“I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely happier for it. The man who reads nothing at all is better informed than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
Long time readers of Safal Niveshak and attendees to my investing workshops know my dislike for reading newspapers. The dislike is so deep that I’ve not had a newspaper subscription at my home for the past six years now, and neither do I consume news via electronic media (till something really important comes to me). This also holds true of business television which I watch very occasionally and only when I want to get a hearty laugh and there’s nothing else that’s as funny on television at that time.
Now, one big reason I do not read newspapers is because I have a big problem with the fact that they decide for us what we should pay attention to and what we should ignore. It isn’t just the text of a news story that can mislead us; it’s also the choice of which stories get covered at all, and where they’re placed in the paper.
I know a lot of people who really believe that if a story isn’t covered in the first three pages of a paper, it isn’t worth knowing about it. To see how silly an approach this is, just pick up any newspaper (business or general) from, say, five or ten years ago and ask yourself whether the events that ultimately proved to be important in the long run were consistently receiving prominent coverage at that time.
Well, I am not blaming the newspapers here. That’s their job to inform us about the day-to-day events, to entertain us, to reflect the public moods and sentiments of the moment, to print stories that will interest us today, and that we will want to read.
But that’s exactly what creates problems for readers of news, who are often fooled by recency and availability biases that newspapers help create.
Nassim Taleb wrote in The Black Swan –
Public information can be useless, particularly to a businessman, since prices can already “include” all such information, and news shared with millions gives you no real advantage. Odds are that one or more of the hundreds of millions of other readers of such information will already have bought the security, thus pushing up the price. I then completely gave up reading newspapers and watching television, which freed up a considerable amount of time (say one hour or more per day, enough time to read more than a hundred additional books per year, which, after a couple of decades, starts mounting).
Then, Taleb wrote in Fooled by Randomness that minimal exposure to the media should be a guiding principle for someone involved in decision making under uncertainty — including all participants in financial markets.
His key argument is that what is reported in the media is noise rather than information, but most people do not realize that the media is paid to get your attention –
The problem with information is not that it is diverting and generally useless, but that it is toxic…If there is anything better than noise in the mass of “urgent” news pounding us, it would be like a needle in a haystack. People do not realize that the media is paid to get your attention. For a journalist, silence rarely surpassed any word.
It takes a huge investment in introspection to learn that the thirty or more hours spent “studying” the news last month neither had any predictive ability during your activities of that month nor did it impact your current knowledge of the world. This problem is similar to the weaknesses in our ability to correct for past errors: like a health club membership taken out to satisfy a New Year’s resolution, people often think that it will surely be the next match of news that will really make a difference to their understanding of things.
You see, newspapers are like soap operas – you can go without seeing them for a few days and months and come right back in without missing a beat.
Just as fantasy typically substitutes for reality, news typically substitutes for insight – in both cases by diverting attention.
Another problem with news is that you don’t have any clue about the credibility and competence of the person who has created the news. The only thing you can be sure about the news is that every attempt has been made to appeal to your emotions and target your lizard brain.
So, What to Read?
Well, reading books – and a lot of them – is something I have covered innumerable times in the past. Plus read what the best thinkers of the current times write that does not get covered in the newspapers.
But who has the time to find such great stuff, you see?
The solution we have come up with is The Safal Niveshak Stream – a free daily collection of some great stuff we (Anshul and I) read everyday.
What we will simply do here is get to you daily (except Sundays) the great stuff we read on varied topics like money, investing, business, economics, thinking, human behaviour, and of course, life. And we will share this stuff from the blogs we are reading, the magazines, and some (relatively sane) newspapers (yes, we will bear the noise on your behalf and filter only the best stuff to you).
Now, since everyone reading this may not be interested, what you have to do to get The Safal Niveshak Stream in your email is to subscribe to it by visiting this page. Subscription is easy, and it’s free.
Click here to find a few sample streams we have already published over the past few days…and this is only going to evolve and become better.
Charlie Munger says –
I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.
We have taken this advice to heart, and expect The Safal Niveshak Stream to help you become a little wiser every day.
More wisdom (and less noise) to you!
By the way, let us know in the Comments section of this post whether you find this idea good, and any suggestion you may have to improve it as it evolves.
P.S. In case, you wish to help us spread the great stuff that you are reading that we should cover in the Stream, you may email the same to vishal[at]safalniveshak[dot]com or anshul[at]safalniveshak[dot]com.