CNBC's Schacknow: Hitting The Market's "Moving Target"

The Moving Target

How surprising was the market’s late drop?

So surprising that I’d left the desk for the day and gone up to the CNBC gym -- only to find that in the time it took me to climb the stairs and change into workout clothes, the Dow went from down 260 to down 500.

Am I dedicated to the cause? You bet. I came back down, despite the potential embarrassment of showing off my svelte figure to the masses.

Even before the plunge, the market was down significantly, and on a day like this, our job is to keep those market stats coming. The good news: plenty to talk about. The bad news: what we chose to talk about kept changing.

For instance, at various points during the day, the Dow had its biggest one day drop since a) June, b) January, c) May 2003 and d) September 2001. All were correct at one time or another, but when the markets are moving fast, anything you throw up onscreen is likely to be outdated instantly. Thanks to producers Lori Spechler and Rich Fisherman, we were able to keep up, especially in the frantic final hour of trading.

Here’s another little difficulty that makes life interesting: when the Dow was down about 190, a decision was made that we’d change our on-air factoids from the “CNBC Alert” look to our “breaking news” look, as soon as the 200 point mark was breached.

Making this change is not as easy as it looks -- and not as easy as it should be. It requires working the factoids one by one, waiting for the software to kick in, and dragging and dropping the new look over the old one. It takes frighteningly long!

At this writing, there are still some unresolved questions about this precipitous plunge: for instance, how did this happen even with the NYSE’s trading curbs kicking in?

We’re hearing from some traders that there may, indeed, have been some kind of glitch, although the fundamental influences for a market plunge were certainly in place when the day began. I’ll not be surprised if the Breaking News desk is dealing with some new revelations about this, come tomorrow.