A few months ago, I violated Safire’s first rule (anyone can kick someone when they’re down; kick them when they’re up!) by running off Matt Drudge. Drudge is a politician, not a journalist, I wrote. Real journalists talk to both sides.
Today it’s my honor to run off James Cramer, and urge that he go back to his day job (which he’s good at): trading stocks.
While Drudge actually claimed to be a reporter, Cramer never pretended he was anything but a columnist, a publisher, and a TV star. (All this in his spare time.) Publishers aren’t journalists; they are businesspeople. Columnists and TV stars aren’t journalists, either; they’re celebrities.
But there are rules for publishers, columnists and TV stars even stock traders at least when they’re all four at once. And rule number one is when you’re acting as a TV star and celebrity you don’t tell people to buy stock in your publishing stake.
Yet that’s what Cramer did, telling viewers of his Fox show (all 12 of them) to buy (wait for it) TheStreet.com! Now, bottom fishers might have liked TheStreet.com at $6 (it’s currently around $8), but that’s not the point.
Cramer has a lot more zeros in his account balances than I do. I don’t tout stocks, but I do keep an IRA, and I have some rules for it. I generally avoid Net stocks and when writing favorably about a stock I own, I try to tell you I own it. Currently my biggest holdings are 200 shares in Intel and Applied Materials, plus 100 each in 3Com, Charles Schwab, Novell and Cisco. (That wasn’t hard now, was it?)
But wait, it gets better! When Cramer got called on this ethical lapse, he put on his publisher’s hat again and got mad, pulling his show from the network. (Actually, it was Fox’s News Channel, the same outfit Drudge once worked for.) For some reason, Fox still wanted to hold Cramer to his contract after this, so there could be more laughs to come.
That publisher’s hat may not fit much longer, either. Cramer’s violated his contract and probably blown off his last friend on TV (he’d already burned CNBC) at a time when the company he heads can afford no more bad news. TheStreet.com will junk its subscription requirement June 1, moving its 114,000 subscribers to a real-time site called Realmoney.com. It’s a move that smells of desperation, but it might work, so that last was not investing advice.
The fact is TheStreet.com has never known how you make money online with financial news, although for a start-up the answer is obvious. (You ally closely with an online broker.)
Now when I ran off Drudge, I took back my hat. Cramer doesn’t wear a hat. But he does share my hairline. So let’s take up a collection and send him a hairpiece. Then, when he does go back to his day job, we can hit him up for a loan.