CNBC's Schacknow: The Data Tightrope; HP Double-Time

Too Much Of A Good Thing

I often rave about the vast amounts of data at our disposal, including our magic spreadsheet that allows me to generate numerous market factoids during the trading day.

Today, people may have indeed characterized my behavior as “raving,” but the reason was quite different: the major averages were moving in such a volatile fashion that as soon as I generated a fact, it would become outdated almost instantly.

This is one of the most frustrating aspects of the job: it’s very cool to let people know the Dow has dipped below 12,000 for the first time since Nov. 6, 2006, but it’s not cool to put that on the air just in time to see the Dow go back ABOVE 12,000. I could -- and did -- quickly add “before recovering,” but that just prompted the Dow to go back below the 12K mark. You’ll note that I use the sports fan’s mentality -- I’m convinced that putting a market fact on the air causes it to behave in just the opposite fashion.

On days like today, producers want market factoids throughout the hour, not just sporadically -- or even throughout every half-hour (which has been the case lately). And let’s not even include the decision as to whether they should be in our “alert” look or our “breaking news” look. No rest for the weary! As of this writing, the Dow has traded in a nearly 180-point range today, and has kept the Breaking News Desk hopping.

The HP Scramble
While we were following the market’s wild ride, we received word that the California Attorney General's office would dismiss all charges against former Hewlett-Packard chairwoman Patricia Dunn in the infamous boardroom leak case."

This is the type of story we have to do in “mad scramble” mode, since it came directly from the AG’s office, not from a news conference or from a source.

Thankfully, we had our Silicon Valley bureau chief Jim Goldman on the case. We called him on the phone, went over the details we had, and within two minutes, he was on the air telling the story. I had just enough time to assemble the elements for the story, and it all went off perfectly, thanks mostly to Jim.

This all took about 10 minutes from stem to stern -- and while I was busy with the HP story during that time, the Dow went from down about 150 points, to down just 50. Done with one mad scramble, off to another. I felt like the chef on the Food Network show “Dinner Impossible,” without the benefit of the hot meal at the end.