If you use a Mac, you'll understand this post's title. When that little spinning wheel of death appears and just spins and spins, you end up having to shut down your system to make it end. Who would have thought it such an apt metaphor for the MSM and real estate reporting?
CanWest stock closed today at a measly dime. That's down 99.4% since its 2005 peak of $15/share, and almost not worth calculating its drop from its 10 year high of $21.35. There's all kinds of theories out there that suggest advertising revenues are down because the Internet is eating into earnings, and so on. I call bullsh&t. Ad revenue is down because no one wants to pay for the crap passed off as news these days. If I can get the press release faster directly from the VREB online (and for the record I do, and I beat the TC to publishing it consistently because I don't have editors who need to "sign off" on my ability to regurgitate it) why the hell would I pay the TC to get it for me if all they are going to do is repeat its content word for word?
Here's my theory:
Media laid off a lot of quality writers in favour of a lean and mean content generating machine and dropped any semblance of quality investigative journalism because it cost too much. Many good writers opted to join PR firms or start their own and sell their insider knowledge of media and how to generate stories. And then the quality of writing and editorial ability degenerated into what we've witnessed over the past week: 3 separate regurgitation's of real estate "news," each of them barely newsworthy to provide 3 days worth of crappy "everyone is buying now, the recession is over, you're an idiot for not buying last year, boy you should feel stupid for not taking advantage of lower prices and interest rates sooner" spin. No balance, no news, no investigation into the credibility of the sources, no quotes from arms length economists, no nothing, just republished press releases.
The VREB has a director of communications, heck, they even have a communications task force who meet monthly (if not more frequently) to craft ways to influence the consumer to consume their products and services. The VREB is a member organization of the BCREA which in turn has more communications officers and likely a provincial communications task force who meet together solely for the purpose of crafting strategies to influence consumers to consume their products and services. The BCREA is a member organization of the CREA who has even more communications staff and likely a national communications task force who get together to craft, you named it, strategies to influence consumers to consume their products and services.
And the MSM publishes their press releases on a weekly basis, verbatim, as news without any fact checking, without any investigative journalism, without any arms length expert opinion and without any consistency of balance. Why no stories of how the real estate industry works to influence the consumer to consume services and products? Is that not news? Should the consumer not be made aware of the systems and coordinated efforts, not to mention the amount of money spent, to influence them with numbers and statistics which no one can quality control nor idependently verify? Why no stories about what an average sales price truly is, and what it truly reflects?
I'm no cheerleader of doom, but the sooner the market presses the off button on this spinning wheel of death that is the "reporting" of real estate market "news" and ends it, the better.
There are no winners in this situation, just a bunch of losers, and I fear the whole sh&tshow can be traced right back to the consumers who just buy anyway--well, at least they used to buy the news when it was news, now, not even the advertisers are willing to pay for the paper.
I've given credit where credit is due in the past, but not this week. CanWest, TorStar, G&M (even though you're private) and CBC (even though you cost me money), you deserve to get hammered by the market. Someone please, end the spinning wheel of death, and soon.