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CNBC's Schacknow: Of ImClone, Vonage And 'Breaking' News

Tuesday, 10 Apr 2007 | 4:02 PM ET
Peter Schacknow
Peter Schacknow

Whose Story Is It, Anyway?
By now, you may have been able to fathom that the primary function of the Breaking News Desk is to deal with -- yes, you guessed it -- breaking news. I once had a calculus teacher who, when he thought he’d made some complicated concept crystal-clear, would say, “So, the question becomes, what color is the little red schoolhouse?”

Unlike the world of higher mathematics, the little schoolhouse isn’t always red at CNBC, and the Breaking News Desk doesn’t always deal with “oh-my-gosh-get-it-on-NOW!” types of stories.

One of my responsibilities is to write the one-minute CNBC.com Bizwire segments that air at the top of the second hours of "Morning Call" and "Power Lunch," respectively. The most difficult task in these segments is not the writing or the production elements -- it’s making sure a story is not going to be included in one of the market reporter segments, which are done much closer to actual airtime than a show’s overall rundown.

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Perfect example today: ImClone Systems stock plunged after a company study revealed that the drug Erbitux, used in combination with chemotherapy, did not improve the survival rate in cancer patients. That story broke while Nasdaq reporter Rebecca Jarvis was already on the air -- so I was able to include it in the 1:00 p.m. ET Bizwire segment, with Rebecca picking it up for future hits.

I also check frequently with stocks editor Bob O’Brien, especially for his 10:55 a.m. ET hit, which occurs directly before the "Morning Call" Bizwire segment. Bob is nice enough not to steal stories that I have my heart set on using, and he always assures me he can be bribed, but either way, we manage to make sure a story is not repeated twice within three minutes.

Another example: Internet phone company Vonage Holdings got a court date on April 24 -- at which it will ask that it still be allowed to add new customers, while it appeals a ruling that it infringed Verizon Communications patents. That’s a story that NYSE reporter Scott Wapner might have used, but did not, for the hit that comes directly after the "Power Lunch" Bizwire segment.

And yet another: Cablevision Systems filed an appeal of a ruling that prevented it from rolling out a new version of its DVR service. The court had ruled that the new “remote storage” technology was a potential copyright violation.

This story was not a stock mover, so none of the market reporters picked it up. It’s not earth-shattering, but it is -- to me -- interesting enough to merit 10 to 15 seconds of copy. And it’s likely to be a bigger story if and when Cablevision is able to get the prior decision reversed. Thanks to the Bizwire segment, it did not have to die a lonely death in the unseen stories bin.

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