I’m Not as Bad as Howie Kurtz Says

Well, I like you better than you like yourself, Jim. You’re always engaging and provocative—even when I’m the target of your latest jihad!

It’s undoubtedly true that The Fortune Tellers has a sharp focus on breathless reporting, stock touting, and perpetual prognostication–because that is the crazed world of Wall Street, and it’s the world in which CNBC, CNNfn, Bloomberg, Dow Jones, TheStreet.com, and MarketWatch.com all dwell. It’s the world in which owners of Priceline.com dwelled yesterday when the stock plummeted by more than 40 percent, leaving William Shatner on a deserted planet. And it’s the world in which you dwell, Jim, at least when I was in your office watching you yell “Sell five Intel! Sell five more Micro!” (5,000 shares, of course) while reading e-mail, watching CNBC, writing your column, and guzzling Diet Dr Pepper.

Yes, if someone is smart enough to buy and hold stocks for the long term, they can tune out most of this white noise and don’t have to worry about whether Maria Bartiromo’s morning reports goose their stock five points. But millions of Americans have been lured into the short-term trading game by the relentless media drumbeat about how making big bucks is easier than Regis’ first few Millionaire questions.

I still think you let the financial news biz—you know, the guys who fell for the Emulex hoax, who reported the “unconfirmed rumor” that Microsoft had settled its antitrust case—off the hook too easily. And it’s the journalists, far too often, who fail to hold accountable the Wall Street analysts you love to hate. The reaction I’m getting to the book suggests that I’ve touched a nerve—and in your case, several hundred raw nerve endings. But if you were a laid-back guy, I’d have left you on the cutting-room floor. Instead, you’re a tiny bit more famous.