Why investors do better investigative work than business journalists and sell-side analysts

From Chris Roush:

In his history of business news, Starkman describes how reporters, dependent on insider sources to inform an élite audience of investors, practice a kind of journalism that is defined by access. News becomes a guide to investing, more concerned with explaining business strategies to consumers than with examining broader political or social issues to the public. Access reporting is friendly to executives because it relies on their candor. Starkman writes that during the crucial lead-up to the financial crisis, from 2004 to 2006, this news culture crowded out the kind of investigative journalism that might have inspired reform.

Sell-side analysts suffer from the same challenge: their jobs are dependent on access to company executives, so they can’t afford to offend them.

In contrast, investors get paid only when they get stocks right, so they’re less susceptible to pressure from company executives and therefore a better source of business analysis. This is also why investors are incentivized not to succumb to herd thinking, and explains why Seeking Alpha’s investor-contributors uncovered the China Fraudcaps, when business journalists failed to do so.

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