What Passes for Journalism Today

The Reuters wire service doesn’t have enough real journalism to do these days, apparently. Today it put out a pathetic “news story” about two utterly meaningless polls.

These surveys are the typical Web-jobs, those click-through numbers that are totally unscientific and therefore without any meaning. In each, a majority of the self-selected voters disagreed with President Clinton’s decision to tap the Strategic Oil Reserve.

I happen to disagree with Clinton’s move. It’s cynically political in the short run and dangerous in the long term. The oil reserve was meant for wars. OPEC may be shooting economic weapons, but the current situation, however painful, doesn’t begin to rise to a level serious enough to justify tapping the reserve.

I don’t expect the people running Yahoo or Excite to be responsible. They don’t care about news except as a commodity, as they’ve repeatedly shown.

I do expect more from Reuters. This kind of reporting is a discredit to our craft.

The Intel Debacle

Intel Corp., by far the largest maker of computer chips in the world, is going to grow again this year at a healthy rate. Not healthy enough, as it turns out.

Intel’s announcement yesterday that it will not meet analysts’ expectations (Mercury News) for revenues this quarter has freaked out global stock markets (AP) in a major way overnight. Intel’s stock took a beating (AP) at the opening of Wall Street today, pulling down the overall markets.

The panic is remarkable, because it matched the boundless euphoria that has marked the equities markets in recent times. Pullbacks and mini-panics have come and gone, though, and the paramount question in people’s minds today is whether this debacle is an indicator of something deeper and more long-term.

It may seem amazing that a company making fabulous profits could do this to a market merely by saying its profits will be slightly less fabulous. But technology investing — and the market in general these days — has been a classic example of a momentum mentality. As long as the momentum was strong, share prices rose. The minute the momentum slowed, boom. It’s what the professionals call “hitting a wall.”

Will Silicon Valley hit a wall? Lord knows the valley has become a paradigm of the momentum phenomenon. Yet when you look at the money sloshing around the place, it’s hard to see how the Bay Area economy could take too much of a hit. That’s what all the smart people say, anyway.

When all the smart people are moving the same way, are they a herd?

Morning Edition

BobEdwards: Morning Edition's Bob Edwards
Bob Edwards is host of the Morning Edition program National Public Radio, where I occasionally appear in Q&A segments on technology topics. I try to stop by the NPR studios when I’m in Washington, and this time I snapped a quick photo of Edwards in his office. Now you know what he looks like.

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