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WSJ Syndrome

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wsj090514aToday for a spell, as indicated in the red ellipse on this screenshot, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was unavailable on the Wall Street Journal website subscriber edition’s home page. As if that weren’t outrageous enough, the index was just as AWOL from any of the immediately accessible pages under the “Markets” tab, on this screenshot circled in blue.

Um, the website for the premier publication of Dow Jones & Company makes its subscribers wander off to some other non-Dow website to get an update on its most famous equity index?!?

Then again, why is that not really all that unexpected? Sooner or later, everything the WSJ touches – even its own most treasured index – suffers from the WSJ syndrome.

Way back in my college days, the WSJ was the holy word, indisputably authoritative on all things financial. But then I as began honing my pension plan expertise, I increasingly found the Journal to be incomplete, unreliable, or just plain wrong on its pension articles. Then as I learned more about health insurance, the same creeping erosion of credibility. For everything in which I had no expertise, the Journal seemed as authoritative as ever; but anytime I actually learned something about any topic whatsoever, the Journal suddenly seemed to suffer from what I grew to know as the WSJ Syndrome: the publication is apparently only expert on matters in which one knows nothing about.

No pension expert goes to the Journal for their pension news; they use specialty pension publications. And if a pension expert reads a pension-related article in the Journal, they don’t rely on it, even if the inevitable error is not immediately evident; rather, if the item is of any interest, the expert heads off to a non-Journal source to get the true facts and the credible story. And yet there are countless pension experts who rely on the Journal for their non-pension financial news and analysis.

I compared notes with other experts. Options traders? They confirmed the Syndrome: for them, the Journal was credible on all other topics, but could not be relied upon for news or analysis of options. As with the pension world, the options trader goes to an options boutique specialty publication for the real data and the credible news, yet somehow finds the rest of the Journal of value for other topics, pension or otherwise. Real estate market? Again, the Syndrome strikes: for them, the Journal is credible on all other topics, but could not be relied upon for news or analysis of real estate. And again, the real estate agent goes to specialty real estate publications for the truth about real estate, yet somehow finds the rest of the Journal of value.

But of course, the virus that causes this disease is rather obvious: one can’t seriously rely on the Journal for much of anything, other than perhaps as a second opinion on hard data, straight figures.

And even there, as today’s website amply illustrated for what is far from being the only time over just the past several months, the Journal illustrated that it can’t be relied upon even for its most basic data.

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Written by macheide

14 May 2009 at 8:36 pm

Posted in PrtSc

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