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Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: Watching Nightly Business Report

About ten years ago a dear friend of mine who respected my knowledge of economics and finance directed my attention to the TV screen and asked me, “what do you think of this program?” I looked up, immediately recognizing the program, which focused on financial markets and the economy, and I said, “Not much.” I then gave a brief comment and dismissed the program out of hand, having actually only watched a few times. My friend, who studies the subject of business much less thoroughly than me listened to my words but saw through them. He replied, "It sure looks pretty heavy to me. There's a lot of information there."

I felt a little awkward.

I realized that I had been unfair in my assessment and had actually not shown respect for the respect that my friend had given me on this important subject.

The program in question was Nightly Business Report, distributed by PBS. It is a 30-minute program, airing weekdays, which recaps, reviews and analyzes the daily financial and economic news, often including the effect that culture and politics have on both. It runs with no commercials. And it features the most no frills and glitz-free approach to broadcast financial journalism I have ever seen.

And that was my problem with it 10 years ago.

I was caught up in the lack of an attractive package, not thinking in terms of substance – which the show overflows with – but rather style and energy, which the show is deficient in.

Now, don’t get me wrong, style and energy is very important, especially when one considers the science of packaging and marketing in business. I don’t want to diminish the importance I gave and still do give to this field. But for someone as seriously interested in the subject of financial markets, I was doing myself, and my friend, a disservice in evaluating this vital program – even subconsciously - by standards I more appropriately applied to the music industry.

Don’t blame Deep Space Nine, but at the time, I was general manager for Wu-Tang. Style mattered on an hourly basis to me in ’96-’97.


Now it is 2006, and for the last couple of months, on a regular basis, I have been viewing the Nightly Business Report, which most frequently follows BBC World News, when I catch the program while in D.C. The one-two- punch of these shows is powerful, especially for folks who aren’t satisfied with the picture painted by the mainstream media most popular in the United States of America. The only drawback to my new viewing regimen is that it conflicts with Mad Money hosted by Jim Cramer, which is the only financial program that I have watched with a nine year old and fifteen year old, with near full comprehension. The classic episode that recently brought this generational experience together involved Cramer brilliantly explaining how demographics and culture in America were affecting the decline of the popularity and profitability of pizza delivery outfits – like Pizza Hut, Dominos and Papa John’s – while favorably boosting the bottom line of Mexican food like salsa (which Cramer says is now the most popular condiment in America) and the fast food spot, Chipotle Mexican Grill. Cramer’s hilarious use of sound effects - rivaling that of Star and Buc Wild and The Wendy Williams Experience - also keeps the youth glued to the screen.

I especially look forward to watching Mad Money in coming weeks as Black Electorate Economics University (BEEU) heads toward Lesson # 4 in our Semester Two, “The Trader, The Investor, and The Speculator in Capital Markets.” Although highly informative and insightful, in a very real sense, Mad Money is the anti-thesis of the Nightly Business Report, in terms of style.

But if you want substance heaped upon substance, and in a comprehensive matter, I strongly encourage regular viewing of this slower paced and monotone program. Because there are no commercials, you get in and out in half an hour, full of information, and a variety of viewpoints. What I like most about the show is that it finds a way to address the most sophisticated trends on Wall St. and the global economy in straight forward fashion, without totally leaving behind the average person who is not financially literate. If they pay close attention, anyone can follow most of what is being presented, and see the relevance of the content to their personal life, neighborhood, and community.

Unlike most shows that cover business and markets, it successfully connects Wall Street with Main Street.

So, if you are a more visually-oriented person and can't seem to get motivated to follow my advice to read The Wall St. Journal, give Nightly Business Report a try, and let me know what you think.

It has my seal of approval... ten years too late.

Cedric Muhammad

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

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