As Meltdown Unfolds, CNBC Adapts CNBC has tripled the number of analysts it has on the air each day, and the financial news channel drew the biggest audience in its history last week. But some worry that CNBC and other channels' intense coverage of the markets is helping to drive some of the broad swings in stock values.
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As Meltdown Unfolds, CNBC Adapts

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As Meltdown Unfolds, CNBC Adapts

As Meltdown Unfolds, CNBC Adapts

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

CNBC is the nations leading financial news network, and people are tuning in more than ever to follow developments in the economic crisis. NPR's David Folkenflik visited CNBC headquarters recently. And he found that the reporters and analysts there consider these times just as breath taking as the rest of us.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: David Faber is the classic reporter, in that he's an English major who went on to become one of the most recognized financial journalists on TV. His in-depth documentaries, taken weeks or months to report, have won top awards. But for now, Fabers sprinting just to keep up with each new day's developments.

Mr. DAVID FABER (Reporter, journalist, CNBC): Hey, you see there. It's me again. Hi.

FOLKENFLIK: From his cubicle in CNBC's New Jersey offices, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, Faber compulsively calls hedge fund managers and corporate figures.

FOLKENFLIK: What do you think?

Mr. FABER: I knew it's going to be terrible but is it going to matter.

FOLKENFLIK: Faber says he's having to leap from one big picture issue to the next so he can't dive too deep. And the big picture is astounding.

Mr. FABER: I mean, if I had told you this a year ago, even that the US government was going to inject $250 billion, as an investor in banks, you would have said, what the hell are you smoking? It's just incredible.

FOLKENFLIK: He says the world is changing before his eyes.

Mr. FABER: And now here we are, you know, eight years of Republican rule. We're ending with a former socialism.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FABER: Pretty funny.

FOLKENFLIK: And on the air, the talk is just as dramatic.

Mr. FABER: Welcome back. God, there's so many things to talk about this morning. It's unbelievable...

FOLKENFLIK: He quickly touches on the ups and the downs.

Mr. FABER: Citi 125, Bank of America 87.5, that's way, way, way off the highs.

FOLKENFLIK: For the past year CNBC, among other financial news outlets reported on troubling developments in credit markets. But Faber says the nay sayers about the overall financial system were in such a minority it was hard to give them the benefit of the doubt. These days, CNBC boasts that it has tripled the number of analysts it has on the air each day, and the channels sometimes features eight - no, seriously - eight analysts, reporters and anchors onscreen all at once, like the opening of the Brady Bunch.

Mr. FABER: Seventy, we're like a seventy. It's a lot better than a rally of 140.

Unidentified Woman: No. Certainly is. No, certainly is. Certainly is.

FOLKENFLIK: John Stewart took note on The Daily Show when CNBC thought that eight wasn't enough.

Mr. JOHN STEWART (Host, The Daily Show): What if the enormity of this economic collapse is so huge that even eight of the financial industry's smallest-headed people can't figure it out? Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time ever, on CNBC, behold the majesty of the Decabox, 10 pundits, 10 boxes.

FOLKENFLIK: If it ever gets to 12, head for the bunker. Brian Lipps, worries CNBC is helping to drive some of the markets wild swings. Lipps is branch manager of a Charles Schwab investment office in Washington, D.C.

Mr. BRIAN LIPPS (Manager, Charles Schwab Investment, Washington): It causes people to want to do something, whether they should or not. You know, they feel like they have to do something because some guy is screaming on Channel 43 or whatever it is. Our advice is just turn it off. I mean, no offense to the CNBC people, but just turn it off.

FOLKENFLIK: Instead, more people are turning it on. Last week earned the channel the biggest audience in its history. And Nielsen estimates that CNBC's ratings are up 90 percent over where they stood a year ago.

Mr. JONATHAN WALD (Senior Vice President for Business News, CNBC): History unfolding in real time live on our air. It's a little bit like 10 days to trip the world, in this case, four weeks that have shaken everything up.

FOLKENFLIK: That's Jonathan Wald, CNBC's senior vice president for Business News.

Mr. WALD: The trick is to take all the real-time data, which our audience craves and not just throw it out there like a shotgun blast, but to sort and analyze and explain it, and make a point about why it's important.

FOLKENFLIK: In normal times, CNBC is hyper-focused on individual stocks. These aren't normal times, and some stories just skate by at least for now. Reporter, Michele Carosa Cabrera cited a few when I ran in to her in the cavernous CNBC News Room.

Ms. MICHELE CAROSA CABRERA (Reporter, CNBC): Things like Home Depot versus Lowes, IBM versus HP, which is the better buy.

FOLKENFLIK: Faber grimaces when I ask him about a New York Times story breaking the news that GM might merge with Chrysler. He had the story but didn't nail it down in time. The scoop was victim to putting out fires in other places, he says.

Mr. FABER: This is the biggest financial story that we'll ever have. I mean I've been doing this for 22 years. I don't know how much longer I'll do it but there's no way that I will ever see something like this again. I just, I'm firmly convinced this crisis of 07 and 08 will be one that we're writing about in the history books for decades to come.

FOLKENFLIK: David Folkenflik, NPR News.

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