Salon’s Gabe Winant watches a day of CNBC. After a few snarky paragraphs, Winant starts making some pretty good observations on the network’s underlying theme:
Got that? It’s not our fault none of the models are working. The economy collapsed because the government broke it. Buy Verizon. If it goes up, Cramer and Kudlow and Santelli are geniuses. If it goes down, it’s Obama’s fault. Either way CNBC wins.
It’s useful to step back and remember that all cable news networks need people to watch them to survive. For a network that deals with business news (and a target
audience that expects to get hot tips and profit from it), the stakes especially high: if they’re predictions waver from what actually happens, the potential/actual investors looking for advice are going to quickly tune out. CNBC’s experts, by their own admission, should have seen this all coming; a real “expert” on finance wouldn’t have been reassuring viewers about Bear Stearns a week before it collapsed, for example. But contrition and admitting that your analysis wasn’t that great isn’t going to retain or regain viewers. On the other hand, blaming something completely out of your hands, like Obama’s policy, looks much better on TV. And this, of course, leads to a dangerous slant on what real business news the network reports and how it does so.