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CNBC's Schacknow: Our Day On Breaking News Desk

Wednesday, 20 Dec 2006 | 2:41 PM ET

Rates Go Up, Mortgage Apps Go Down: From the “scheduled breaking news” department - the Mortgage Bankers Association releases its weekly report on mortgage applications every Wednesday Morning at 7 am. I usually have it ready right at 7 am for use on air - as we did this morning. We posted the numbers earlier--mortgage apps fell 10.2% as the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to 6.10% from 6.02% the prior week.

It’s always a scramble to put stats on the air as soon as they hit - but - as a full service blogger - I feel compelled to let you in on something I accidentally discovered a few weeks back - the MBA puts the news on its web site about a half hour before release time. We don’t put it on the air until the 7 am embargo time, but if you just can’t wait .. don’t ever say you don’t get useful tips here. All of which reminds me:

Sometimes We’re Quick. Sometimes We Cheat: OK, this is one of the dirty little secrets of the financial news reporting business, so DON’T TELL ANYONE! Some pieces of news are given to us, or our field reporters, in advance with a strict HFR (Hold For Release) time.

For instance, reporters at the Labor Department on the morning of the monthly employment report are put in what’s referred to as “the lockup”, so named because they are, in fact, locked in a room with an advance copy of the information. Wire reporters write their stories and get them ready for transmission, while radio and TV reporters work on their scripts. You cannot press the button, or go on the air, until the appointed hour strikes, as indicated by a very stern looking person in charge of screaming “Go”! If you don’t wait, I’m pretty sure the penalty is detention, or something similar.

The Federal Reserve will often give advance copies of speeches by its officials with an embargo time. Years ago, I covered the weekly money supply briefings at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. If you released the number before 4:30 pm ET, you were suspended from attendance for several weeks. And wrapped on the knuckles with a ruler. Rule #1: Never cross the Fed!

So yes, we often scramble. But sometimes, we catch a break.

Staying The Course: Today marked President Bush’s 30th news conference - or as we refer to it here at the Breaking News Desk - our worst nightmare. That’s not a statement of political preference, nor any value judgment about our President. News conferences require 100 percent attention so that we can write “dekos” on the screen about what the President is saying. That’s all well and good, but it’s far too easy to be distracted - by other news, by market milestones, or the arrival of a free pizza in the newsroom.

Thankfully today’s event, which began at shortly after 10 am ET, went relatively painlessly, after typing a few dozen “dekos” on the reevaluation process of the administration’s strategy in Iraq. From our point of view, we have two jobs: telling you what the President said, and figuring out whether it moved the markets (in this case, the answer to the latter question was “no”.)

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  • Brian Sullivan is co-anchor of CNBC's "Street Signs."

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