Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Taking Stock of Stock Market News

My partner Eric just sent me a frustrated e-mail on a topic we often go back and forth on.  He writes:

"Over the past few days, the stock market has dropped by over 200 points and is now once again below the 10,000 mark.  [Instant by instant vicissitudes, notwithstanding.--d] 

"This is not really 'news', of course.  Nor will it be 'news' tomorrow if the market goes back up 30 points, even though the headlines will blare: 'Stock Market Surges Up!!!'

"I wonder what happened to that group of 'experts' a few months ago who dominated the headlines for a day saying that the 'kinks' were out and the stock market would generally rise from that point (where it was above 10,000 already mind you), since the 'recovery' was underway, yadda, yadda.

"I wonder if they lost their jobs?

"Just kidding, I know they haven't."

I agree that there is a very damaging double standard where reporting about the vicissitudes of the Stock Market is concerned.  When the Market drops it is "profit-taking," or at worst a "stumble," or a "pause," whereas even modest upticks get breathlessly reported as rocketing, surging, rising ever ever upward like coporate souls taking flight unto Heaven. 

It bothers me that this isn't one of the things the liberal blogosphere (so-called) doesn't flog relentlessly.  This misleading tic or prejudice or laziness or whatever it is in the culture of business reporting should be exposed and derided every time it happens, because until accountability attaches to these sorts of distortions people are going to be hurt by the irrational exuberance inspired by this crap.

Frankly, I don't even understand why up to the split second charts of stock market performance so often get front page pride of place in mainstream news outlets, apart from the implicit assumption that (most? all?) readers of the news have a stake in the stock market.  Or maybe it's just that the readers who are also advertisers do.  

To the extent that the stock market doesn't seem like the leading indicator of the state of the economy (if it ever was) it seems an active and ongoing misrepresentation of the economic state of the Union on the part of corporate media that just this one indication is offered up as a snapshot, minute by minute, front and center, often above the fold, of economic health. 

I submit that in these days of war profiteering and wealth concentration via outsourcing and socially insensitive automation, a soaring stock market often spells, to the contrary, actual disaster for the economic well-being of most people. 

I'm not an economist, though, and I welcome contrary views that might explain this or make me feel less angry and worried about it.

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