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Todays “signal-to-noise” ratio is out of control

FootballDo you follow professional sports? I loved them as a kid, but I’ve lost interest over time. Then again, you don’t have to be much of a sports fan to know that in late April, the National Football League (NFL) held their annual player draft. There were thousands of hours of coverage devoted to the thing. Apparently, the Entertainment Sports Programming Network (did I get that right?) paid tons of money to broadcast the draft selection live.

Really… this is interesting? What are we going to start doing next; maybe we broadcast the local meeting of the “Fans of Watching Paint Dry” Club? No thanks… in fact, I think my paper clip collection needs re-sorting that night.

Truly, the insanity of coverage on any “topic of the day” made me reflect a bit. I realized that my 20-something-old kids will never know the pleasure of reading the morning paper to get the news. I thought CNN was a great thing when it came about, 24-hour continuous news coverage, wow! No matter where you were in the world, or what your daily schedule happened to be, the news of the day was just a television set (with a cable box connection) away.

But those days are gone. Today, the news is delivered in ever shorter segments designed to grab attention, not convey information. Plus, the outlets are virtually unlimited. Even further, we now have everyone with a phone and an opinion loudly proclaiming their “facts” in more ways than a baby boomer can count. The noise is deafening, and the volume enormous.

It’s not to say modern media is without value, no sir/ma’am. (I mean, you are reading a blog you might have seen on Facebook right now, yes? The irony is palpable.) But the real “who, what, when, where, why, and how” — or signals, if you will — are rarer sights than Alice’s white rabbit… and frankly just as (un)reliable.

My largest complaint regarding this, the news may no longer embody “good” reporting.  Most of it is what we used to call op/ed pieces, not news stories. If we click on a link to a news story, we are often condemned to video commercials and clips of talking heads afterward… rather than being able to read a thought-provoking, fact-representing work.

It’s driving me to my wits’ end, I tell you! It’s a dumbing down of America — surely of the whole world — and no one is at the helm of this out-of-control behemoth. For you and me, it’s not just the NFL draft, the politics of Washington, or the climate change discussions that have a signal-to-noise ratio that’s out of whack. It’s the business sector, too.

Here is where the rubber meets the road for us as investors. The 24-hour business channels spout euphoria (or “doom and gloom”) with unbridled fury, on every outlet imaginable, depending upon the most recent four hours of US stock market performance. Advice is everywhere, and the common themes there too are those old two standards fear and greed.

Hitting the Power SwitchThat behind us, we must give thanks for our freedoms in America. That includes being able to speak our minds digitally — whenever and however we wish. It also includes the right to have — and to use — the “off” switch.

To be a smart investor, you work with a financial advisor, create the plan — and stick to it. Speaking of that “off” switch, don’t let short term events, unreliable “news,” or over-zealous hype affect your long-term investment plans. Stay steady out there. The winds are a-blowin’.

Oh, and some noise cancelling headphones wouldn’t hurt either.

 

May 2019

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