Tuesday, September 30, 2008

CNBC: A Day After The Hysteria

Bartiromo, Ratigan, Come Off As Money Vigilantes

As I write, CNBC is on in the background, just as it was yesterday. The difference is the Dow Jones is up nearly 400 points instead of being down over 700.
That means the channel's reporters are exuding a sense of calm instead of the extreme panic that set in when it was apparent the bank bailout was a goner in the House.
The drama created by that vote brought out the very best and worst in CNBC.
The best: the network was the undisputed authority on TV. You knew it had the unique ability to cover the reaction and fallout from every angle, be it the White House, Capitol Hill, all manners of market and exchanges, while having ready access to pundits who might have some idea of what they're talking about. I say might, given that even the so-called experts were thrown for a big-time loop by the GOP.
The not-the-best: In the rush to get news on the air, single-sourced items got on the air that did not pan out. At times, Charlie Gasparino and Steve Liesman were trying to outscoop each other. Gasparino proclaimed they were going to try and vote again, only to have Liesman shoot him down about 10 minutes later when a "source" told him there was no way that was going to happen.
Yes, it's important to get the news out fast, but given that traders dumping billions upon billions of equities would invariably be tuned in, it was vitally more important to get it right. And unless your source was Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner, then it was probably a good idea to double-check before you report.
The worst: The Dow really began to plunge in the last hour, when Maria Bartiromo and Dylan Ratigan host "Closing Bell." Both were noticeably angry, in itself a curious stance they are supposed to be reporters not commentators. But there was Bartiromo effectively castigating those of us on "Main Street," for having the temerity to oppose a $700 billion bailout, which may have led to the House having a change of heart.
Bartiromo spit out how what happens on Wall Street affects Main Street, e.g. the trickle-down effect if credit markets are frozen. The thing is, she was right. But that doesn't mean what was on the table was the only solution, as loudly noted by Rick Santelli, the combustible reporter stationed at the Chicago Board of Trade.
Santelli betrayed his feelings on the bailout as he bellowed to Bartiromo about how many Americans feel they've been "led down a primrose path" and aren't so eager to accept a solution just because Hank Paulson told them to.
Bartiromo was having none of that, still in a huff over the no vote. CNBC had plenty of people on the air Monday giving their opinions. She didn't need to be one of them.
Today, though, she was all smiles. Nothing like a rally to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. Financial Armageddon can wait for another day.

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