Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: CNBC Reporters & Anchors

Over the past few weeks, it's dawned on me that there are three types of business reporters or anchors. Being a prominent business/financial cable network, CNBC offers examples of all three.

The Good: Michelle Caruso Cabrera
Ms. Caruso Cabrera is one of the only, if not the only, CNBC on-air anchor with an economics or business degree. Her questions are typically well-reasoned and germane. She is well-informed and isn't afraid to ask tough questions of her guests and let them ensnare themselves in hypocritical positions.

The Bad: Tyler Mathisen, Bob Pisani
These two epitomize bad anchoring and reporting.

Consider Tyler Mathisen. I wrote here of his incredible naivete during his special grocery sector program. I think that's the signature characteristic of what I mean by bad anchors and reporters. They are surprised by everything. Their curiosity is, sadly, born of ignorance and cluelessness. In his grocery store special, Mathisen actually asked a store design expert why milk and dairy are always located at a rear corner of the store.

Honestly, if I were a senior executive at CNBC and saw/heard that, I'd immediately fire Mathisen. Can anyone past the age of 25 with a college education really be that stupid?

Pisani spends too much of each weekday looking astonished or surprised by some move in equities. That's when he isn't anthropomorphizing the market and cheering it onward to new heights, rather than simply reporting the facts.

Anchors and reporters who can't add value beyond restating the obvious or bringing some level of knowledge to a topic, so that they can at least ask questions you would, or hadn't considered, are just a waste.

The Ugly: Steve Liesman
I've reserved this category for those anchors and reporters who, far from adding value to interviews or segments with their knowledge, or adding no value by being ignorant or clueless, actually spread misinformation and falsehoods.

There's no doubt the posterchild for this category is CNBC's senior economic idiot, Steve Liesman. You can search my blog by his name to get a list of posts which will give you a fair sampling of his daily antics on the network.

Whether he's attempting to lecture actual, degreed economists- Liesman is a journalist with no economics or business education- or pontificating on economics statistics and/or patterns about which he has no formal training, Liesman typically spreads suspect 'knowledge.'

Fortunately for CNBC viewers, Chicago-based Rick Santelli is often on hand to counter, de-bunk and generally demolish whatever Liesman has just said.

Unfortunately for viewers, however, CNBC has far too many bad and ugly reporters, and too few good ones. Among the last, though, I think you can count, in addition to Santelli and Caruso Cabrera, Trish Regan, Melissa Frances, Joe Kernen and, often, Larry Kudlow.


Gary said...

I'm surprised you included Joe Kernen in the group in the last paragraph. In my opinion the others contribute substantive content to discussions, Joe is just emotional 'color'. Beck and Carl are assigned to handle any meaty interviews, Joe just pouts.

C Neul said...


Thanks for your comment.

I understand your point, and I agree, that's how Kernen is positioned.

Except Carl doesn't actually know much about anything. He's simply one of the minority anchors, in order to avoid the old Haines-Kernen-Faber all white-male image.

Becky has the chops, but if you listen to her questions, she pulls her punches now. Very few focused, hardball questions, and more third-person, hypotheticals.

By comparison, if you watch closely, Joe actually asks more pointed questions these days. And with his MIT and broker backgrounds, he's probably the most knowledgeable of the three when it counts.