Jon Friedman's Media Web
CNBC's heart: Kernen and Faber7/11/12 7/11/2012 (MarketWatch)
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Not long after CNBC's "Squawk Box" show got underway early Tuesday morning, co-anchor Joe Kernen started doing what he does best: riffing.
Within a few minutes, Kernen, 56, had shifted the show's conversation somehow from the actor Stacy Keach and CNBC's prime-time series "American Greed," to co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin and the similarly named movie and television writer Aaron Sorkin. Then "The Kahuna," as Kernen is known, moved on to the subject of push polling and then ....
Then I stopped typing out my notes. To be sure, there was more Kernen to follow but I gave up trying to follow the man's quicksilver mind.
That was the essence of Kernen. His most valuable quality on the show is that he keeps things lively every weekday morning from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on "Squawk Box," CNBC's flagship show.
On this installment, his popular co-anchor Becky Quick was absent unfortunately (en route to cover the Allen & Co. conference in Idaho) and Michelle Caruso-Cabrera ably filled in. Sorkin, as ever, filled out the "Squawk" ranks, joined by several guests.
This three-hour block is crucial to CNBC. It sets the pace for the business-television network's entire day of stock-market coverage.
Kernen is one half of CNBC's version of the Twin Towers. The other stalwart is David Faber, also known as "The Brain," who specializes in breaking news, conducts interviews with business titans and handles documentaries (a show on J. Crew was on CNBC this week).
Crucially, Faber, 48, offers viewers a much-needed calming effect, too. He stands out among the gallery of shouters and preeners who have all-too-often populated CNBC over the years.
I admit that I failed to appreciate Kernen and Faber for many years. I was turned off by Kernen's blathering about his golf game, for example, and often found myself muttering: Just get on with it, man. Faber is so steady that it's easy to neglect him.
This changed recently. As the media discussed the talk that the ratings of "Squawk Box" had declined notably the past year, I began to watch the show with a more critical eye.
I found that I now welcomed Kernen's penchant for meandering, and I also appreciated his quirkiness. What changed? I changed. Kernen had been doing this all along. I guess, in the end, he is an acquired taste.
Kernen doesn't usually subscribe to the notion that the shortest point between two objects is a straight line. He is here, and there, and back and forth. Why, then, does this approach work well?
Because it's entertaining.
What's often not entertaining is the network's obsession with a numbing diet of equities and commodities analyses, mutual-fund managers, economists, interviews with CEOs, and panels of people who talk and talk and talk.
CNBC can lose steam as the business day wears on -- and this adds to the value of such mainstays as Kernen and Faber.
CNBC is essential to the fortunes of its parent
The New York Daily News, quoting anonymous sources, published a piece last spring which infuriated CNBC's management. It suggested that the network's executives were "freaking out" about a ratings decline and, fair or not, the story pointed fingers at Sorkin and CNBC's biggest star, Maria Bartiromo. Read "Is CNBC 'freaking out'?"
An explosive item like that takes on a life of its own in a very short time, thanks to the Internet's ability to spread news and gossip quickly.
Sorkin, whose DealBook blog in the New York Times (NYT) is widely followed, has received mixed reviews at CNBC. Many people appreciate his knowledge of the financial markets while others find his speaking style to border on robotic.
Faber, meanwhile, invariably confers a sense of urgency. His recent interview with
CNBC can't afford to become complacent even though it remains the No. 1 business-television network. It has lost many of its most well-liked stars in the past several years, ranging from Erin Burnett and Dylan Ratigan to Melissa Francis and Charles Gasparino.
Television news is a notoriously topsy-turvy business. Personalities come and go all the time and it can be tough on viewers when old favorites depart for greener pastures.
Kernen and Faber remain the heart of CNBC. That's why I appreciate them.
MEDIA WEB QUESTION OF THE DAY: What do you like or dislike about Kernen and Faber?
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