by Chris Gacek
March 11, 2009
The New York Times jumped into the fray on Monday to help rescue President Obama’s economic policy-making reputation. This was done in the guise of an analysis piece on the cable business channel, CNBC, that also served as a shot across the bow. The story by Brian Stelter and Tim Arango entitled, “CNBC Thrives as Hosts Deliver News with Attitude,” lets the cat out of the bag when it intones: “CNBC is now a place for politics…. making the line between reporter and commentator almost indistinguishable at times.”
What follows is a grab-bag of faux concern for CNBC’s brand and its reputation for journalistic integrity. Some anonymous back-biting by three CNBC employees is added for good measure. Blah, blah, blah. But the rub comes down to this: “In recent weeks some have perceived the network to be leading the campaign against President Obama’s economic agenda.” BINGO.
Well, the folks in the mainstream media (MSM) are clearly irritated because CNBC is now the most important news organization driving the political-economic debate. The MSM is beginning to realize that it cannot control a news network populated by the brightest reporters on TV and accomplished guests who focus on the hard logic of the markets, interest rates, stock prices, currencies, etc.
After Rick Santelli, a CNBC reporter from Chicago’s mercantile exchange, blasted the Obama Administration’s mortgage rescue plan he was attacked by NBC’s Matt Lauer on the Today Show. Similarly, Jim Cramer was dragged to the Today Show for a hazing by Lauer who had to be assisted by CNBC’s Erin Burnett. Even she couldn’t make it a fair fight. Cramer just brushed them off.
Unfortunately for the MSM the news broadcasts on CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, CNN, and MSNBC are populated with reporters who know relatively little about economics and finance compared to their counter-parts at CNBC, Bloomberg, and Fox Business Channel. So, when someone like Lauer tries to slime Santelli or Cramer he is totally mismatched.
This means that serious interviews on the economy now have to be conducted on CNBC. Yesterday’s interview of Warren Buffet by CNBC’s Becky Quick is a case in point. Aside from the two-hour length, that interview would not have been possible on the MSM networks. There are no broadcast TV analogs to Ms. Quick, Joe Kernen, and Carl Quintanilla who are all very, very bright and industry savvy.
This is not to say that CNBC is perfect. It has its flaws. Big Deal. However, between the network’s excellent morning (“Squawk Box”) and evening shows (“The Kudlow Report” hosted by Larry Kudlow) one becomes engaged in an ongoing conversation about our nation’s political-economic-financial situation. The point isn’t that CNBC hosts and guests don’t make mistakes or erroneous predictions. Who hasn’t in this market?
The point is that CNBC presents its viewers with a window into an ongoing high-level conversation between many of the best minds on “Wall Street” as they try to diagnose and solve the enormous problems we face. It has been fascinating to watch many themes developed and analyzed over an extended period of time on CNBC.
This is all to say, that the MSM is incapable of presenting the public with this type of sophisticated, repetitive “longitudinal” analysis that makes it possible to think through the various problems the markets face. And, with all due respect to the snooty journalism professors who love the Times, this is great journalism.
Finally, regarding the charges of being political, as Larry Kudlow said Tuesday night to Charlie Gasparino (another CNBC reporter under attack) - (paraphrasing) “I learned a long time ago that if the liberal pundits are coming after you, you must be doing something right.” Amen, Brother Larry. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.