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soundbite journalisim

Warren Buffett’s letter to shareholders nails the idea of "sound-bite journalism".

Last year we saw, in one instance, how sound-bite reporting can go wrong. Among the 12,830 words in the annual letter was this sentence: “We are certain, for example, that the economy will be in shambles throughout 2009 – and probably well beyond – but that conclusion does not tell us whether the market will rise or fall.” Many news organizations reported – indeed, blared – the first part of the sentence while making no mention whatsoever of its ending. I regard this as terrible journalism: Misinformed readers or viewers may well have thought that Charlie and I were forecasting bad things for the stock market, though we had not only in that sentence, but also elsewhere, made it clear we weren’t predicting the market at all. Any investors who were misled by the sensationalists paid a big price: The Dow closed the day of the letter at 7,063 and finished the year at 10,428.

Blogs, tweets, and the social world can fix this. By participating in the stream, the like of Buffet don’t need to wait for an annual letter to disable misrepresentation, they can do it in real-time. Their brand affords them a platform at least equal to that of any media outlet.

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