Two-Way Street With Allen Wastler


  Monday, 5 May 2008 | 12:25 PM ET

All Things Buffet

Posted By: Allen Wastler

Burned out on Buffettstock? If you are, I'd like to think we're the ones who did it. Our coverage was wall-to-wall, thanks mostly to our reisident Buffett blogger, Alex Crippen.

His award-winning blog is already widely recognized as the place to get all things Buffett. It went into over drive this weekend reporting all the fun and games at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting. The centerpiece was his live blogging of the question and answer period with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger ... the heart and soul of the event.

Not to trash talk my competitors (which our PR department always tells me not to do), but ... well, I don't think they were quite as good. One opponent in particular advertised a "Live Blog" that never really had a heartbeat until about an hour into the session ... unless you count a post from the night before.

Anyway, just wanted to pound the virtual chest a little. Way to go, Alex.

»Read more
  Friday, 2 May 2008 | 11:31 AM ET

Editor's Mailbag: Negativism, Coverage and Miley

Posted By: Allen Wastler

We like to clean out the mail bag periodically. If nothing else it lets you know that we really do pay attention to what you're saying, even if we can't get back to you individually ...

On Negativity and the Media ...

Mike F. said: Given all the negative commentary by the media ... Stop talking the numbers down and just report what is actually happening; you don't have to be all sunshine but you also don't have to keep predicting the sky is falling.

This is a constant flash point in journalism ... business journalism in particular. Problem is when numbers come out, you're obligated to indicate to your audience whether it's a good number or a bad number. The problem is, some of the numbers these days are a little debatable. Here's an example . There's probably no absolute answer but Mike's point is well-taken. We strive to do that and we'll keep on striving.

The Housing Crisis ...

Janna wrote: When do you think these lunkheads will understand that the solution to homeowners dire situations requires lower interest rates and not tighter requirements for refinancing loans about to adjust upwards. Lending institutions need to assist those in trouble since they played a hugh part in creating their demise!!! I am refering only to homeowners occupying their homes NOT flippers!!!!

Don't know, Janna. We'll keep covering it, but as Mike above suggests, we shouldn't really give an opinion about lunkheadism.

Our Pre-Markets Page ...

We get an email every so often asking for more info on how to use this page ... try here . We'll think about making that more prominent on the page itself.

Credit Card outfits ...

"sommers" opined: Pricing regulation for credit processing companies like VISA and MASTERCARD has not been talked about lately in the media?

Oh it gets talked about time to time, even tangentially, like here . News on specific issues hits peaks and valleys. We'll be there.

On Miley ...

Lots and lots of email, some of it here . We didn't show all of it because, after a while, much of it repeated the same points, arguments and counter-arguments: She's just a kid, her parents should have know better, Disney may ultimately benefit, and who cares (I find it ironic that people go to the effort to write in just to say "who cares," but okay).

Mail Policy and Style Points ...

A few of you wrote in about why not all mail gets republished. This project is pretty much a one-man band (me... Allen) so there's some manpower issues. Some mail is repetitive so reprinting it all wouldn't serve much purpose. Some messages are criticizing specific CNBC folk personally, which I'm not going to get into. And a very few are unintelligentable and/or rude (like the person who totally didn't get my good-natured tip-of-the-hat to our political blogger ). Those are unnecessary and lack zen ... but we hope you are now cleansed and feel better.

And yes, the font in posts changes from time to time. Other computer weirdness happens too. Sorry about that. Ghosts in the machine.

Have a great weekend!

»Read more
  Thursday, 1 May 2008 | 12:49 PM ET

Our Political Hip-Hopper

Posted By: Allen Wastler

You know John Harwood? If you are a regular CNBCer, then you probably do. He's our Politics guy. Writes a fine blog and appears on our air to explain the ins and outs of government circus.

So I had this little Blackberry back and forth with him the other night. He wanted to put a picture on his blog and I was being obstructionist. Rights issues, permissions and such. Hey, the fun part of my job is saying "no" to creative and inspired ideas.

Anyway, he eventually secured permission. And here is the photo . And lo and behold ... It's Harwood with Will.i.am of Black-Eyed Peas fame!

What? I'd never normally put those two together.

Don't get me wrong. I love John (even when he disagrees with my decisions ). And you can never quibble with his political analysis.

It's just now I have an image of our coat-and-tie John hip-hopping across a stage rapping out the lyrics "get it started ... get stupid ... don't worry 'bout it people we'll walk you through it ..."

Well, now that I think about it, it does sort of fit his beat. Anyway, enjoy the video ...

»Read more
  Wednesday, 30 Apr 2008 | 2:25 PM ET

More Voices in Our Blogs

Posted By: Allen Wastler

Don't know if you saw, but we're running a guest blog entry in Energy Source looking at the stakes in today's oil trading session -- it may end up being the most important session of the year . Pretty interesting.

We hope to do more of this kind of thing. It's an initiative from our senior blog editor, Mark Koba, to give a little more voice to our beat blogs . We've got some great reporters already sharing their insights about their respective areas of expertise -- media, drugs, tech, etc. -- but this will add a different angle. At least that's what we're aiming to do.

In that vein, we also have some other plans under way to lend even great depth to the site as a whole. But more on that later.

And oh yes, we have settled on a name for this blog . That's coming soon too.

»Read more
  Wednesday, 30 Apr 2008 | 9:58 AM ET

The Half-Full, Half-Empty GDP

Posted By: Allen Wastler

Here's a quandry ... Look at these alerts from two of the main wire services we use:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Commerce Department reports that the economy grew at an anemic six-tenths-percent pace in the first three months of this year. That's the same growth rate as in the prior quarter.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economy grew at a slightly stronger pace than forecast as 2008 began, helped by inventory-building that tempered a steadily deteriorating housing sector and less vigorous consumer spending.

As you can see, it's a glass half-full or half-empty situation. Which one to go with? Really, with low economic numbers like this, you're splitting hairs.

Anyway, we took the middle road and wrote our own .

»Read more
  Tuesday, 29 Apr 2008 | 4:19 PM ET

Losing Our Children Earlier

Posted By: Allen Wastler

Well, judging from the email in response to yesterday's post , you folks are less inclined to blame the media and more inclined to blame Miley Cyrus and her handlers.

Fair enough. Nice to know that folks don't universally think covering the news, even scandalous news, just makes things worse. And apparently some folks still think the quest for money should stop somewhere. (In fairness, it is reported that her folks did not know about the racy pictures until after the fact).

Some reponses ...

This was a bad judgment call on someones part. And I'll bet everything I own, that this decision maker does not have kids. So, does the media have fault in this? Absolutely. Someone made this decision knowing that millions of young girls WILL find out about it. And little by little, we lose our children earlier and earlier. -- Mark S.

Miley's pics look like fodder for preverts and pedophiles. This kind of thing makes no sense. Are they trying to get the business of the pedophiles? -- Elizabeth

I want to say as a 15-16 year old girl myself, that I find these pictures ... insulting ... and give us this trampy image! -- Courtney

It's not the 12-16 year old set that I'm worried about, its the 7-11 year olds that worship her....how does a grandparent (me) explain this? I think its time to find a new "idol." -- Tom

It was a bad decision all around. ... Miley will still be allowed in our home as I am as much a fan as my 7 year old daughter. My daughter saw the pictures (thanks to the media, not by my choice) and agrees it was a mistake for Miley to have done them, but my wise daughter also said "Mommy you still love me when I make a mistake, so I still love Miley too." -- Rese

»Read more
  Monday, 28 Apr 2008 | 1:08 PM ET

Hannah Montana and Parent-Media Conflict

Posted By: Allen Wastler

You know what story on our site I'm most conflicted about? The same one that's probably going to get the most traffic.

Yep, Miley Cyrus (a.k.a. Hannah Montana) stripping off her shirt and getting her picture taken .

As a managing editor, of course, I like the story. It's already one of our most clicked stories. It will probably take top honors when the day is done, despite a lot of weighty M&A business news today (plus our brand new Million Dollar Portfolio Contest -- Woo woo!). People love to click on such titillating celebrity fodder.

We try to give readers what they're interested in. And there's big money at risk for Disney and its investors if the young lady's family-friendly aura is tarnished. (On the other hand, you could argue it's a brilliant PR stunt to make more money).

As a parent, I have to admit I'm horrified. I have children who idolize Hannah. But the idea that a 15-year-old is making herself an object of sexual desire, which is what these photos seem to be about, disturbs me.

Not to worry ... a colleague pointed out ... kids don't read Vanity Fair. I dunno. As ubiquitous as media is these days, I'm not so sure they won't get wind of it and, because HANNAH did it, think it's okay. (Another argument for making my family become Amish).

So this case could be Big Media, again, is fanning the flames of sensationalism and making a small incident worse. Me, the media guy, making life worse for me, the parent, by drawing attention to a photo flap.

Like I said: Conflicted.

»Read more
  Thursday, 24 Apr 2008 | 1:44 PM ET

Why Earnings are Like Oatmeal

Posted By: Allen Wastler

Earnings stories are sort of the oatmeal of the business news diner: It's never going to be a gangbusters offering, but you got to have it on the menu or you look incomplete ... especially that one day when a lot of people want the oatmeal.

And like bowls of oatmeal they can get boring and they will spoiled over time. Yet they are healthy for the business news diet.

You see, every earnings story is pretty much like another, structure-wise:

Lede ... (Company X made Y profit due to some Z thing).

Revenue/profit comparison for the period (Net and operating, in most cases)

What analysts were expecting.


Quote (Usually from the CEO, middle of the press release)

Expectations for next year.

Of course, you can mix the graphs up a little depending on the news cards (raisins) you are dealt. Some companies made need more explanation that others. And some industries may focus on certain financial numbers more than others. (Media companies are hot for EBITDA, for example).

But the stories really follow the same pattern. Gets a little boring stylistically, especially when there are a million of them at once. Also, earnings stories have a very limited shelf-life. Once the numbers are out ... well, that's pretty much the story.

Okay, every once in a while a GE comes out and lots of people want to dig deep. But in these days of expectations management, surprises tend to be the exception, not the rule. (Just look at the tally in our By The Numbers blog).

So is earnings coverage pretty much a wash? I wonder sometimes, especially when your audience only seems to be into the top line numbers. Beyond that, there is a constant debate about the merits of doing a full story ... especially with limited resources.

There is probably a happy medium out there somewhere. A wrap of top line numbers with write-ups of some of the more important companies. That's what we shoot for in our Earnings Central coverage , and it seems to work for our readers pretty well. Of course, there is the constant debate about what the "important" companies are. (Short answer, the ones our readers have money invested in). But that's a broader debate.

In the meantime, hope you are enjoying earnings season and hope we meet your needs.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 22 Apr 2008 | 3:53 PM ET

The Wall Street Journal's Yankee Situation

Posted By: Tyler Mathisen

We in the media love nothing so much as writing or reporting about we who work in the media. So it gives me great pleasure to write today about what's going on at the Wall Street Journal.

They are our editorial partners. The fellow there who holds the same title I do, managing editor, quit today. His name is Marcus Brauchli, and by all accounts he's a top journalist and popular in the newsroom. He's been in the job about 11 months. He worked hard to get it -- a whole career's worth of hard work, frankly, to earn arguably the best job in American newspapers.

Shortly after Brauchli's appointment was announced last year, Rupert Murdoch decided to buy the Journal's parent, Dow Jones & Company. Somewhere along the line, the conversation went something like this: "Good morning, Mr. Brauchli. The good news is you've been named managing editor of the Wall Street Journal. The bad news is you've been named managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, which is now owned by Rupert Murdoch."

Mr. Murdoch is the last of the great old-style media moguls. He knows how to make newspapers dance. That's not to say he always makes money with them. The New York Post comes to mind. But he sure knows how to make them sharp and entertaining. As I was saying, The New York Post comes to mind.

Now, four months after gaining control of Dow Jones, the new owner clearly is exercising the prerogatives of ownership. Brauchli, part of the paper's longtime establishment, stood in the way of that. He wasn't exactly fired, or so it seems. But then again, neither was former Yankee manager Joe Torre.

Last fall, as you may recall, the Yankees made Torre an offer he couldn't accept. So he left. Brauchli confronted a similar situation -- an owner who didn't want him running things anymore. So Brauchli popped a Torre. He stepped aside before it got ugly. That takes guts and good sense, though one suspects that Brauchli's guts were somehow fortified financially.

Now Rupert Murdoch, the crafty, Steinbrennarian eminence of the media biz , gets to put a new manager in place. It will be interesting to see whether the new guy turns out to be a Torre, a Billy Martin -- or a Stump Merrill.

We in the media will all be watching. And writing...and writing...and writing...

»Read more
  Tuesday, 22 Apr 2008 | 11:47 AM ET

A New Way to Determine Lies

Posted By: Allen Wastler

Hey, check out this thing that could mean the end of journalists.

»Read more

About Two-Way Street With Allen Wastler

  • What’s happening at CNBC.com? Two Way Street is the place to find out. Managing Editor Allen Wastler writes about the latest goings on - technical and editorial - at the Web site and at the Network. He also answers your questions (well, some of them – just don’t ask about the cigar: a man needs a little mystery and at least one vice) and points out some of the media issues hanging in the headlines.


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