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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Things I will not rant about this year: 4. THE MIXED METAPHOR

Mix it up, baby!

I've been getting a raft of poorly-written features from various financial freelances. Now this is surprising, because financial journalists are usually much more restrained in their use of vocabulary and what my former English teacher used to call 'purple prose'.

Compared to the political commentators in the national press, whose articles are more self-congratulatory than informative, or the fashion writers, who mistake criticism of the famous for investigative reporting, financial journalists usually provide you with a record of what has happened, combined with (hopefully) informed analysis of why.

Usual formula:
Banks have raised their dividends to XXX from XXX, because they want to do XXX. Sum Expert says: "XXXX".
The end.

Which is how it should be. But recently, I've been getting copy riddled with inaccurate information, plenty of Warren Buffets and - horror of horrors - mixed metaphors.

Given that the market is not great for freelancers at the moment, you would think they would show more determination to produce great copy and therefore secure repeat business.

Not so.

Here are some howlers for your delectation and amusement, and for my rantification:

The Three-way mixed metaphor:

"The investment and asset management world has been turned on its head and we are now charting unknown waters, but Elizabeth is confident that AGI has a winning strategy."

"Markets are good and investors are being urged to dive right in and bite off the top of the cherry."

And my favourite, a six-way mixed metaphor from someone whose writing many of you will read in the national press:

“Beating the herd to the punch can sometimes be the best recipe for success, and JPMorgan’s Indian Investment Trust is proof of this particular wisdom. While the rest of the world has woken up to India only relatively recently, JPMorgan’s Indian Investment Trust has been quietly beavering away there for years.”


Monday, February 22, 2010

Neither a buyer nor a seller be

Cast thy bread upon the waters

After having had a look at my share account on etrade I've got several bones to pick with my own self for getting involved with an online service. It's not that my account has done badly; in fact, my punt on beer and the rise of alcoholism post-crunch has paid off handsomely.

What does disturb me is that it costs just so much to make a trade. Given the proportion of money-to-fee that I have the online site, it means that any sale I make will result in my paying far more in fees than I will have made up in profits.

The resolution to this is, of course, to invest more into the site. But that is going to prove to be a false economy: the UK version of the site is moving across to Waterhouse, whose fees are even higher than those I am paying on eTrade. The higher the amount that is in there, the more likely it is that I will have to shell out a higher transfer fee if I don't want to go with Waterhouse.

So if I wait, I will get stung in the transfer; if I transfer now to a different provider, I get stung for commensurate fees and if I sell, any profit I made on the back of the depressed drunks of the UK will be evaporated.

What remains for me is to grin and bear the loss and sell out now. I may be able to get a paltry double-digit return back after all the fees.

Which brings me to my main point: even if you think you know how to trade, don't unless you really do have a lot of money to invest in stocks and shares and can absorb any trading fees; b) you have the time to trade frequently - more than 5 times a month - and therefore will benefit from lower transactional fees.

Otherwise, you might as well write it off as a good idea at the time.

harrumph! The good book says to cast your bread upon the waters and in seven days it shall return unto thee. I don't think it was referring to online share dealing sites as far as skinflints like the mermaid are concerned.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Things I will not rant about: 3. The Citizen Reporter

Now I'm no fan of daytime TV, nor do I advocate GMTV as a medium by which intelligent information is disseminated effectively to the nation.

However, latest shock! Horror! claims (excessively hyped up in The Mirror) reveal that an angry public has prompted an investigation by Ofcom. You can read the story here: GMTV blasted again after expert claims breast milk is as ‘bad as cola’ -

Quite simply, what was expressed by a professional midwife as a genuine medical opinion about not letting your children drink breast milk after the age of two has been jumped on by the great unwashed as a terrible thing to say.

Why? If all the people who wrote/phoned in to complain were all medical professionals with experience in paediatric care, then yes, I think Ofcom should complain. But they were nearly all mothers who have let their children breastfeed well into toddlerhood. One panellist admitted that her four-year-old still breastfeeds. (Psych).

Seriously, that is weird. Let the child grow up, woman. Do you want it to have an Oedipal complex? Do you want it to turn into the character from Little Britain?

Back to the theme. this brand of citizen journalism really bugs me. Why do we have to listen to the voice of Mr Joe Average about the state of the economy? Why do I care that Tracey Shadwick, 22, of East Finchley, thinks that John Terry should still be captain of the England football team despite his philandering? Why is it important that Jane Doe of the Home Counties believes the midwife's comments were reprehensible? Is Joe Average an economist? No. Is Tracey a renowned sports commentator? I don't think so. And Jane Doe's children are locked up in Thailand for smuggling hash on their year out from Oxbridge.

Let's get this straight: I pay a licence for my TV, and despite this, I have no control over the content that is beamed into my living room from any of the channels. What I do want is informed, intelligent opinion that will help me make informed, intelligent decisions about where to invest, whether to sell my flat, how to feed my children (if I had any, that is).

I do not want 15 minutes of my precious time taken up with the half-baked rants of some lonely people who need to voice their opinions on every single matter on which they have no proven authority. All it does is preclude freedom of speech, as was the case with the midwife on GMTV, whose comments are being investigated by Ofcom. As a result of which 'citizen reporting' by the great unwashed, GMTV will have to make a grovelling apology - especially as its weather reports are sponsored by Nestle (or were) - and no doubt the midwife will be held to account for giving her opinion.

By treating this professional woman like a social pariah in this way, the public has reacted to her in exactly the same NIMBY-istic, Voice of Offended Britain, way that they reacted to the BBC showing the BNP Leader Nick Griffin on Question Time before Christmas.


STOP giving opinionated people the right to express views publicly when they have no professional experience to back up their view.

This is how the next GMTV - or even radio phone-in (don't get me started on radio phone-ins) should go.

Lorraine Kelly (for it is she): "Now we go to Lucinda Kirby of High Wycombe. Lucinda, what's your view on whether policemen should carry tasers?"

Lucinda: "Well I have to say..."

Lorraine: "sorry Lucinda, can I just ask if you've ever been arrested? Or a member of your family? Are you or a member of your family in the police force? Have you studied the effects of tasering on the public? Do you work in the medical profession? Have you ever used, or seen, at taser?

Lucinda: "No, I'm a teller for Ladbrokes."

Lorraine: "I'm going to have to stop you there. Thanks for calling in, Lucinda. That's cost you £3 on our premium rate phone lines."

Lorraine Kelly