Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Personal blogroll -- Rocco Pendola

I really shouldn't like this guy. For one thing he writes for the Street which puts him zero degrees of separation from Jim Cramer. He also sometimes appears as a talking head on CNBC, another huge black mark. But as I continue doing more research for various media posts, I keep coming across relevant Pendola articles that manage to cut directly to the central questions.

He has that increasingly rare facility of recognizing the obvious when the obvious does not match the official narrative. He questions the rather odd numbers coming out of Netflix. He realizes that any story about the business side of Hulu has got to revolve around the who owns the company. He understands the importance of not putting too much weight on absolute numbers when looking at the Internet and instead take things in context. He makes necessary distinctions between different types of royalty particularly the royalties paid to performers versus the royalties paid to songwriters.

I suspect this independence comes in large part because Pendola has a very different background then most of the people who write financial news. One of the big recurring themes at West Coast Stat Views is just how insular and inbred the journalistic community has become. This is if anything a bigger problem for financial journalists. A majority of the voices you read in Forbes or Business Insider or Bloomberg have basically the same background, were educated at the same very small set of schools, have had similar career tracks, live In the same region (and often in the same neighborhoods), read the same publications, and frequently have a common social circle.

The result is a monoculture and just as having fields upon fields of the same species of corn makes it prone to outbreaks of  blight, having a journalistic community made up of remarkably similar people makes it vulnerable to bad narratives and questionable memes.

Rocco Pendola Is a former radio producer, DJ, and sports talk show host, who went on to get an urban planning degree at San Francisco State and then settled in Southern California. The result of that unusual resume is a certain level of resistance to those journalistic blights. The following rant about the coverage of Pandora, though somewhat overheated, nicely illustrates his outsider perspective.
Already this week we have seen Business Insider publish an eight-month old blog post passing it off as "today's" news. Then there was Greg Sandoval's Pandora hit job over at The Verge where he passed off Tim Westergren dining on a "truffle-infused Kobe beef burger" with investment bankers as somehow germane to the royalty conversation. Earlier in the same article, Sandoval passes off the inability of All Things D's Peter Kafka to conduct real reporting as a pockmark against Pandora. Of course, that's what they teach you in Journalism 101: Tweet the CTO of a public company to get answers to your most vexing questions. 
This is where we are -- next these guys will pick through Westergren's garbage and produce smashed vinyl copies of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. They'll mark it as "EXCLUSIVE" or "BREAKING" and take pats on the back from the clique of colleagues and "industry sources" they work so feverishly not to piss off. Forget doing actual work to get the real story or find something closer to the truth; it's not about the reader, it's about the personal relationships they maintain that the general public couldn't care less about. 
We have come to a point where not only in this story, but, sadly, in the broader scope, journalists routinely make something out of nothing and expect companies to spoon feed them information in lieu of doing actual journalism.

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