Whenever there’s some news about how the stock market was really awful or especially busy, you see the picture. The picture is a shot of men on the trading floor displaying the essential emotion of today’s market. On good days you get the picture on the left. On bad days you get the one on the right.
There something really funny about these pictures. I always wanted to interview the photographers on this beat. I like to imagine them sitting around the newsroom, smoking cigarettes and playing gin rummy until they get the call: The market is melting down, boys! Hop down to 11 Wall and score me some pictures, pronto! But the truth is the pictures always look the same (aside from slow variations in hair style and machines visible in the background): the busy trader or the glum trader, take your pick. I secretly suspected the editors just went to the filing cabinet and pulled out the shots they needed.
Now I read in Paul Kedrosky’s blog that the trading floor is emptying out. However good it looks on TV, computerized trading means you don’t need to have guys yelling orders at each other. Pretty soon there will be no one left to photograph. But the funny thing is that the New York Stock Exchange really wants somebody to stay on the floor, because it’s good marketing. People, consumers of news, need to put a face on the market. They need to see those desperate, disheveled traders elbowing each other out of the way in order to believe something important happened. Kedrosky helpfully suggests that they hire actors to do the job.
I think the answer is simpler. What we need are stock market emoticons. Chat programs already replace the humble smiley :-) with the jazzier . We just need a Dow Industrial feed that displays Mr. Busy or Mr. Glum depending on the motion since the opening bell.
This is only a leading indicator, of course. It’s safe to say that we’ll all be portrayed by actors some day. You’ll still want to see a tall pilot-like character in the cockpit of your computer-operated plane. So also with surgeons, architects, real estate agents, and so on. Walt Disney saw it all coming years ago. At Disney World, there are no employees, only cast members.