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Media Again Fail to Meet Expectations

It is the Business Press Maven's ever-shattered dream to wake up one morning and find no loathsome effort by the business media to write about. I dream of a world in which investors are forever informed by the business media, instead of frequently misled.

Well, as they say, if you don't have dreams, you got nightmares.

Today's horror: I am profoundly troubled trying to even figure out where to start, and I'm going to have to hop from topic to topic more than unusual. Hold on to your wig.

When reading press releases, I always play a little game with myself. When I run across the worst piece of public-relations spin -- the most self-justifying piece of jargon-heavy nonsense -- I sit back and wait to see the exact same words seen in the press release leach into articles on the subject. Bad stenographers, bad!

Anyhow, E*Trade (ETFC), in a whole lot of mortgage trouble, announced that it was cutting future earning numbers and, more centrally to its future, exiting or restructuring all its businesses (such as mortgages) that do not have to do directly with its retail investor customer.

This is, of course, potentially dangerous news.

The retail consumer business in investing is highly cyclical and dependent upon public comfort with the financial markets. In other words, financial results are in the hold of economic circumstances and public whim. Risky businesses, both. It's the reason that well before and after The Business Press Maven was a retail stockbroker, firms have done everything in their power to broaden their appeal. With the mortgage trouble, though, E*Trade's hand is forced. It is, long term, narrowing its appeal.

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