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The Cody Blog: Commercializing Katrina

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Commercializing Katrina

Before I pose the question on my mind here regarding the commercialization of Katrina, I want to reprint something I wrote at Realmoney.com earlier this week:

The devastation in the Southeast is just sickening, and hard to fathom. From the Northeast we see the heartbreaking images on TV and we read about the suffering. But as money managers, our minds immediately and constantly grapple with what the economic and investment implications of all this devastation will be. And we feel guilty for doing so.

But while we all can do what we can to help the victims logistically and financially in the near term, going on with our jobs, working for our investors, creating more value and economic productivity -- these are the things that will help in the long run. It's economic productivity that has created the wealth and health that the majority of Americans have access to every day. In other words, the most important thing we can do right now is to keep on keeping on.

I want to be clear that I don't have a problem per se with the networks and cable channels using interstitial advertisments to create profits for their owners, if that is what they choose to do. Further, I've never bought the argument that the networks have some sort of an ogligation to the public good because they've purchased "a valuable and limited resource" known as our airwaves. I mean, following that same logic, can't we argue that any land owner has an obligation to "the public good".

Now all that said, I'm very confused as to why the networks and cable channels are profiting from their coverage of Hurricane Katrina when they chose not to do so in their coverage of the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Is this a Northeast snobbery issue? Is it that this is a natural disaster whereas 9/11 was a human attack on our country?

I will say that as I watched the saddening opening segment of 60 Minutes on CBS tonight that I was appalled that the segment was immediately followed with a voiceover from the same guy who introduces 60 minutes saying "60 Minutes is brought to you tonight by Cialis....(and I do believe he even read some marketing slogan too)." And then they immediately cut into a commercial pitching this penis impotence drug.

Disgusting and tasteless -- even as it is CBS and that drug company's choice to be so. I do think there is a difference between continuing on with our obligations and creating economic prosperity in the face of and off of the ramifications of Katrina. Perhaps I'm rationalizing my own actions as a fund manager -- but there is a difference between "commercializing Katrina" and "profiting off of Katrina".

I don't know though. Even this discussion makes me feel sad and guilty. My heart goes out to all those affected by Katrina.


Blogger tarasteven said...

I normally agree with your comments, but not in this case. Networks are in business to make money. I am sure hits to the Street.com went up because of the hurricane, but you guys continued to runs ads. I also disagree with you about the meatpacking district. I have yet to find another place where a 37 year old single male can go to meet older woman. I love it there. Where elso do you go ?

9/05/2005 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Cody Willard said...

I'm asking why they're doing it. Like I said, I agree they have the right. As much as anything, I don't understand their different approach to this catastrophe vs. 9/11.

9/05/2005 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger tarasteven said...

After 9/11, there was still the threat of another attack. The country was on edge. We were at war. Katrina was a massive diaster, but its not like the storms are lining up to attack.
That is the difference.

9/05/2005 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger BelowTheCrowd said...

When the the TV and radio stations ever pay for their bandwidth? In the old days they were granted licenses to use the bandwidth they have, but I don't think that the current system of bandwidth auctions existed back then, thus the ownership of those public airwaves has always been murky.

As we move to digital TV signals, this distinction goes away -- the broadcasters paid up for the digital spectrum they're getting -- and IMO, so should any regulation of what's broadcast. Sadly, that's unlikely.

9/05/2005 07:50:00 PM  
Blogger jason said...

well cody how do you think these networks survive, they need the commericials to pay for the coverage.

9/06/2005 09:46:00 PM  
Anonymous MapMaster said...

Without agreeing or disagreeing with your main point(I'm not informed enough to do so), any land owner DOES have an obligation to the "public good." That is why the Supreme Court ruled that zoning is legal. It is why I cannot pollute the stream behind my house with impunity. No point in reiterating my previous post, but I do wonder where/if property rights end for you. Let me be clear that I agree with the concept that private property is important to make capitalism work, but there have to be limits.

9/08/2005 05:08:00 PM  

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