MEDIA: PBS’s ’Nightly Business Report’: the old standby

PBS’s nightly business show isn’t as jazzy as its cable-channel counterparts. But, as Claire Atkinson discovers, its coverage is a little more grown up.

PBS’s nightly business show isn’t as jazzy as its cable-channel counterparts. But, as Claire Atkinson discovers, its coverage is a little more grown up.

PBS’s nightly business show isn’t as jazzy as its cable-channel

counterparts. But, as Claire Atkinson discovers, its coverage is a

little more grown up.



Around 43% of Americans own stock in some form - that’s double the

number from 10 years ago. The mushrooming interest in share ownership

has increased demand for business news and shows such as PBS’s Nightly

Business Report along with it.



The half-hour weekday series, anchored by Paul Kangas and Susie Gharib,

reaches over a million viewers each night, making it the most widely

watched business program on TV. Nightly Business Report is more

old-fashioned than its cable-channel rivals - its set is not as slick

and the pace is slower - but it allocates more time to fewer stories,

giving the show greater depth.



Its credentials are rock solid. Commentators have included Fed chairman

Alan Greenspan; numerous presidential economic advisors have contributed

over the show’s 21-year history. Nightly Business Report has also been

something of a training ground for business journalists. Its alumni,

listed on the show’s Web site at www.nbr.com, include Fox News’ Neil

Cavuto, who was a former New York bureau chief, and top editors at

Fortune and NBC News, among others.



Producer/reporter Erika Miller joined Nightly Business Report from CNBC

a few years ago, when she got the opportunity to report on the air.

Miller is based in the New York regional office.



Like any business journalist worth her salt, Miller is thrilled at major

merger announcements. ’I love the excitement of (an M&A) press

conference, I like that access to the newsmakers,’ she says. ’When it’s

something that nobody could have expected and you’re off figuring it

out, I love that.’



Miller combs a wide range of Web sites such as The Street, CBS

Marketwatch and Hoovers. The investment houses also put out a great deal

of research, which helps her identify stories and trends. But Miller is

always interested in expanding her contacts. ’There are people I can

call in a pinch when there’s a late-day sell-off, but there are hundreds

of analysts out there,’ she says.



The New York office is responsible for most of the top business stories

of the day, while the Washington, DC bureau takes on the politically

oriented business issues. Another bureau in Chicago focuses on the

options exchanges, commodities and beats such as the auto industry and

agriculture. There is a fourth office in Miami, which handles

Florida-based companies and the cruise industry.



When the markets are quiet, feature packages get greater precedence.



They could include business issues such as Wall Street’s view of the

future of the Coca-Cola Co. or the introduction of decimalization

(starting in July stock prices will be expressed as decimals rather than

fractions).



Then there are special series, such as ’Where Best to Invest,’ about

what sectors are outperforming the market. March will see the debut of

tax-tips month.



Miller says the show walks a fine line between giving viewers the basics

and not talking down to people. One recent story on the ’inverted yield

curve’ - showing that long-term bond market ratings are lower than many

people think they should be - illustrates that difficulty. Miller, who

schooled herself in much of the financial jargon by reading The Wall

Street Journal every day, says the audience is becoming much more

sophisticated.



Nightly Business Report’s Miami-based senior producer is Wendie

Feinberg.



Feinberg listens to pitches from the four bureaus at around 9 am before

assigning stories for the day (so she’s not the one for PR pros to pitch

to).



Nightly Business Report tends to focus on CEOs of publicly traded

companies, though sometimes CFOs make an appearance when earnings are

released. Experience in speaking on television is of less importance

than knowing your subject.



In addition to the roster of CEOs who come on-air, big name business

book authors are also worth pitching, though Miller says business

magazine editors are rarely used.



The best starting point for pitches is your nearest bureau and or the

Miami assignment desk. That’s if you don’t already have a contact on the

show. Few reporters have specific beats, but direct telecommunications

pitches to Stephanie Woods in Washington, DC and hi-tech stories to

Scott Gurvey in New York. Most other reporters get to work on stories

they suggest.



Stories can be cut and changed at any time. The show airs on almost

every PBS station at 6:30 pm, but like at any news organization,

interviewees get dumped when news stories break late in the

afternoon.



Sometimes sister show Morning Business Report accommodates dropped items

in its 15-minute format, which is broadcast at 6 am by the

affiliates.



The morning show is repeated with updates a few times before noon if

news breaks early. The existence of a morning edition is a little-known

fact among PR pros, who should try pitching it, Miller adds.



The evening show’s deadline for taped interviews is around 2:30 pm. One

IR pro (who did not want to be named) says that the early deadline is a

distinct bonus for press-weary CEOs who don’t look as good after a long

day of interviewing. Of course, the show also does live interviews.



But if your announcement is not remaking the landscape, you’ll have to

choose between the PBS show and CNBC’s Business Center, CNN’s Moneyline

and Fox News Channel. Few show producers will take the same

interviewee.



’Unless it is a big story you have to make a choice,’ the IR pro

says.



’Nightly Business Report is wonderful to work with, but (which show you

choose) often depends on the CEO’s personal preferences.’





CONTACT LIST



Nightly Business Report



Miami Headquarters



PO Box 2



Miami, FL 33261-0002



Tel: (305) 949 8321



Fax: (305) 949 9772





New York Bureau



74 Trinity Place, 19th Floor



New York, NY 10006



Tel: (212) 619 5205



Fax: (212) 791 3380





Washington Bureau



1333 H Street, NW



Washington, DC 20005



Tel: (202) 682 9029



Fax: (202) 682 9035





Midwest Bureau



100 S. Sangamon Street



Chicago, IL 60607



Tel: (312) 942 0035



Fax: (312) 942 1549



E-mail: firstname_lastname@nbr.com



Web: www.nbr.com





Senior editorial staff



Executive editor: Linda O’Bryon



Managing editor: Rodney Ward



Senior producer: Wendie Feinberg





Miami



Senior assignment editor: Mark Landsman



Senior producer/reporter: Jeff Yastine



Producer/writer: Melissa Harmon



Senior stocks producer: Johnnie Streets



Assignment editor: Jermaine Ferguson





New York



Bureau chief: Scott Gurvey



Senior producer/reporter: Suzanne Pratt



Producer/reporter: Erika Miller



Associate producer: Bobbi Nelson



Associate producer: Althea Thompson (acts as booker)





Washington, DC



Bureau chief: Darren Gersh



Senior correspondent: Dennis Moore



Senior producer/reporter: Stephanie Woods



Field producer: Alex Walworth



Associate producer: Angela Heath





Midwest



Bureau chief: Diane Eastabrook



Associate producer: Hart Billings.



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