Ritholtz Spreads the Spread

In my opinion Barry Ritholtz(*) is re-publishing bad posts from unqualified sources on his blog The Big Picture.

The Big Picture is primarily about investing and finance. Barry Ritholtz has an investment management firm, publishes books, goes on TV, and is a paid speaker. He is sought out for his opinions on the stock market, finance and economics and has carved out a niche as a critic of big banks and so forth. So why does he publish “spread arguments” from dubious sources about topics far removed from his own competence? In particular I’m thinking of the recent What Are the Risks for Pacific Coast Residents from Fukushima Radiation?. Perhaps it’s just laziness? Perhaps it’s just a grab for blog traffic?

Look, if you want to claim integrity, then you should do some vetting of third party content. This extends to both the qualifications of the source and the quality of the writing. The above post is a clear fail on both counts. (Glass houses here on the latter.)

It’s a classic spread argument, presenting so many facts from so many sources over so many pages that nobody could reasonably be able to determine the quality and soundness of the notions presented. I’m all for providing links to sources, but the wall of links in this post means that no reader could feasibly click through most of them (here’s one).

But more important than the spread style is the source itself. Who are the actual people behind Washington’s Blog? I don’t know. But they declare as their primary themes stopping “widespread fraud as a business model, “[breaking up] the giant banks”, opposing “policies making the rich richer and everyone else poorer”, and forcing “a debt ‘jubilee'”. Oh, and the obligatory “stop endless wars”. So this anonymous team committed to financial and related government policy matters has adopted the incredibly complex and specialized field of nuclear contamination as a specialty. (Sigh, sign of the times.)

Then Ritholtz uses his unrelated platform to retransmit their work. I’m not talking about restricting your content to highly public Authority Figures or dismissing really solid work in favor of charlatan Experts. The vetting should apply regardless of the source’s reputation, though a source’s long-established reputation or credentials should reduce the initial skepticism and degree of vetting.

Maybe Ritholtz or his team think the particular topic is too important and too under-covered in the “mainstream media”, so they’re willing to just “put it out there” to “get people talking”. But that’s too lazy to accept.

* Maybe Ritholtz himself does not provide direct editorial oversight of the third part content that appears on his blog. However, even if he has minions to perform these duties, in my opinion he still has the responsibility for content integrity.

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2 Responses to Ritholtz Spreads the Spread

  1. Barry is like most pundits (on-line and off) with: 80% mediocre content, 10% awful and 10% solid/insightful. I don’t know if there is a Law out there about that, but there should be…

  2. tward says:

    @Mr. Ericsson,

    You’re generous. My take on most financial pundits is close to 100% BS. Tune in to CNBC or read the WSJ. (I don’t, so what do I know?) Maybe 80% BS with political pundits: Remember the Nate Silver uproar recently? What was that about? That was about calling bullshit on bullshitters using defensible models and exhaustive data. They didn’t like it.

    I think Barry is pretty solid within his domain. At least he can tenably claim a domain. What’s mine? Logic critic?

    I’d split Gross as thirds.

    I think Grantham is a rare gem coming in at closer to two-thirds plus solid/insightful. That includes his work outside of conventional near-term market analysis. That’s why I recommend his back catalog of quarterly newsletters. Munger and Buffet too. None of those guys are without their missteps and mediocrity, but I’ve never seen them invite shills and schmucks onto their stage.

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