Maureen -- sorry, Mo -- Tkacik's feature-length takedown of CNBC is a really elegant entry into the genre. The lede, in particular, is gorgeous and cruel. Read it. But I'm a bit less convinced by her conclusion: Isolated moments of introspection don't really show that the network is "reevaluating what it thinks is good for the Dow ergo America." It simply suggests that CNBC cannot be literally so detached from the realities of recession that it loses viewers.
As Mo persuasively argues earlier in the piece, the key to CNBC's success is their claim that the information they offer is rapidly "actionable." But for their information to be actionable, it must first be credible. Which is how you get a network that invites Nouriel Roubini and Nassim Taleb onto the show and then demands they offer investment advice. Their presence is anathema to the network's beliefs, but they add credibility. But what CNBC wants is for them to use their credibility to articulate a get-rick-quick scheme for CNBC's viewers (they both refused).
The credibility is, essentially, a front. The network exists to hype short-term opportunities and downplay long-term risks. And it needs to make itself seem legitimate enough to do that. But it can't do anything else but that. A conservative investment strategy can't fill 17 hours of daily airtime. A conservative investor would not allow eight portfolio advisers to shout at him at literally the same second. But CNBC doesn't exist to offer sound investment strategies. It exists to offer exciting investment strategies which in turn attract gullible investors which in turn ensures heavy advertising revenue from financial services companies interested in selling to gullible investors which in turn makes Rupert Murdoch rich. When that's your business model, you can never really turn on the financial services industry and conclude this has all been a giant fraud.