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CNBC's Schacknow: Cut To The Chase -- Breaking News-Style

Getting To The Good Stuff, Part I
As one who monitors breaking news for a living, I naturally look for “the good stuff” -- i.e., the heart of the story -- in the first sentence or paragraph of each story that comes to us via the wire services, or from a company press release.

Yet you’d be surprised how often that’s not the case. I don’t mean that the lead isn’t necessarily useful -- I mean that the angles people will be talking about later, are buried deeper in the story. For those who have the good luck (or misfortune) to be assigned to the Breaking News desk, this is a valuable lesson.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the example of an Apple Web site posting by CEO Steve Jobs. It was a long, lengthy dissertation on the state of downloaded music, and only down near the bottom was the news: that he was calling for the abolishment of all digital rights management (DRM) for music sold online.

I was reminded of that today: we knew all weekend that music publisher EMI and Apple would be holding a joint news conference this morning, and we knew that EMI would announce it would sell DRM-free music through Apple’s iTunes store.

The official news release came out at the appointed time with the expected lead. But down in the eighth and ninth paragraphs was an interesting sidelight: iTunes would be selling the DRM-free songs for $1.29 each, while continuing to sell the “regular” restricted versions for $0.99.

Earth-shattering? Obviously not. Interesting? Absolutely. Especially considering that Steve Jobs wants DRM to disappear. An important piece of the puzzle that we’ll want to remember later on.

By the way, what would have been the MOST interesting angle of the story didn’t happen: EMI is the company that sells Beatles music, and there had been some early speculation that this announcement might include, finally, the availability of The Beatles for legitimate download. Not yet!

Good Stuff, Part II
Another “good stuff” story from beleaguered subprime lender New Century Financial: as expected, New Century filed for bankruptcy protection after seeing its funding dry up.

We’d heard rumors of this for days, and we knew with a fair amount of certainty that today would be the day. And it was.

But with the announcement of the bankruptcy filing came the news that New Century would fire 3,200 hundred workers -- more than half its workforce. That angle -- while not surprising for a story of this sort -- was not well explored, if at all, in the days before it actually happened.

Good Stuff, Part III
Yet again, a story we knew would likely happen today: the sale of Tribune to investor Sam Zell. It became official this morning, but you had to get to the 24th paragraph of the press release to find this nugget: Tribune will sell the Chicago Cubs baseball team when the 2007 baseball season is over.

This had been a matter of some shifting speculation since Tribune first put itself up for sale. Initially, it was seen as somewhat of a foregone conclusion, but as the Cubs opened their wallets to spend money on high-priced free agents, there had been some speculation that the company planned to keep them.

This, as we now know, is not the case -- just as the Cubs begin their latest quest to make it to the World Series for the first time since 1945.