(Update: It just keeps on going and going and going and going.)
As millions of others, I’ve been watching the spat between the Daily Show and CNBC as it evolves. David Bauder of the Associated Press writes of the more serious journalistic questions the public interrogation is raising about CNBC . The trail from Santelli to Kramer is now leading to questions about the relationship of CNBC’s business journalists to the businesses and business persons they cover and it’s raising ethical questions about rumors and their effects on stock prices.
Bauder quotes Dean Starkman of the Columbia Journalism Review saying the CNBC commentators need adult supervision. He says they need to assess how closely they are to their subjects and get critical distance.
The issue of proximity in business news coverage isn’t particularly new and it isn’t limited to CNBC. In another period of my life I challenged–very mildly and unsuccessfully–PBS for its business news coverage. I proposed a television documentary on an economic development project which would have been funded in part by religious organizations. PBS wouldn’t consider it because of these funding sources. They viewed it a conflict of interest.
I asked them how it was possible, then, for Wall Street Week, to receive sustaining production funds from the same businesses whose stocks and operations were discussed on a regular basis by the program’s host and guests. I received no answer and our conversation ended.
Beyond proximity, the story is viewed from another angle in a blog post on Fortune/CNN. Comments by Kramer about Apple stock in a video reprises attention about media comments, rumor and stock pricing. Kramer outlines how a strategically placed rumor could affect Apple’s stock prices. This raises a different ethical dimension to the story.
Santelli’s rant has focused attention on the relationship between business journalists and the subjects of their coverage. Stewart has brought the standards, ethics and practices of CNBC’s business coverage into public scrutiny.
If, for no other reason, we can thank Santelli for this, but he probably didn’t intend to put the credibility and reliability of CNBC’s business news coverage in the spotlight.
The Motley Fool makes A Modest Proposal for Jim Cramer.
It’s becoming a study in the dynamics of crisis communications management in the new media environment involving cable, broadcast, blogs and online video.
Drew Kerr on ragan.com, makes it clear why there’s nothing worse than saying "no comment." Kerr gives the background to Jon Stewart’s sharp satire on Santelli and CNBC after Santelli "bailed out" after agreeing to appear on the Daily Show.
Santelli not only brought attention to himself, he brought scrutiny to the network, and it’s not favorable. In fact, it’s withering. An old principle of journalism states the reporter should not become part of the story. Neither should the reporter’s organization.
With the refusal to appear on the Daily Show, Santelli broke a principle of public relations, Kerr says. He says it would have been better for Santelli to appear, laugh at himself, take the ribbing he would surely get from Stewart and let the air out of the balloon. He didn’t, and he gave the story new legs. He brought attention to his colleagues at CNBC and they were held up to unfavorable public satire. The story lived for yet another day.
All this from "no comment."