Down With Risk; No Blood, No Late-Night Radio Foul

Posted on February 13, 2011. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Lehman Brothers Rockefeller centre, via Wikipedia

Lehman Brothers Rockefeller Center

The Weekend Report:

Writing in The Wall Street Journal Weekend, Jason Zweig has a rip roaring good time poking holes in the latest work of investment wisdom from James K. Glassman. It was Glassman who co-penned the notorious “Dow 36,000” book, published in 1999 or not long before the start of one of the most dismal decades for investing ever. “Extremely exuberant” is a mild way to put Glassman’s 1999 view on stock investing.

It was Glassman who said that stocks are not risky then — and he apparently still holds to that view. Zweig quotes him as saying, “The data [still] show that stocks aren’t risky.” Although he’s now hedging his bets a bit more.

Lost In Space?

Say what, Mr. Glassman? What’s the name of this alternative universe that you inhabit, Mr. Glassman? Were you there, on planet Earth, in September 2008 when the stock markets collapsed in the wake of the Lehman Brothers bust? Stocks went down down down. Sure, the short-sellers — making book on stock market risk — were happy. But most investors, some perhaps still clinging to their copies of “Dow 36,000”, lost big-time. If they had money in, say, Countrywide Financial, Wachovia, General Motors, Colonial Bank, the names go on and on, they lost almost everything. No risk there?

Stocks in general have bounced back since then. But not all, many still trade well below their 2008 highs, and many were burnt to a crisp in the meltdown. People who bought into those stocks may view the market with a bit more jaded focus on the risk factor.

“Safety Net” is the name of Mr. Glassman’s new book, and Zweig gives him his due — noting that Glassman has written those three little words that financial gurus most abhor: “I was wrong,” But not so wrong about the risk of stocks? Maybe in theory, stocks should be a no-lose investment. Countries shouldn’t fight among themselves either, theoretically speaking.

Reading Has Its Own Risks

Zweig also tells of a new book written by Howard Marks, chairman of Oaktree Capital Management. “The Most Important Thing,” Mr. Marks’s forthcoming tome, is a “superb” book that helps explain risk clearly, Zweig writes. Sounds like a winner to me, although I’ll have to wait until I’ve actually read it to say for sure.

One thing’s for sure. I would approach anything written by Mr. Glassman with my risk evaluation attenae on high alert.

Nice Guys Live On — On Late-Night Radio

Meanwhile this radio guy does a talk show out of Boston, he’s got this doctor for a guest on his late-night show. Seems that the Doc has taken to writing about a historical family figure – a relative from the 19th century who put on trial for killing someone, perhaps a paramour or husband, who knows? I’m only paying attention to the show between loading up the clothes washer and taking out the garbage.

Anyway, the aforesaid Doc, in the course of the interview, allows as to how his relative, a female who was a loose woman by 19th century standards, was almost certainly guilt of the crime of murder. But he opines that the jury declined to find her guilty, not so much because she wasn’t the culprit, but because the state was just then starting to offer up electric chair executions. This new-fangled style of putting people to death was seen by many as being perhaps a more painful way of dying than, say, the tried-and-true method of hanging or firing squad.

Being considerate people, the jury let the accused off, said the Doc, in spite of the fact that she was in all likelihood guilty as charged – and the prosecution had proved it.

And so, our late-night host comes right back with the assertion that “well they couldn’t prove that she was guilty…” blah blah blah. Indicating his willingness to cut the lady in question, now long dead but obviously a woman of some spirit, a break. This despite the Doc’s own assertion that the lady was guilty, the jury most likely knew it, but didn’t want to send a poor woman to what was probably an unduly painful death. My takeaway was that the host was bending over backwards to make the guest feel appreciated — so much so that he failed to acknowledge what the guest had just said. It was as if he didn’t hear what his guest had just said, which is no way to treat a guest.

Crime Yes, Punishment, No

All of which made me think, well, this late-night radio guy, a nice guy from the sounds of it and a very personable chap, probably goes overboard in his efforts to not cause his guests to feel distressed by his questioning. No Porfiry Petrovitch, our radio man is charged instead with providing a pleasant listening experience for his stressed out late-night audience.

America’s a big place. More than 300 million people live here, which means there are more than 300 million stories to tell in this naked country alone. So why would radio hosts worry about having enough guests to fill out their air time?

So many stories, but people are not equally adept at telling their stories. Many people tend to stagger through their narratives, saying too much or — what’s even worse from the interviewer’s perspective — saying too little. They often over-explain, only natural for conscientious people who want to be sure their listeners understand what they’re saying, and end up boring the listeners to death — perhaps more than once. And as we all know, nothing kills talk radio so quickly as boring on-air talkers.

Talking points. That’s my advice to would-be stars of the talk-radio world. Work on your talking points. On radio, as in real-life occurrences such as when the cop stops you for speeding, it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Pre-conceived talking points can get you through almost any situation. Another way of saying it, one that we all learned in our high school days when we were called in to face the music by the school principal, is the old “let’s get our story straight” imperative.

Late-night talk show hosts have it tougher than most, though. For one, there’s the time barrier — not that many people with productive day time jobs are up and talking coherently in the middle of the night on a regular basis. They need their go-to regulars. And the regulars would be scared off if the host came on like the relentless interrogator Porfiry, who so mercilessly bedevilled Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

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