© Ugur Akinci
Did you watch the way Daily Show’s Jon Stewart grilled Mad Money’s Jim Cramer yesterday? It was a trashing well deserved by Jim Cramer in particular, and CNBC in general. As an American citizen who has lost 40% of all his life savings within the last 9 months, I thought it was time someone held CNBC’s foot to the fire. Well done (although that does not bring my 40% back of course).
As I was watching the whole spirited exchange I could not help but thinking what lousy technical writers the CNBC reporters would’ve made… Because by siding with the big Wall Street finance giants, mouthing their press releases as though it was “news,” and not thinking from the end-user point of view (which is you and me), they abdicated their responsibility to create great “procedural guides” for us investors.
Instead they created what I call “button guides” – static, lifeless, one-shot representations of things “as they seem to be at the moment”… That is really equivalent to just documenting “which button does what” and leave it at that.
But what about the warts of the system? What about the troubleshooting guide? What about telling us the end-users the best efficient way to use the system and all the things that we should be aware of well in advance? What can go wrong with this product? And where is it covered in your document, on what page (or broadcast segment)? And what are the recommended ways to cope with such risks?
Those are things that would be covered in a “procedural guide,” that prince of documents that is much harder to write than a “button guide.” Why? Because it requires a lot of research, hands-on empirical data and an intimate knowledge of the realm. CNBC crew and Jim Cramer no doubt had ample of that. That’s not the problem.
A “procedural guide” also requires an ETHICAL STAND that puts the safety and welfare of the end-user before corporate profits. Knock on wood, throughout my career as a professional technical writer I never had to write any falsehoods and spin the corporate view just to comb over the bald spots in the story. I’m very lucky in that regard that the corporations I worked for were all ethical organizations that never put me in a situation like that.
But CNBC was in that situation and its reporters (all “technical writers” in one sense or the other since they generate mini guides everyday telling the viewers HOW TO invest their money) failed to make the jump from static “button guides” to dynamic “procedural guides.” Perhaps they all could benefit form a crash-course on how to write a technical how-to manual that safeguards the interests of the end-users.
Today I still feel bad as a citizen who has lost a lot of money to the kind of shenanigans unleashed on an unsuspecting public by the “finance gurus and pundits” of the Wall Street.
But I also feel good about the life I’ve led as a writer. I never deceived anyone (at least not knowingly) and I always tried to create information products to help others live better and more fulfilling lives. It was always a joy and my pride. In that is my contentment and sense of goodness. I wonder if the highly-paid “media professionals” represented by Jim Cramer and the CNBC crew could say the same about themselves. I doubt it.
Jon Stewart – thanks again!You’re the man and I salute you and your values. I wish there were more honest comedians like you in charge of the levers in this country.