CNBC's Schacknow: Fancy Footwork; Playing The Fed

Degrees of Difficulty

Every once in a while, I have to sit back and admire the work of our reporters. While I get breaking news on the air, they’re the ones who actually break the news.

They’re often called upon to go on the air with either little or no information, or information that they’ve only just gathered and really haven’t had time to mentally process.

I often joke that “scripts are for wimps!” -- but in order to be a good anchor or reporter, you really have to have that attitude. And ours do.

Our Hampton Pearson in Washington was thrown on the air, within seconds of an FDA decision requiring stronger warning labels on Amgen’s Aranesp and Epogen, as well as Johnson & Johnson’s Procrit.

We did have some advance warning that a decision like this would come down, but didn’t have the exact details. But you would have never known this, seeing Hampton on the air explaining what had happened. We helped by putting up chyrons and stock charts, but without Hampton's skill and poise, it doesn’t happen. And it did.

Fed Up
If you’re a Federal Reserve official, you have special status in the eyes of the Breaking News Desk. It’s our version of the reflex test --as soon as I see a wire flash that starts off with “Fed’s Bernanke” or "Fed’s Lacker” or any other Fed member, it gets my instant attention.

Our job is to determine if the comments might move the markets -- or if they already have.

Our fellow reporters who work for the wire services obviously realize this as well. If there is no comment that might be interpreted as influential to monetary policy, the first flash will almost inevitably be something like “Fed’s Kohn Does Not Discuss Monetary Or Economic Policy In Speech.”

If that’s not the case, I use a few simple rules to determine what should go on. Those rules were put to the test today when Fed Governors Donald Kohn and Susan Bies, and Richmond Federal Reserve Bank President Jeffrey Lacker all made public comments within the space of  30 minutes.

In this case, it was easy -- both Kohn and Lacker talked about the current state of inflation and how it might relate to the future course of interest rates. That’s a no-brainer, given that investors want every clue they can get about interest rates.

Susan Bies talked about the hot topic du jour: the state of the subprime market. Given that this subject has caused the most investor angst over the past week, it was an easy decision to put this on as well.

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