journalism

Some personal news …

The following memo went out today at The Wall Street Journal from finance editor Charles Forelle.

I’m delighted to announce that Spencer Jakab is the new editor of Heard on the Street.
Spencer is a rock of the Journal’s financial commentary. He has been deputy editor of Heard since 2015, and he wrote the Ahead of the Tape column for years before that. His knowledge of companies, markets and financial instruments is encyclopedic. (By my Factiva count, Spencer did nearly 800 Tapes in about 45 months; good luck finding a topic in our universe he hasn’t touched.) He is an incisive financial thinker who embodies the Heard’s spirit of smart, provocative and timely analysis. He also writes killer ledes. He’s the ideal leader for our expansion of the Heard.
Before the Journal, Spencer worked at the Financial Times and here at Dow Jones Newswires, and was a stock analyst at Credit Suisse. He is the author of “Heads I Win, Tails I Win,” which is, naturally, a book about investing.
Spencer’s move means we are looking for a new Heard deputy. Please get in touch with him if you are interested. And please join me in warmly congratulating Spencer. I believe he’llbecelebratingatOlive Garden.
-Charles

journalism

Upset About the Election? Here’s Something You Can Actually Do

aapic

However you feel about the election this past week, it’s unlikely that you’re one of the small group actively taking part in protests against Donald Trump’s election or campaigning to get rid of the Electoral College. It’s silly and fruitless. The Donald chuckles at such impotence.

I’m a journalist, but the sort who keeps his political opinions fairly private. I don’t donate to political campaigns and haven’t registered to vote in primaries. One thing I’m not shy about, though, is standing up to thugs. I’m not calling President Elect Trump one, by the way. He hasn’t even taken the oath of office yet. I can tell you, though, that one thing that actually gets under his skin happens to be the same one that bothers authoritarian heads of state and corrupt businessmen worldwide: a free and vibrant press

In China or Russia or Turkey or Africa that often results in newspapers being shut down or even journalists getting murdered. Here, so far, we have disgusting antisemitic tweets, scary chants at rallies, and a threat by Trump to “open up our libel laws” and sue the media into submission.

Despite all that, the main threat to the American media, and dare I say democracy, is apathy. You’ve probably heard that about 100 million people – far more than those who cast a ballot for either Trump or Clinton – simply didn’t vote. But what about the people who didn’t read a newspaper or support one? The reason so many people you and I know are shocked by Trump’s victory in the face of a mountain of concerns about his past conduct, his personality, and his agenda is that we relied on ethical, trusted sources of information about him.  But, according to Pew, just 21% of people ages 35-44 read a newspaper yesterday, down from 44% in 1999. Just 18% of Hispanics of any age did.

pew

Many people, perhaps including you,  read a newspaper article reached from a link on social media today but didn’t read another article in the same paper. And you probably didn’t pay for it. The total circulation revenue of all U.S. newspapers in 2014 was just $10.9 billion. It’s now just half of the sales of Starbucks. Between 2006 and 2014 the number of people employed in print journalism fell from 55,000 to 32,900. It’s probably below 30,000 now. Just this past week dozens of people in my newsroom lost their jobs and two sections were discontinued while two others were merged. The result is a thinner paper.

Do you subscribe to a newspaper or do you just graze on whatever is free on the Internet? Do you subscribe to more than one? Well here’s something you can do that will drive Donald Trump up the wall. You can do it right now at the expense of giving up a few cappuccinos a month or waiting a little longer to upgrade to that snazzy new iPhone: subscribe to an old-fashioned print newspaper.

Yes, this is what feeds my family, but it isn’t an act of charity and you don’t have to subscribe to The Wall Street Journal. Buy The New York Times or The Washington Post or your local paper. You won’t just be making a political statement.

Reading a print paper instead of zeroing in on the specific article you want to read on your phone or computer leads you to read all sorts of other articles you weren’t looking for but are glad you found. You don’t get that kind of serendipity in your targeted Facebook news feed or even a digital newspaper app. You’re also getting something hand-delivered to your house that’s an amazing daily undertaking put together by people who could be earning more in a different job and who take a lot of infuriating crap doing it. Even though I don’t write about politics, I get all sorts of nasty comments when I write something people don’t like, disparaging me or my profession, putting “journalist” in quotes. We get called the “lying media” and worse. And yes, of course, the result isn’t perfection. But what a newsroom full of journalists produces is a wonder. I think the British critic AA Gill said it best:

Newspapers are the size of long novels.They’re put together from around the globe from sources who want to lie, to manipulate, to sell things, hide things, spin things. Despite threats, injunctions, bullets, jails and non-returned phone calls,journalists do it every single day, from scratch. What’s amazing, what’s utterly staggering, is not the things papers get wrong, it’s just how much they get right.

Come on, make a statement by going retro and reading a paper or two made out of dead trees.

investing · The book

The Warren Buffett Argument

The Wall Street Journal is running a smart series this week, pegged to the 40th anniversary of the first index mutual fund, on the merits of passive investing. The editors asked me if there were any arguments for why active managers, despite their awful relative performance, are worth it. I came up with three arguments, the most convincing of which readers of my book will be familiar with: “Warren Buffett.”

aapic

The book · Uncategorized

Forbes Review

Forbes.png

A very nice review of my book appeared in Forbes. By “nice” I mean three things. First, it was quite flattering, which of  course is always welcome for an author. Second, it was written by a very nice guy, Simon Constable, with whom I  overlapped with for three years when both of us were at The Wall Street Journal . Third, the book’s message and unique perspective  clearly came through.

Let me explain. Simon is, like me, a rare bird in financial journalism, having come from the finance industry. It’s a heck of a pay cut but also a heck of an advantage for the perspective it gives you. Like me, Simon knows that the emperor has no clothes when it comes to high-priced investing advice. Not only did he understand the book but he understood why I wrote it which is, well, nice.

A quote from the review:

The book gives a deep and realistic insight into how investing really works. I too worked in research on Wall Street, and what he says reflects how things actually work, or don’t work.

Jakab points out that there was more of a reason for him to write the book rather than fulfilling a demand for idle curiosity about the inner workings of one of the most misunderstood sectors of the economy. It’s that while most people can’t fix the appliances in their home, they are now required to be part time money managers of their retirement investments through their 401k or IRA plans.

Unfortunately, most people woefully lack the financial education to do so. His book makes a dent in that knowledge deficit, at least for those who read it.

Heads I Win, Tails I Win will be available everywhere fine books are sold on July 12th.