Does CNBC Matter?

CNBC seems a little lost these days.

I don't want to get caught up in the seedy world of financial news gossip, but the ticker network has recently been making more news than it has been reporting. Not that we care for the tittle-tattle, but what and who you listen to can be hazardous to your portfolio.

Ratigan says CNBC-ya
Most recently, co-creator and host of Fast Money Dylan Ratigan left General Electric's (NYSE: GE  ) CNBC in a bit of a dust-up. Ratigan, co-anchor of The Call and Closing Bell, was widely seen as an up-and-comer at the network. Reasons for the exit seem to center on alleged ongoing disagreements with a network VP and the terms of his expiring contract. Ignoring the salacious details, we can say that his departure may be another sign of a growing shift in both financial news reporting and investor mentality.

Ratigan's exit comes on the heels of seeing Jim Cramer getting clobbered by Jon Stewart, as well as witnessing the Huffington Post's attack on anchor Mark Haines. It's not just coincidental that Ratigan sidestepped a large share of the heavy criticism being levied on the financial network. Despite co-creating a show composed of the words "Fast" and "Money," Ratigan has been one of the more thoughtful on-air interviewers at CNBC, as evidenced by his unrelenting style of meticulously asking questions. His departure is a loss to CNBC as the network seeks to maintain relevance, providing commentary on a game that increasingly feels fixed to battered investors.

A little less action, a little more conversation, please
It's been quite clear that Main Street's quarter-century infatuation with the stock market is quickly eroding into something resembling a daily visit to the dentist. Investors have gotten hurt, are nursing serious wounds, and probably need to slow things down a bit.

Don't get me wrong: I don't think that shows with bells, whistles, graphics, and rapid-fire segments are inherently evil. However, they do mislead the average viewer into thinking that speculating is the same as investing. Rarely do they draw the distinction that while speculation is for fun, investing is for life.

In its defense, the lead financial news network does produce some noteworthy content. For instance, David Faber has co-produced a series of award-winning documentaries on the likes of Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) , Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) . While retrospective insights into large-cap companies won't give you new information you can use to beat the market, they can add some long-term color to your investing knowledge -- especially for companies that have fallen out of favor and can be bought on the cheap.

Promisingly, the network offered The Big Idea, a motivational show highlighting mostly private growth companies. In addition, its sister channel, MSNBC, has the American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) -sponsored Your Business program, which provides a wonderful forum for discussing the ground-level experience of both struggling and successful small businesses. Sadly, The Big Idea is reportedly on an indefinite hiatus, while Your Business is relegated to an early-Sunday-morning time slot ideal only for roosters looking to cluck their way to the top.

A bright spot on the network is Suze Orman. While she didn't foresee the financial meltdown, she has been the Nouriel Roubini of consumer overspending. For years, Orman has called on Americans to stop living the lie of spending beyond their means and extricate themselves from debt instead. That's bad news for companies such as Visa (NYSE: V  ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) , which rely on growing credit card use for profits. But these principles are central if you want to get rich and stay rich.

Don't settle for run-of-the-mill financial chatter
I believe we get the returns we deserve. Volatility and speculation packaged as entertainment are what help create buying opportunities for the Foolish investor. Great returns don't come from "lightning rounds" or "pops and drops." Superior returns come from thoughtful, investigative research and critical analysis.

Finding great value stocks requires constant searching, even if it means looking far and wide to get the inside scoop. So, choose wisely where you get your facts, shut out random noise, and focus on acquiring investment knowledge that really matters.

Our Motley Fool Inside Value team will soon be making a pilgrimage across the United States in search of value. First, they will be reporting from Omaha on Warren Buffett's presentations to shareholders. The team will then travel to California to attend a series of value investing conferences along with Charlie Munger's Wesco annual meeting. Follow their exploits here, and if you like what you see, try out the newsletter free with a 30-day trial.

American Express, eBay, and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. eBay is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of American Express. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Andy Louis-Charles thinks independent, original, scuttlebutt research matters the most. He owns a tiny, fractional interest in Bank of America through an old synthetic DRIP account, giving the term "it's cheaper to keep her" a whole new meaning. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy matters.


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  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2009, at 3:48 PM, Obamaganda wrote:

    Hmmm? Let's see GE gets $139B from the federal government debt guarantee program. CNBC is owned by GE...Cramer, Haines, and Kudlow who once were trashing the Obama admin now are singing his tune...Hmmm? Dylan Ratigan says I won't play that game and quite Fast Money...Way to go Dylan! Integrity does matter! CNBC is now being pimped by the Obama Media Control!

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2009, at 4:31 PM, Keeleyson wrote:

    Oh for heaven's sake, grow up!

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2009, at 11:43 PM, nau99 wrote:

    Mr. Ratigan always appeared to come across highly professional and brought a much-needed standard to the news division at CNBC. The 6-month non-compete clause that Mr. Ratigan reportedly holds is unfortunate for a nation starving for solid financial news. Best of luck to him.

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