Thursday, August 11, 2011

So Jim Cramer Wants To Be a Real Business Journalist

If you were watching CNBC this morning just after 9AM, you saw an amazing interchange between Melissa Lee, David Faber, both veteran television anchors, and wannabe-cable anchor Jim Cramer.

I have tremendous respect for Lee, as well as her free-market leanings. I'm okay with Faber- his occasionally-revealed political sentiments are too liberal for me, but as a reporter and anchor, he's good.

So to the story......

Lee reported the news that Reuters had reported that an unidentified Asian bank had withdrawn its credit lines to/with SocGen, the large, key French bank. She stressed that the story was public on Reuters, and apparently roiling European markets, but the actual credit line act was both unverified and anonymous.

At that point, Cramer jumped in and, to paraphrase, said, with this worried, gravitas look into the camera,

'David, as a financial journalist, as you and I were in 2008, commenting on the financial crisis, we want to be careful that our reporting doesn't further provoke a crisis, don't we? We don't want to be the acetylene torch to a situation....'

First, one observes that Cramer insinuated himself into the front rank of financial journalists. Hardly something I think the broader market would embrace. I don't think Faber was particularly happy about that.

Further, Faber was clearly spooked when the camera cut to him, and bluntly retorted, again, to paraphrase,

'I'm not going to go into a discussion on reporting and journalistic ethics right now....'

He then observed that reporters always have to judge the wisdom of reporting facts which might cause further reactions.

At this point, the camera cut to an interesting shot- side-by-side separate videos of Lee and Cramer, although they were sitting adjacent to each other. It was sort of odd to see one's arm slip into the other's screen.

But it's clear the producers must have directed this shot and then quickly coached Lee to take control, because she looked right into the camera, not at Cramer, and said, again, to paraphrase,

'Our policy is to report news stories which are public and affecting markets....and the Reuters story about SocGen meets those it's clearly something to report....'

Lee's verbiage sounded like it was taken nearly verbatim from either come CNBC policy memo, or had been crafted on the spot and fed into Lee's ear.

Lee's face, while delivering this, was not happy. Her tone was just a hair shy of publicly lecturing Cramer to keep his mouth shut about what they were covering on the air.

It was as if Cramer had broken the 'fourth wall' of the video medium, acknowledging the effects the anchors' delivery of bona fide stories could trigger in viewers. But, more than that, Cramer was not-unsubtly suggesting that he, Cramer, had to be careful because of who he is.

Personally, most people I know think he's a hot-headed buffoon. Could it be that Cramer's sudden concern with the consequences of his remarks constitutes his attempt to atone for the years when, as he has publicly acknowledged, he shamelessly manipulated CNBC floor reporter Bob Pisani to report as stories rumors Cramer originated to get stocks to run toward his positions?

Hopefully this morning's little incident is a shot across CNBC's bow to reconsider grabbing Cramer to fill in for their depleted on-air ranks since Erin Burnett's departure and Mark Haines' death.

No comments: