CNBC: The MSNBC Business Channel

28 October 2008

MSNBC, CNBC Credibility Reaches New Low


What's The Difference Between CNBC And MSNBC?

What's the difference between CNBC and ultra-leftist sister MSNBC? In recent months, surprisingly little, it seems.

For weeks, I've been trying to move beyond the mere gloom-and-doom nature of CNBC's economic coverage and get a handle on what it really is about their news presentation that has simply become unbearable.

Sure, CNBC's ratings have surged recently as panicked investors look for the latest news on collapsing stock markets around the world. We can't take that away from them.

And MSNBC is benefiting from a pre-election jump in viewers as interest in next Tuesday's contests reaches a fever pitch. They're even crowing about beating CNN fossil Larry King!

But can you really trust either channel at this point? For years, I certainly felt that CNBC was on our side, but no longer. During the bubble, they took heat for being too optimistic about the markets. Remember those days?

Now, CNBC truly is the GLOOM-AND-DOOM network, taking that formerly upbeat, pro-investor slant 180 degrees in the other direction. And MSNBC has moved so far to the left, it's enough to make Air America Radio blush.

One can watch CNBC all day and not get a realistic sense of why the markets are declining. Instead, its anchors rely on easy, uninsightful fallback points, such as "concerns about a global slowdown", without any real evidence pointing to that as the cause of the drop on Wall Street.

It's not just the lack of insight, however, that is damaging CNBC: there's a political agenda at work as well and that's where the ties to MSNBC become more apparent.

CNBC has become the gloom-and-doom network because that's the image of the economy NBC seeks to project going into next week's election. If CNBC had a long history of this kind of behavior, that would be one thing, but it doesn't.

This is actually about Obama's coronation by the mainstream media: a crappy economy means a victory for the Dear Leader.

Case in point: the odd sight of CNBC editor Charlie Gasparino providing a truly honest look at why the markets are really tanking: a panic over Obama's potential election. Did we see a lengthy discussion of this on the network?

No, it appeared in an October 15 Op-Ed he wrote for the New York Post, owned by rival media firm News Corporation:




Barack Obama has re mained cool and confident amid the financial melt down, even as John McCain at times has been embarrassing, lurching from one proposal to the next. But while the polls are reflecting Obama's steady hand, the markets haven't. In fact, they're getting worse by the day as Obama's lead widens.

Most investors know the devil is in the details - and the details of Obama's economic plans are anything but reassuring.

Of course, the market turmoil is first a reflection of grim reality - the bursting of the housing bubble and the billions upon billions in writedowns and losses that have forced upon the hugely leveraged financial firms companies that had cranked big profits during the bubble years.

The resulting credit crunch is hitting Main Street harder than ever before. The country is headed for recession; the only question is: Just how low can the markets and economy go?

It could be a lot lower - it all depends on the policies of the next president.

And, as it looks increasingly likely that Obama will be that man, the markets are casting a vote of "no confidence."

To be fair, McCain hardly instills confidence among the Wall Streeters I speak to. Why has his campaign spent the last week focusing on Obama's friendship with former terrorist William Ayers - when it should be hitting Obama's blind loyalty to policies that bring together the worst elements of Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter?

Recently, Obama said he wants to expedite loans to small businesses, so he seems to have a clue that they produce much of the country's job growth. Yet his income-tax hike on upper brackets will hit vast numbers of small businesses - they'd face the highest rates they've seen in decades.

Overall, his plan includes some of the most lethal tax increases imaginable, including a jump in the capital-gains rate. He'd expand government spending massively, with everything from new public-works projects to increases in foreign aid to a surge in Afghanistan - plus hand out a token $500 welfare check that he calls a tax cut to everyone else.

Where this should have been a frequent topic on CNBC in recent weeks, to be discussed in great detail, it has been mentioned only occasionally and often almost in passing.

Why? Because CNBC has simply become an extension of Keith Olbermann's MSNBC. Isn't it odd to think Gasparino must take his real views to the competition to have them properly aired?

How could NBC and GE allow CNBC's good name to be tarnished this way? Consider how liberals and conservatives alike are now ridiculing MSNBC's out-of-control antics:

Both sides of aisle rip MSNBC

Keith Olbermann also criticized at media luncheon

By Paul Bond - The Hollywood Reporter

Oct 27, 2008, 08:26 PM ET

In a room full of television industry executives, no one seemed inclined to defend MSNBC on Monday for what some were calling its lopsidedly liberal coverage of the presidential election.

The cable news channel is "completely out of control," said writer-producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat.

She added that she would prefer a lunch date with right-leaning Fox News star Sean Hannity over left-leaning MSNBC star Keith Olbermann.

Olbermann was criticized by many who attended Monday's luncheon sponsored by the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The event was dubbed "Hollywood, America and Election '08."

Bloodworth-Thomason and others seemed especially critical of the way MSNBC -- and other media -- has attacked Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin while demeaning her supporters.

"We should stop the demonizing," she said, adding that Democrats have been worse than Republicans as far as personal attacks on candidates are concerned. "It diminishes us," she said of her fellow Democrats.

Bloodworth-Thomason even suggested a defense of Palin and her supporters should be written into TV programming, just as she went out of her way to portray Southern women as smart in her hit TV show "Designing Women."

Attendee Michael Reagan, the radio talk-show host and son of President Ronald Reagan, said he no longer will appear as a guest on MSNBC because "I actually get death threats."

With that kind of sentiment now cutting across party lines, why does CNBC choose to function as MSNBC's business channel?

Another case in point: on Wednesday, October 22, Wells Fargo chairman Dick Kovacevich was quoted as saying he felt any recession would be short and shallow. From the San Francisco Business Times:

Wells Fargo chairman sees recovery occurring faster than most expect

San Francisco Business Times - by Mark Calvey

Wells Fargo Chairman Dick Kovacevich said he expects governments around the world to do whatever is necessary to restore normal functioning of the global financial system.

“There may be doubts how long (the recovery) will take, but it will get done and sooner than most people think,” Kovacevich said in an address to the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco Tuesday night. “Governments will do whatever it takes to stabilize the financial system.”

The banker anticipates the nation will emerge from recession early next year.

He also took the opportunity to make a distinction between a financial crisis, such as the one now underway, and an economic crisis. He said today’s financial crisis doesn’t begin to compare with the economic crisis of the early 1980s when the prime rate peaked at 21.5 percent and inflation and unemployment were in double-digit territory.

Though this ran in business publications across the country and even found its way into Rush Limbaugh's monologue, I never saw it mentioned on CNBC. And believe me, given the almost shocking nature of this story, I was watching for it.

But the gloomsters wanted little, if anything to do with it.

In another key example, an October 20 Barron's cover story spelled out in close detail just why the economy wasn't nearly as bad as the media would have us believe:

Sorry, Chicken Little


It may feel as if the sky is falling, but things aren't as bad as they seem. Our saviors: cheap oil, strong exports and inventory rebuilding.

THESE ARE HARDLY THE BEST OF TIMES FOR THE U.S. ECONOMY. But they may not be as bad as you think. The credit crisis, stock-market crash and fall in home prices have raised legitimate fears of a nasty and protracted recession. Yet the economy has often proved more resilient than is commonly thought -- and constructive factors that have gotten scant attention should help the U.S. skirt a deep recession. In fact, it's possible that the downturn could prove to be one of the briefest and mildest on record.

The main positive is the huge boost to consumer spending that will come from the decline in energy costs. Although the run-up in oil, which punished consumers in the spring and summer, made front-page news, far less attention has been paid to the benefits of petroleum's recent slide.

The wide swing in both the percentage and sheer dollar magnitude of prices has been unprecedented. Over the past 14 months, the bellwether price of crude oil has made a stunning round trip, rising from around $70 a barrel in mid-August 2007 to $147 by mid-July, and falling below $70 Thursday. Natural gas has also slid about 50% from its early-July peak. If oil's price averages around $80, consumers will get a big dose of relief. Soaring energy costs had body-slammed them in July, August and September. Hence the dismal performance of retail sales over that stretch. But beginning with the current month, the energy payback will be enormous. This economic shock absorber should help offset the cruel blows of the credit crunch and declining wealth from equities and homes.

The cavalry hasn't exactly swept in to rescue the economy. But the energy benefit could keep a significant recession at bay until reinforcements -- particularly inventory rebuilding -- arrive early next year, and as credit starts to flow more freely.

That issue arrived on Saturday, October 18, but on the following Monday morning, I saw it referenced only once on CNBC: a quick question to Gloomster-In-Chief Art Cashin, who has never met a big sell-off he didn't love.

Without providing a single reason, Cashin dismissed the piece out-of-hand. That's despite the publication's strong reasoning and use of economic data.

From this point, it will be interesting to see how CNBC's coverage may change once the election is over. Should Obama become president-elect, will their mood suddenly shift in favor of the "short and shallow" recession scenario described by Wells Fargo's Kovacevich?

In the meantime, CNBC insiders should ask themselves why it's so important to follow MSNBC's dubious lead right into the political sewer.

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  • I think nearly everyone has found new sources of political news, presumably due in part to media bias. Unfortunately, many have gone to John Stewart, SNL and Letterman which are not journalistic and have NO pretense of impartiality.

    I remember that, with incredulity, I saw on the Today Show, literally on the morning after the 1992 election, John Miclazewski (sp?) talk about the economic recovery. The recovery had started months before, but the Clinton campaign had been furiously selling "the worst economy in the past 50 years" line, and the MSM were loathe to tell us the truth that would have undermined the Democrats claim.

    By OpenID mycroftklf, at November 2, 2008 at 5:08 PM  

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