Let’s begin with the 2008 financial crisis, which I understand is an event you’ve covered in depth. At the outset, at what point did you believe with certainty that the crisis had begun? In hindsight, do you think the media was sufficiently able to warn the public about the impending crisis, or was this really beyond the media’s ability to predict?
That’s a great question. I started warning my viewers about it in the Fall of 2007––which was a long time before most journalists were there––largely because my wife is an expert on the consumer, that’s what she was, she was an investor. I had seen home prices start to come down, we’d seen the stock market hitting new records, but toward the end of 2007, November or December, we start to see a weakness in consumer spending. And my wife told me, as I often report, the consumer is responsible for ⅔ of the spending decisions in the United States––unlike a planned economy. If the consumer is weakening, it doesn’t matter what the other statistics are telling you, it doesn’t matter what everything else says. If the consumer is seeing something happen––and by the way, a majority of Americans at that point had said that they felt like there was a recession coming––it countered everything that the economy was telling us. But when the consumer runs the economy, if the consumer says they’re feeling bad, something bad’s going to happen. And I started to say that on TV, and I didn’t have any other information, and well into the Spring [of 2008], April or May, you had stock markets start to come down. You’d have George W. Bush, who was the president at the time, and Ben Bernanke, who was the head of the Fed, coming out on a regular basis saying, “The economy is fundamentally sound.” Not only did the media, generally speaking, not warn people, and not have the sophistication to understand this, but we were working against a government that was being misleading to its people. And the problem with that is that if the President and the head of the Fed came out and said [that] we’re in for a big recession, it has the effect of becoming self-actualizing and self-realizing. The danger though is that it’s like when a hurricane’s coming and you don’t tell people to board up their windows. That’s what the government did in 2007 and 2008, it waited too long to tell people. People could have made better plans. They could have started an aggressive savings plan, or done something to prepare for it. We didn’t do that. I think the government failed the people, and generally speaking, the media failed the people. I realized things were wrong when Lehman Brothers collapsed, when Bear Stearns collapsed––at some point, things were just weird, we’d never heard of these things in 50-60 years. You hadn’t heard about major organizations like this––with some exceptions, [such as] during the Savings and Loans Crisis––of major failures of big institutions. By that time, most people had caught on to the fact that things were going wrong.
Moving on into the recovery phase, what are your thoughts on the Obama administration’s response to the crisis? Do you think that it went far enough, or were there aspects of the response you think didn’t take the right approach?
I think the concept of stimulus was correct. I’m not smart enough to know whether the size of the stimulus was correct––as you recall, the actual size was greater than what was first suggested. I will tell you [that] I studied it very, very closely at the time. I studied the programs to which the stimulus money was given. Some of it was wasteful; the concept of shovel-ready projects never really panned out. Grants were given to students at universities––and I have nothing against students at universities––but where one student was given a grant to pursue their research into a particular topic; this [stimulus] should have been highly focused on job-creating enterprises. If you think the average job in America at the time paid $45,000, then every $45,000 should have been geared towards a job…but I actually saw and phoned people who were recipients of federal grant money at the time, and determined that no job was created by this. [Instead, people] were able to do more research or study something more deeply, or whatever the case is. I think that in the rush to get it done, there was more money than they actually had shovel-ready projects [for]––when I say shovel-ready, what I mean is job-creating projects. So the execution was not as well carried out as I think it should’ve been. But fundamentally, [with] America and stimulus versus Europe and austerity, history has shown that, in a time of recession, stimulus is necessary, not austerity.
So the issue was not so much, in terms of execution, that there wasn’t an adequate amount of stimulus, but more what it was actually spent on?
It was not effectively spent. And again, I don’t think the government––then, nor now––has a plan in place to say, per $100 million of stimulus in the case of a financial collapse, here’s where the money should go, because it’s a dynamic, it’s fluid. At certain times, you’ll do certain things that are different. There was some kind of a lack of follow-through between members of Congress and the Administration who planned this thing, and the people who the Treasury and the Vice President’s Office gave money to figure out where it goes. That process was not correct, and I don’t think we’ve corrected it yet. So we do have to spend money in times of recession, the government needs to spend money in times of recession to create demand, but we didn’t spend it as well as we could have.
What about on the monetary side? What are your thoughts on the response there?
I actually thought the monetary side was very impressive. I often refer to Ben Bernanke as the “Most Improved Student,” considering that in May of 2008, he was saying that the economy was fundamentally flawed, when I, [someone] who doesn’t have an economics degree, knew that it wasn’t. He then went into high gear. He gathered the world’s central bankers, and they took a very unified approach––since fallen apart, [since] some people are raising interest rates, some people are lowering interest rates. But when it mattered for everybody to be on the same page, they said that we’ll create monetary stimulus, we’ll reduce interest rates, we’ll ensure a flow of money around the world. I thought the monetary response was very sophisticated, at a time when the U.S. legislative response was somewhat immature. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much more immature U.S. legislative behavior would become, but that was the beginning of the “Oh, I see, we’re in Congress, we’re not here to actually get anything done” [sentiment].
By most definitions, the United States has emerged from the 2008 recession, yet a general sense of economic pessimism still abounds. Why do you think this is the case, and how would you ideally tackle this sentiment?
Well it’s two issues. One is wage stagnation among the masses, and the second, not unrelated, matter is [that] the economy has grown, and most people in the middle haven’t seen any growth because of the increase in wage disparity, income disparity, and wealth disparity. In fact, until this recession, that had largely proved to be the case all the time. The rising tide lifts most boats, somewhat unequally, but this time, it really raised the boats for anyone who had capital or had the ability to borrow money. If you had neither of those two things, this [rising tide] has done nothing for you, you’ve actually been set back. The World Economic Forum really warns that while income and wage disparity is a growing phenomenon worldwide, it’s growing more in America than it is in most developed countries. This is a major, major issue, and frankly, explains much of the anger and frustration that we’re seeing on this campaign trail. In particular, it explains a lot of the success of Bernie Sanders, because he’s talking about a $15 [per hour] minimum wage, and people are saying, “I’m earning $7.25 [per hour]!” Minimum wage in this country cannot sustain a couple, let alone a family of four. When you think that so many of our service jobs are done by people who work for the minimum wage, one has to wonder, should they have to work two jobs to just earn a living? So there is a principled discussion to be had, and maybe it will happen during this election.
We’ll get to the presidential elections, but I want to first ask about if, in your process of covering the financial crisis, you would say there was a most profound or formative experience from that coverage.
In your process of covering the financial crisis, was there a most profound or formative experience from that coverage?
It was really at the height of it, and when I say the height of it, probably the second half of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. At the beginning of that, there was a tempo and a tenor to the news coverage of this that was very panicky. I remember the banner…on the bottom of the screen on the TV on CNN one day saying “Bloodbath on Wall Street.” I remember having a conversation, that day, with a senior executive at CNN and we had a discussion in which we agreed that the louder it gets “out there,” the quieter I have to get, because people look to me as a financial expert to make decisions. Those decisions could be very impactful; cleaning out their 401k accounts, selling all of their stocks, whatever they were going to do, and I needed to have them listen quietly and I needed to speak quietly. So I actually changed my tone of voice, I ensured that on my show, nothing went out that said “Bloodbath on Wall Street.” Things were quieter, we were going to have quiet discussions about what happened. Because what happened happened. You don’t have to jump off a bridge because of it. And I discovered that a quieter, less emphatic but more intellectual approach to dealing with these things was better than an emotional response, which is what I was seeing largely on TV. That was the lesson I learned.
Moving on to the 2016 Presidential Elections, on both the right and the left, the general sentiment seems to be anti-Establishment. While you mentioned wage stagnation and economic inequality, do you think these are the sole factors behind these sentiments, or are there other factors as well?
No, I think there are other factors. I think one of the factors is frustration with the inability of the so-called “Establishment” to get things done. One thing, for instance, you’ll notice is that a lot of young people are supporting Bernie Sanders. Last election, a lot of them were supporting Ron Paul. Outside of the establishment characters––and one can argue whether Bernie Sanders is or isn’t––but outside the establishment characters, kids don’t understand why, in their world, decisions or actions are taken in real time, and Congress can’t pass a budget in six years. There’s a sense of “how come these people can’t do what I’m expected to do on a daily basis, they can’t do in years and years on the public payroll?” There’s a general dissatisfaction with the lack of ability to govern in this country, the trust levels for Congress are very, very low. So when you combine wage inequality with this sense that we don’t have an effective government––and when I say government, I don’t mean just at the federal level, people are just frustrated by government. This is also not a uniquely American phenomenon. The “throw the bums out” thing is going on all the world––by the way, the Arab Spring was in part about that. So it’s not uniquely American. It is a young generation that is not feeling like society has lived up to its compact, who are saying, “there’s just got to be a better way to do this.” I refer to it as the “Isn’t There an App for That?” protest; people are saying, can’t we just find smart ways to determine the budget, figure out this, figure out that, figuring out Social Security, figuring out social issues. I also think there’s a frustration with social issues. We’re moving at a pace where some people, some progressives, are frustrated that we can’t sort some of these things out, and a lot of conservatives in this country are not recognizing the country they live in. They’re not recognizing the colors, shapes, and sexual orientations of the people who are coming into power, and it is very, very threatening. So you’ve got polarized forces, both one’s thinking we’re not moving fast enough, the other one thinking we’re moving too fast.
On the Democratic side, we see the Sanders campaign strongly motivated by a sense of discontent. To what extent do you think that discontent is directed towards economic policies pursued by the Obama administration, or to what extent is it directed towards other factors?
Bernie Sanders goes out of his way not to criticize the Obama administration. He always says things along the lines of, “I think what Barack Obama has done is a start in the right direction.” Bernie Sanders does not withhold his criticism of Republicans, but his general view is that all of them have been the same, everybody has led to this, that the Establishment, if you will, is Democrats and Republicans, who cater to moneyed interests. He likes to call that “Wall Street,” and he’s labeled Hillary Clinton as part of that. And that is definitely an overhang from the Financial Crisis. There are a lot of Americans who really have a very simple question: “Why bail them out and not me?” And that may or may not be true, the stimulus was a bailout, but it was a taxpayer-paid-for bailout, and we made money on the stimulus and we made money from the auto bailout, but fundamentally saw institutions that made hazardous decisions, not punished for those decisions, but rewarded. And that’s not how most Americans think it went for them. So he is capitalizing on a very, very tangible emotion that’s out there amongst regular Americans, [who are thinking], “Why didn’t I get a piece of that action?”
Moving on to the Republicans, as a Muslim and someone who’s spoken passionately against the opposition to the Park51 mosque in 2011, we’ve seen the dramatic rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric on the right; why has it been such a potent force, and how do we stop this?
You know, this is a complicated question. For whatever reason, there has not been a successful effort to separate Islam as a faith and Muslims as a people from terrorism. It has just become muddled and mushed up, and there are a lot of people we could blame for this. Some people blame moderate Muslims, or mainstream Muslims, for not doing enough; others blame the media. Regardless of what the cause is, it has become a very potent form of scapegoating. We have a history of scapegoating in this country and around the world; the story is no different in its model from the scapegoating of Jews, Irish, Blacks, and everybody else who was generally coming to “take your job.” In this case, it’s more potent, because they are coming here, and “they are going to live among you and they’re going to launch their terrorist attacks.” Most mainstream or moderate Muslims––or, even not moderate Muslims, even Orthodox or Conservative Muslims––don’t get up in the morning thinking that narrative is about them. So they don’t do anything about it because if there were Muslims who would plant themselves among ourselves and create a terrorist attack, I’m going to be a victim of it like everyone else. So I don’t think it’s my problem to solve, necessarily. But when you have so successfully created this “otherness”––which al-Qaeda and the Taliban and Boko Haram and al-Shabaab and ISIS have done a very good job of helping us with––it works. When there are economic frustrations and fears of terrorism, if you can encapsulate so much of it in the disdain for an “other,” it works. It works particularly well––I’ve got to tell you, if Donald Trump weren’t into this nonsense, it would have less of an effect, he’s created a real momentum around it. But it’s there, and it’s always there, whether it’s Muslims this time, and someone else in 20 years, it’s always there––
It’s something on which to project fears.
Correct, and to by extension say, “I’ll protect you from it.” But in order to have you elect me to protect you from a fear, I’ve got to convince you that that fear is real. I’m a little shocked and surprised at the degree to which this has taken hold, but it has. I worry about it a little bit, but I fundamentally think that America has gone through these cycles before, it’ll figure itself out.
Do you think you could make any predictions at this point?
Ha! Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t make a prediction about anything that was going to happen tomorrow! I’ve been absolutely wrong about everything I’ve predicted, so I got out of the prediction business. No, I cover this campaign daily, I’m always on the campaign trail, and all I know is how wrong we are. All I guess now, all I try and predict is how off the polls will be in the next phase. I will say this: I think at some point this Donald Trump thing is going to become interesting, because the Republican Party is struggling with the fact that if Donald Trump becomes the presidential nominee, how does it affect them down the ticket, in other words, in Congress and in the Senate? On the other hand, the Democrats have a similar problem. Hillary Clinton is their candidate, and Bernie Sanders is really messing this up. So they’re worried that they end up with Hillary Clinton going into this election with both knees shot out because she’s had such a hard campaign. On the other side of both campaigns is the idea that the people are speaking, and as much as some people in the center and some people in the Establishment are offended, troubled, and puzzled by it, last time we checked, we’re still a democracy, so this is one remarkably exciting and interesting conversation. I do worry a little bit about some of the things that some of the Republican candidates have said about fighting terrorism, fighting the Middle East, about the economy; it seems less than informed, even though I know these candidates are smarter than some of the things they’re saying. The Democrats are running a much more issues-oriented campaign at the moment than the Republicans are, and I think as the Republican field narrows down to 2 or 3 people, it becomes easier to run issues-oriented campaigns. Right now, it’s so personality-oriented, and––
Showmanship over substance.
––Absolutely. The Republican debates are very difficult to sink your teeth into, because it’s all entertainment. I’m longing for a more substantive campaign. I think we’ll get there.
Given the economic challenges we face at the moment, what policies would you like to see our next president implement? Thus far, who do you believe has put forth the most solvent plans?
You say economics, and the other part, global affairs and things like that. Economics is marginally less important this time around than it was in 2008. In 2008, it was a crisis, so you had to make your decision based on who you think could handle that crisis. We’re not in a crisis mode, we’re in a long-term stagnation mode. So it’s an issue, but the candidates are not all that differentiated in what they’re going to do. There’s certainly something very appealing about Bernie Sanders’ $15-an-hour base wage, and I think even in the last general election, there are a number of states that voted for Republicans but also voted for an increase in minimum wage. So I think this issue of wage stagnation, wage inequality, and minimum wage is an important one that the next presidential candidate really has to handle.
On the issue of global affairs and national security and terrorism, I think that we have to talk about engagement, not talk about punching people in the face and ripping up accords and things like that. So I think that many of the Republican candidates are off-base on that. Some of them are not; they tend to be the governors. The governors tend to understand governing and bipartisanship, so they don’t say those extreme things, they also don’t get the votes because they don’t say those extreme things. But when it comes to the world, I’m much more interested in what a Jeb Bush has to say or what a John Kasich has to say about how they’re going to deal with the world, although at the moment, the momentum seems to be with Marco Rubio.
On the Democratic side, there is possibly no better candidate for dealing with this fragile world than Hillary Clinton. She really, really understands it. So in many ways, I think she has the most nuanced and sophisticated view of global affairs. So that’s where I think they stand.
Let’s also discuss Al Jazeera America. In 2013, you moved to the network after over a decade at CNN. What motivated your decision to join this new network? What do you think the network’s role has been in the American media landscape?
I joined Al Jazeera because in my work for CNN, people used to tell me, “Why can’t you be more like Al Jazeera?” So I spent time learning about Al Jazeera, and one thing Al Jazeera did is created greater context, provided fuller analysis, went deeper into stories, believed more in on the ground reporting than just booking analysts and commentators to provide a political spin to issues, wasn’t into the polarization that cable media has contributed to the news environment. So I joined for all of those reasons, and plus, I was the first guy hired, so it was fun to be in a “startup,” sort of, and be able to be formative. And I thought that if the experiment worked, it would raise the game of cable news in America, by covering stories that were more important in a fulsome manner. I don’t think we succeeded in doing that. I think we succeeded in doing that on Al Jazeera, but I don’t think it succeeded in having the influence across the board. We won lots of awards, we were recognized by our peers, the awards that Al Jazeera won were disproportionate to the number of people who watched us. We hired some of the best people in the industry, we created a fantastic news operation. But in the end, the forces of cable TV being popularized and catering to popular culture more than news are greater than the counter forces that Al Jazeera was able to apply.
With Al Jazeera America shutting down in April, how can the niche that the network created be filled?
It tends to be the domain of newspapers and public broadcasters; what we were trying to do was create a production value that was higher than that. [We were trying to emulate] public radio and public television and newspaper work done in the high-production-value way that Americans have become accustomed to on cable TV. In the end, that cost structure doesn’t work. So it’ll continue to exist on public TV and radio, and my donations to those organizations will increase. I will work hard to support the work of the great newspapers who are doing investigative journalism and creating context and analysis, and everywhere I go, I will try to convince people that this is a public trust. It is really, really important that quality, unbiased journalism continues to exist and that context and analysis and depth and investigation and bearing witness and holding truth to power are important values, not just stuff you want to click on.
What motivated your interest in journalism, particularly in business and financial journalism?
My father was a legislator in Canada, and he’d come from South Africa, where he wasn’t even allowed to vote. My parents were full participants in the political system in Canada, so as a result, watching the news was a family ritual on a nightly basis. And the news, back in the day, was a very different product. It was serious, it was not about you and what you could use, it was important things in the world that you should know as a global citizen. I grew up thinking that people who present the news and gather the news have an important role to play in allowing citizens to make more informed decisions, and better informed decisions. That’s why I wanted to be a journalist.
Now, I come from a family of immigrants, my ancestry is Indian. My parents were a little bit shocked that I wanted to become a journalist. As immigrants, they would have preferred a more traditional path that sounds like you could earn money and be employed, doctor/lawyer sort of thing. They were a little perplexed by it, but my family held journalism in very high esteem. I worry about it a little bit now, but back then, I wasn’t worried about what journalism was. I was worried that you couldn’t make money doing it. But that wasn’t a concern. The beauty about being young is that you don’t actually have to worry about those things. And that’s why I got into journalism. I always believed in journalism as a serious pursuit, not as a celebrity-driven, celebrity-fed endeavour.
The world of business, economic, and financial news is often very complex. How do you make that accessible to a broad audience?
Well, it helps that I don’t come from that world. The way in which I present economics and finance is from the perspective of someone who needs to learn it himself. So I don’t come with the jargon, I don’t come from that world, it’s not second-nature to me. I’ve actually had to learn something in order to present it to others. One day, I’d like to go back to school and get an MBA or something, and actually learn about the things I’ve been telling people about for 20 years, but I didn’t know it, so I had to learn it, and I also realized that it was important––but it can be dry––so I really turned to exposition. My method of delivery is one in which I create accessibility, I don’t like the term “dumbing it down,” I don’t believe it’s what I do, but I create an ability for people who are not financial professionals to understand the economics of a discussion, or I look at global affairs through an economic lens. Ultimately, what people don’t think about actively is that, everything we look at in a given day, generally speaking, is through an economic lens. As a student, you generally don’t look at it that way, because you’ve decided your fees are paid, and a lot of your structure is not involving money on a daily basis, but generally, once you’re not a student, everything you do is through an economic lens. You endlessly want to consume, and you endlessly have bills, and you have a paycheck, and you’ve got to do that dance every single day, and sometimes it causes tension, and sometimes it causes happiness. So all I do is I look at the world. So when I see things that are going on in the world, I look at the economic of it. And when we look back in history, trade and commerce and economic exchange has been a constant in the world, has been a source of prosperity in the world, it’s been a source of remarkable peace in the world. When people trade with each other, they don’t wish to go to war with each other. So I see economics as a remarkable good for the world. I also see where it’s done a lot of bad, and so my mission is to enhance those parts of economics that are beneficial to society, and to call out and hold to account practices that have been detrimental to society, and let my viewers know about both.
I know you’ve worked a great deal in the field of investigative journalism; what are some of the unique challenges of that particular field?
Cost. The problem with investigative journalism, something that we need much more of, it that it’s expensive. You don’t know what the outcome is. It’s one of those weird businesses. [With] most businesses, you know what your cost of production is, and you should know what you get for it in the end, and the issue is whether somebody buys it or not. With investigative journalism, you don’t know what comes out of the other end. In the old days of journalism, when cost was less of an issue, you send someone out, and they dug and dug and dug, maybe they came up with something, maybe they didn’t, in the same way that Bell Labs and the big tech companies would send a researcher out and say, “don’t worry about commercializing, just find us an invention, or invent something, patent something.” We don’t live in that world anymore. So the danger is, the money’s not there for investigative journalism, and all of the things that investigative journalism used to uncover are still going on, but now the fear for being caught for doing those things is not nearly as great. Because you know that your local TV station or local paper does not invest in this sort of thing, so unless someone actually tells on you, you’re not actually going to be found out. That’s the danger. People skim off the top, people are corrupt, even in our society––we talk about corruption in China, we talk about corruption in India, but there’s a lot of corruption in America too––and it is investigative journalism that turns this up. There is a certain element of it that exists, and quite robust, in politics. We’re always trying to take down people running for political office. I actually worry about that, because I think we’ve spent so much energy on that that we’re turning certain people away who would be good for politics from being involved (because they don’t want everything dug into), and at the same time, there’s a much lower level of corruption going on that everybody knows––you guys are so busy following this presidential campaign, I can be skimming off of this contract for the next 10 years and no-one will know. I worry that we’re getting into this era of wanting everything for free in journalism, and investigative stuff is expensive.
Digital and social media have shifted paradigms in this realm. Where do you see journalism headed in the next few decades?
There’s a great article that came out in the New York Times [Wednesday, February 17] that talks about how it seems weird that we pay somebody millions of dollars to sit in a chair for 22 minutes on the nightly news and deliver other people’s news, news that other people have gathered––not their own news, not their own opinions, not their own lens, other people’s news. That model doesn’t work in digital distribution. Part of it is that distribution has shifted to digital, but the cost structure’s very different. Somebody isn’t paying for a newspaper subscription, and they’re not paying cable rights. So who pays for this stuff? The way you pay for things on the Internet––things cost less; the cost of distributing is less, the revenue is less. So the net result is that the pay scales in journalism are collapsing, and the amount of money available to do that work is collapsing along with it. In other words, there are some media organizations that do pretty good work but can’t actually pay people enough to make a living. So people will choose not to do that. They’ll choose to do something that does pay them a living. So the quality of journalists will start to suffer, the quality of journalism will start to suffer, and because the way you get paid on the Internet is generally by how many people click on your link, we’ll have more and more so-called “clickbait,” stories that are not as necessary or important, but the kind of thing you’d click on. But the reality is that we can’t hold on to this dream that journalism is what it was. So it’s really important for people in the field to think about creative ways of financing it, and have real discussions about how journalism is just not going to be as profitable as it was in the past, so how do you convince people to invest in it? Because if I have $1,000 to invest, or $100,000, or $1 million, and I invest it in a journalism enterprise, the return on investment is just going to be less than if I invested it somewhere else. We need to convince people that that’s got to be done.
Finally, I’m interested in what advice you have for Yale students, particularly Yale students who are passionate, aspiring journalists, and also Yale students who are anxious about the economic and financial times we live in?
I’m going to be out of the job for the first time in about 25 years. And it occurs to me that the way I’m thinking about the world is the way in which you guys think about the world. You don’t have certainty, you don’t look at a job as a place that you live in forever, and I find it very liberating. Now, I’m in a very different situation, I’ve been earning money for a long time, so I’m not worried about where the next meal’s coming from. But in fact, looking at the world as a series of adventures into which you can insert yourself is really much more liberating than it was 25 years ago, when I first started working, where you had to make a very early commitment, and you weren’t smart enough and worldly enough to know what that was going to be, to a profession and an industry and possibly a company. And I worked for CNN for 13 years! It’s weird in this day and age. You don’t have to do that. Your opportunities are greater than you think. The anxieties are real, but for a few years, graduating college students have always faced anxiety. I would say embrace it. I would say that the opportunity cost of getting as much education as you can and staying in school as long as you can are lower than they have been in the past, so do that. Because you’re not going into a world in which the pay scales are like they were in the late ‘90s––with the exception of certain professions; if you’re a software engineer [for example], but you know what, you’ll always get a job. I think people should be less anxious and enjoy the moment. I am never happier than when I’m on a college campus. In my spare moments, I’ve been walking around this campus thinking what I would do to be back on a campus. Enjoy these moments for what they are, they will all work out, the anxiety doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s energy and calories burned on something that doesn’t get you anywhere.
As for journalists, forget about traditional journalism. Just don’t bother. Skip right to the digital world, go out there armed with the various skills––in my world, I was going to be a reporter, that’s all I needed to know how to do; today you’ve got to be a producer, you’ve got to be a booker, you’ve got to be an editor, you’ve got to be a writer, you’ve got to be a photographer, you’ve got to be all of those things, and you’re going to earn a lot less money than I did when I started. Embrace it, because if you want to be a journalist, that’s the model. To come out now thinking that you want to be a TV anchor, it’s a model that’s dying. Don’t be at the dying end of a profession; be at the beginning end of another profession.