Run for your lives!
It's the invasion of the angry Lous! Dobbs (Lou) and Rukeyser (Louis) are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore. Next to this volatile pair of Lous, the rest of the pack Ñ the Piniellas, Holtzes and Carneseccas Ñ come off like so many namby-pambies.
There's a lot of yelling going on, and it's turning the formerly genteel business news community on its ear. These television types are proving to the world that they can play it tough, just like high-powered chief executive officers such as Oracle's Larry Ellison. Sitting on the sidelines and bending over backward to be objective? That may have worked once upon a time É back when NBC's Irving R. Levine was about as exciting as business news got on network television.
During my days in local TV news, it was almost always understood that business reporting was dull and boring and absolutely wrong for television. The conventional wisdom was: 'Let The Wall Street Journal handle Wall Street. TV's got Main Street.'
Not anymore. In large part, it has to do with that Golden Rule of TV: Personalities trump content.
Beyond that, the outbreak of cable news shows has spawned a golden correlation: Edginess and commentary are more fun to watch than objective reporting.
Just as in entertainment and sports news, people don't seem to mind when experts speak out. Dobbs and Rukeyser have been around long enough to earn their expert stripes.
When I interviewed Dobbs a few weeks ago, I couldn't believe what I was hearing from the host of CNN's 'Money Line.' Dobbs, a former anchor with Seattle's KING-TV who married a Portlander, was blasting the U.S. Justice Department for indicting the Arthur Andersen firm, thus endangering the livelihoods of thousands of hardworking, innocent employees worldwide. ('They had nothing to do with Enron,' he declared of the Andersen employees outside of the Houston office.)
Later Ñ when Dobbs went national with his diatribe Ñ he was promptly crucified by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and countless other media outlets for daring to speak out and for having ties to Andersen. (The firm used to sponsor his CNN show years ago, and Dobbs also collected speaking fees from Andersen.) But Dobbs is no dummy. He's figured out that when it comes to business news in the 21st century, it's better to be Bill O'Reilly than Irving R. Levine.
And how about ol' Lou Rukeyser? After being host of PBS' 'Wall Street Week' for 32 years, he was given the heave-ho by Maryland Public Broadcasting executives who wanted a younger, fresher look for the show.
Did Rukeyser go quietly into the night with one of those quirky monologues that he's known for? Not on your IPO. Instead, he lambasted PBS on 'Larry King Live,' saying (actually, yelling), 'There has been nothing like it in the history of public television!'
So where did Rukeyser wind up? He'll be doing a Friday night show on CNBC opposite his old pals on 'Wall Street Week.'
That's one gutsy move. But, hey, this is big business É so get the heck out of the way 'cause the Lous are talking Ñ and acting Ñ big.