CNBC's Schacknow: Seeing The Story In The Details

Hung Up On Vonage
It’s usually easy to recognize a story worthy of our immediate attention. It’s not always so easy to answer the questions that come up from the first few dribs and drabs of information. This is one of the key minefields one must traverse in the daily business of the Breaking News Desk.

We received a single headline that a judge had issued an injunction barring Internet phone service provider Vonage from using Verizon’s Internet phone patents. We remembered that earlier this month, it had been ruled that Vonage had infringed on Verizon’s patents, but many were expecting that Vonage would merely be required to pay monetary damages.

That begged the question: does this mean Vonage is essentially out of business? Answer: unknown. Nonetheless, this was information that we had to get on the air immediately, but we were faced with the difficult task of providing ongoing information -- without going TOO far.

This is when my ability to multitask is challenged: make sure a chyron gets on the air with the initial story -- watch the wires for further developments -- put the information where all of our shows can find it -- and coordinate any reporter shots that we might be doing, and which, in this case, we did.
[Editor's note: "chyron" = onscreen information caption box.]

We started with that single headline as a chyron -- then called on CNBC Silicon Valley Bureau Chief Jim Goldman to tell what we knew, and give background.

As time went on, little bits of information came out both from the legal ruling and from Vonage’s response: we learned that the injunction would be put on hold for two weeks while the judge considered Vonage’s request that it be stayed; and that Vonage is confident that the ruling will be overturned, and that all this won’t affect its customers. The stock, as of this writing, remains halted.

Now, the key challenge is to put this story somewhere in my brain where I can re-access it the next time some Vonage/Verizon headlines cross.

Tainted Pet Food
Once we got word that a cause had been found for the tainted pet food scare that killed at least 16 cats and dogs, we knew this was worthy of an “alert” -- a report done, essentially on the fly, from the Breaking News Desk.

It looks nice, easy, and planned out most of the time, but I can assure you, it’s anything but. Within the space of 10 minutes, reporter Trish Regan gathered the necessary information, while I wrote onscreen information, gathered video, and prepared an anchor intro.

And here’s some inside info I’d bet you never knew: shots from our desk have the reporter standing right where I usually sit. This means I have to move myself and whatever might show up on camera -- today consisting of a fried chicken salad, two bottles of soda, a box of oatmeal, and my jacket.

None of those wound up appearing on camera. Nor did I, although sometimes you can see me lurking in the background, worrying whether all the elements are in place.

They were. My lunch and accoutrements are now back in place, and we look ahead to the next alert.