A smart observer of Business Television writes:

The answer to the question was buried in the comment on Rukeyser comment on #9.

Louis was by all accounts a genuinely snarling ass of a person but he had an informative show. The two were inextricably linked. Louis didn’t suffer fools, a population he defined as “everyone execpt Louis Freaking Rukeyser”. The upside was that those who came onto his show unprepared were gutted and left for dead without a second thought.

That intolerance whether in defense of viewers or simply for the sake of the host has been replaced by a network that accepted at face value when Frederick Henderson, the CEO of General Motors, pronounced himself “delighted” by the hike in CAFÉ standards. The move both killed what was left of GM as a public company, if also clearly signaled that GM’s stock going to zero was a certainty.

His views were accepted at face value because he was good television in a greasy way. Fritz is a good “get” and a major sponsor of the network. He could have been discussing his equally probable alien adduction and it would have been accepted at face value. Had the network been looking out for their actual customers they would have cried a hearty “Bunk!”. Never happened. What did happen was GM went from about a buck to $2.24 in a week. Going out on a reckless limb, it wasn’t smart money buying GM equity up 125% and headed for zero in 10 days.

Bank analysts are equally without value. Dick Bove had a strong buy on Lehman sell than a month prior to LEH being dead. If you can’t calculate the pice of capital for a bank you can’t put a “fundamental” valuation on that stock. That fact more or less eliminates every bank analyst claiming anything in the neighborhood of “fundamental analysis”.

As for the Cramer show, he’s a smart man on a show picking scores of stocks every day. It takes him roughly a month and a half to go through the S&P 500, generally with a positive bias. He not only doesn’t dwell on mistakes, he doesn’t discuss them at all.

The “yell at each other” shows are manufactured. Fast Money’s cast has been culled to eliminate the people who wouldn’t let themselves be yelled at by anyone or anyone who refused to play ball GE style. It would seem that the show will soon be Melissa Lee hosting Pete Najarian, the insufferable Tim Seymour who insists on the last word of every topic, regardless of what, if anything, he knows about it and an assortment of guido-types who will play ball and would gleefully knife anyone on the desk to have the last word or “witty” insight. They give no credit to the positive picks. None. The production goal is rotating slabs of meat as the trading staff. Since CNBC execs know literally nothing about finance they mistake yelling and BS for brains.

What would a better show be?

One with a strong, central host demanding “a point” from every guest or desk temp.
A show with the guts to call out the scams booked on the show to announce they still like GM.

… And guests who claim to have gone bullish at the bottom with no proof of having done so.
… A show run by a real former trader, there to make good TV and with the soul goal of making that happen.
… A show with respect for everyone but deference for no one

Soft guest would carp at management and “never come on this show again”. But good guest; analysts who actually had a “buy or sell” to couple their BS. CEOs who had a story that made sense under scrutiny. Would be praised. Appropriately so because the muzzled geldings dominating the airwaves today don’t even deserve the airtime.

Category: Financial Press, Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

10 Responses to “On Rukeyser, Financial TV, and CNBC”

  1. Fredex says:

    “Louis was by all accounts a genuinely snarling ass of a person …”

    By all accounts? Then surely I should be able to find one, but no.

  2. Boofus says:

    Barry, why don’t you or Dylan Ratigan do a show on FBN or PBS?


    BR: Dylan is going to MSNBC (June 29th) , and I am not a broadcaster or a journalist — merely an interested observer.

  3. Al_Czervik says:


    I recall that Rukeyser unceremoniously dismissed Gail Dudack from his panel of “elves” in the late-90s for not being sufficiently bullish. To make it worse, he announced her firing on the air and didn’t tell her before-hand. Here’s what James Grant wrote in the NYTimes following Rukeyser’s death:

    “An eternal bull on the stock market, the more bullish, and less tolerant of dissenting bears he became, the higher the averages climbed. On the program of Nov. 5, 1999, Mr. Rukeyser announced the firing of the veteran panelist Gail Dudak for her 156 consecutive weeks of bearishly errant forecasting. Ms. Dudak heard the news from her neighbors the next morning. The stock market peaked four months later.”

    Michael Lewis also wrote a piece about Rukeyser in The Money Culture and he comes across as very pompous and full of himself. I read the piece sometime back but can’t find a link to it. Here’s someone else’s description, which is consistent with what I remember.

    I have never understood the lionization of Louis Rukeyser, except for the fact that he was the first to do it. He was successful because, at the time, there was no one attempting to explain Wall Street to the public. It didn’t matter that he did a poor job of explaining how things worked. He tended to perpetuate the myth of his panelists/guests as Masters of the Universe. Also, his format and jokes became very stale. I watched the show for years and almost always was left at the end of the program with the empty feeling of not having learned anything.

    It’s no coincidence that his program went-away as the Internet was coming into its own. If one knows where to look, there are much better sources of financial information.

    Consuelo Mack’s program on PBS is the most similar program to Wall Street Week currently on the air. However, it is far superior in terms of quality and educational content.

  4. Peter Davies says:

    Good article, particularly regarding the screamers at CNBC USA (and Fox Business News). As I’ve said before, Bloomberg, BNN Toronto and CNBC’s Sqawkbox Europe are all good value. I particularly like Pimm Fox’s “Taking Stock”.

  5. BG says:


    Thanks for bringing up the thing with Gail Dudack. My father and I used to watch WSW every Friday night for years when I lived at home growing up. Rukeyser was almost always the eternal Bull.

    I don’t think he is the standard to measure anyone against either. He had a near monopoly on financial reporting back then.

    I must admit I would love to hear his thoughts on the mess we find ourselves in now.

  6. BG says:

    Thanks for the links too! :) Those were the days, weren’t they?

  7. Mike in Nola says:

    I don’t know about Rukkeyser personally; I just remember that my wife and I watched him every Friday night for years starting in college long before we had anything to invest. Learned a lot, not about specific stocks, but how things worked.

    Felt like we got to know the panelists. Frank looked like a gangster you’d like to now. Sorry to hear about Dudack’s firing. Still remember when she had her makeover; was quite a change. Before that she was pretty nerdy but seemed nice.

  8. bonghiteric says:

    Pim Fox doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I don’t know why people torture themselves with CNBC when you can watch Taking Stock

  9. [...] Don’t hold your breath waiting for CNBC and Fox Business to change the way they do business any time soon.  (Condor Options, A Dash of Insight, Big Picture) [...]

  10. natoK says:

    BNN is a class act – they do nearly everything right – its the anti-CNBS.

    as for WSW, I loved to hear Jim Grant wax poetic. If I didn’t learn much watching WSW, I learned to use my thesaurus whenever Grant was a guest.

    marty zweig – nice guy, but the personality suited to a newsletter writer.

    Any idea how long Paul Kangas can last. i love the guy, but if that teleprompter ever stopped working – I don’t think he cwould utter a word.