t send the clearly deranged Sayoc out to cause mayhem. But he created the climate which can trigger an unstable person to act. In this he is aided by conservative media led as always by Fox. I have never seen anything like the Fox channels which, with apologies to Shepard Smith, spend most their on-air hours serving as Trump mouthpieces. Here’s Lou Dobbs of the Fox Business Channel:

DobbsTweet

Also on Fox, Geraldo Rivera said the bombs may have been sent by “someone who wanted to embarrass President Trump, somebody who wanted to affect American political life. It could have been a Russian invention.”

Conservative radio was all over the conspiracy theory. Rush Limbaugh suggested a “Democratic operative” may have sent the bombs. “Republicans,” he said, “just don’t do this kind of thing.” Michael Savage said there was a “high probability that the whole thing had been set up as a false flag to gain sympathy for the Democrats.”  And from conservative commentator Anne Coulter:

CoulterTweet

It’s time to get a grip. Deranged people do deranged things. But if you promote violence through a steady stream of exhortations to commit violent acts, conspiracy theories and lies, you have some responsibility when others put your words into deeds.

The best summation of this entire escapade I’ve heard comes from John Oliver, the host of HBO’s “Last Week with John Oliver”, who I find to be one of the most astute political commentators of our age. Oliver said:

“OK, I’ve got it: So Obama flew to Florida, mailed a bomb to himself in Washington, then flew back just in time to avoid it—all to frame this guy,” said Oliver, pointing to a photo of the bombing suspect. “Now, I’m not saying that that man’s theory doesn’t have any holes in it, but at least we can all agree: He really outsmarted Geraldo Rivera.”

I say amen.

To Blog or Not to Blog?

That has been the question for quite some time. Once, long ago on a planet far away, I was at the bleeding edge of technology. I moved from my hometown, Chicago, to New York in 1989 to begin a new job as New York Bureau Chief and Senior correspondent of the public television program Nightly Business Report. Among the many hats I wore I found myself reporting most of the stories about technology and trying to convince my bosses to employ as many of the new technologies as possible.

We created a “page” on America Online when AOL was the center of the online universe. That was before the Internet was opened up to commercial and general public use. I remember hosting a “live chat”, a novelty at the time, from Microsoft Headquarters  in Redmond, Washington. I had gone there interview Bill Gates and report on the release of Windows 95 with the first appearance of Microsoft’s web browser, Internet Explorer.

Continue reading…

Financial Market Reporting, Part 9: Exchange Traded Funds

In my recent post on mutual funds, I noted that John Bogle disrupted that industry with Vanguard, a mutual fund company that specialized in low cost index funds designed to mimic rather than outperform major market indexes. The other mutual fund companies responded with their own index funds, and there is intense competition between them

Mutual fund shares vs. ETFs

Exchange Traded Funds, ETFs, are another refinement of the fund category. They will certainly figure into your reporting on the fund asset class because they are by some measures the most popular of all exchange traded securities.

For my primer on ETFs, see businessjournalism.org.

Financial Market Reporting, Part 8: Mutual Funds and Index Funds

In a previous post about indexes, I identified the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard and Poor’s 500 as the two most frequently referenced. They originated as short-cuts that summarized market trends, and are often used as a benchmark against which investment performance can be judged.

There has been an explosion in the number of indexes in recent years. There are hundreds if not thousands available, enough to slice and dice the markets in as many ways as can be imaged. Some are broad-based, like the NASDAQ Composite with more than 3,000 stocks. Others might track a region, like the EURO STOXX 50, based on 50 large companies in the Eurozone. Some follow companies of a certain size, like the Wilshire US Small Cap. And still others focus on an industry, such as the NYSE Arca (originally AMEX) Semiconductor Index.

Continues at businessjournalism.org….

Trump and the Employment Report, fact and fiction, Pt. 2

Numbers are funny things. Even though they appear to be absolute, a clever manipulator can twist them to make pretty much any point he wants to make. Take President Trump’s statement from February: “Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.” It might seem preposterous but it is correct, as the great sage Obi-Wan-Kenobi once said, “from a certain point of view.”

It is the number you get if you take the total U.S. population 16-years of age and older and subtract the people the BLS says are in the labor force. That number includes everyone who is retired, and most high-school, college, graduate or vocational school student. It also includes the disabled, homemakers, some self-employed and those living off their investments.

My guide to reporting the employment report continues at businessjournalism.org….

Trump and the Employment Report, fact and fiction, Pt. 1

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Employment Situation Report for February on March 10, showing a healthy 235,000 gain in payroll employment. Asked what President Trump thought about the numbers, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, “I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly,” Spicer said. “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

Many of the reporters present laughed. I cringed.

Over the years on public television’s Nightly Business Report, I filed countless “numbers” pieces. The monthly employment reports were most closely watched. For better or worse these reports often had an immediate financial market moving impact, making them lead stories for a market driven broadcast.

I cringed because I believe attempts to undermine the credibility of these reports do a great disservice.

Continues at businessjournalism.org….

Financial Market Reporting, Part 6: Derivatives

Chicago Board Options Exchange

Chicago Board Options Exchange

My series at the Reynold’s Center continues with thoughts on reporting the derivative markets. These are investment vehicles that are derived from others, appropriately called derivatives. Investors do not own the underlying asset, but bet on how that asset will perform.

 

 

Options are a common type of derivative. In 1973 the Chicago Board of Trade created the Chicago Board Options Exchange, which at first operated out of an old cloak room off the CBOT trading floor. The CBOE traded listed stock options. Unlike futures, options were not a commitment but gave the buyer an option to buy a stock for a certain period of time.* The option is based on the stock, called “the underlying.”

Continue at businessjournalism.org….

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