The problem with real time

My rental car yesterday had satellite radio so I enjoyed a mix of CNBC, Bloomberg News and BBC News for the five hours I was driving around NB.

In the middle of the afternoon I got a fascinating example of how the entertainment value of news is increasingly surpassing the underlying value of news. 

CNBC is exciting TV.  They have taken reporting on the minutiae of stock trading and turned it into real entertainment.  Maria Bartiromo effortlessly moves in and out of stocks, bonds, commodities, derivatives, collateralized debt obligations and they weave in pithy commentary and a few shock radio elements.  It’s fun.

In the middle of the afternoon there was an unprecedented drop in the stock market.  In 20 minutes it dropped over 900 points.  Without skipping a beat, Bartiromo and her team had this fully analyzed and wrapped up with red bow.  We were in an Asian Flu-like crisis where contagion was spreading through the financial markets.  It was the end of the world as we knew it.  Analysts weighted in.  Political ramifications were summerized into Twitter length snippits.  Riots in Greece were bringing down the house. 

Then one of the CNBC analysts noticed that a few stocks had lost almost all their value in seconds and he speculated there was a ‘fat finger’ event where some computer glitch or additional zero on the end of a trade (billion instead of million) had shocked the market.

Effortlessly – with the same analysts – they moved into a narrative about the fat finger problem, the potential of financial terrorism, who wins/who loses from this effect – the apocalpyse of financial ruin that was so fulsomely analyzed seconds before?  Gone.

I wonder some times how we could have missed the financial meltdown in 2008-2009.  Especially with the thousands of people in the media, government regulatory departments, economists, etc. all supposedly watching this stuff like hawks. 

I think I just got my answer.