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Tuning Out Financial News Television

Turning off Financial News May Be the Best Thing an Investor Can Do

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I’ve been on CNBC three times.  Bully for me, right?  Get the banners and streamers out and strike up a parade.  There are people who have been on CNBC hundreds of times and nobody really cared when I was on.  Well, that’s not totally true.  My mom cared.  She was impressed.

I mention the CNBC appearances not to show how great I am, though there is an argument for that, but as a preface for some insights I am going to give you about those who appear on financial television programs and the value of the information they provide.

The way I ended up on CNBC was that a PR flack who was hired by my company contacted one of the producers, whom they had a relationship with, and pitched me as a guest on the “Tomorrow in 30:” segment where a guest has 30 seconds to tell you what to watch for in the markets the next day. 

I had to give the flack a rough idea of what I was going to say so that he could relay the info to the CNBC producers and they could have the graphics and chyron (the descriptive words that appear under a guests face when talking) ready ahead of time.  He didn't care what I was going to say -- I could have talked about the markets, or the best way to buy gold, or that space aliens control the Federal Reserve -- he was just a hired gun.

Since I live on the West Coast I had a choice of two remote production facilities to go to.  The one I picked was in a nondescript industrial complex with no receptionist or waiting area, just an open back door with a handwritten note on it saying “Welcome Brain Lund.”  Yes, they misspelled my name.

I wandered into the building, past offices and post-production studios for local television commercials, corporate infomercials, and the odd promotional video.  After asking a few people what the deal was they directed me to the “green room.”  In reality it wasn’t actually a room, more like an alcove, with two leather chairs, a few old magazines, and a supermarket party tray of carrots, celery, broccoli florets, and a bowl of half-eaten of dip.  It was just like I imagined the big leagues.

Two gentlemen were chatting about a garage sale one of them was going to have that weekend and I politely interrupted them saying I was here for the CNBC spot.  It turns out they were the producer and the studio technician.  Nice guys and very professional. 

They led me into one of the studios.  Inside it was completely dark except for a 100,000 watt klieg light hanging over a desk and chair in the center of the room.  Think interrogation scene from your favorite World War II movie.

I sat down as the tech attached a lapel mic to my shirt and gave me an ear monitor to hear the audio feed from CNBC’s New Jersey studio.  There was no TV monitor, which didn’t matter because there is a seven second delay anyway, so I just stared at the camera in front of me, waiting to get the signal that we were live.

Once we were, I listen to the two guests before me give their speal, and then it was my turn.  I said something that sounded relatively intelligent, leaving seven seconds to spare, and that was it.  Five minutes later I was driving home with a complimentary bottle of water for my troubles.

Now you know how I got on CNBC and how the process works, so let me tell you what the vetting process was in order for me to appear.  There was none.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch. The big doughnut.

I never talked to anyone from CNBC, nor did they do any checking to make sure I had any credentials, or an idea of what I was talking about, or even if I had some common sense investing knowledge.  Instead they just took the word of the PR flack who was being paid to get my company media exposure. 

And frankly, nobody at CNBC really cared anyway because financial television is not a place to find real and sound financial information, it’s an opinion factory.  That’s it.  Opinions are a commodity and that is what they trade in.  A visual form of paper trading.

CNBC used to be a crucial part of my investing day, or so I thought.  I felt that if I was not watching it one hour before the market opened that I was already behind, and if I didn’t watch it after the market close, that I would miss some important late breaking news. 

Part of my job is to know what is happing in the markets, but nowadays I never have my television on during the day.  I couldn’t tell you who is on CNBC and in fact I didn’t even know Maria Bartiromo left until a couple weeks after it happened.  I get my information faster, better, and more customizable from Twitter and StockTwits, as well as from my other social media circles.

Financial TV is show business.  Not just CNBC, but Fox Business, Bloomberg, and any other show that follows the short form, sound bite style.  Aside from a few individuals like my friend Josh Brown (who provides in-depth financial content via his great blog) there is nobody of value for an investor to listen to on these shows. 

It’s just a bunch of people like I was, putting out opinions -- ones that nobody holds us to -- in an attempt to impress our moms.  Do yourself a favor and tune financial television out.  You won’t miss a thing and it will help to remove the “financial noise” that bombards us every day; something that can only make you a better investor.

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