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The Evolution of Mad Money

Three years ago, about when I actually started working on Mad Money, we never ever could've done a story like the one we did last night about the anatomy of the rally in Research in Motion on Monday and how it pulled up the rest of the Nasdaq on what looked to be an otherwise bad day.

What we do on Mad Money has changed enormously over the years. I wasn't around when things started out, but I showed up about three months later, and the model for the show back then, and for all of the 2005 and part of 2006, was stock, stock, stock, stock, stock.

If a story wasn't about a stock recommendation – or occasionally denunciation – then the powers that be wouldn't let us do it – too cerebral, too educational, too boring. We never would've been allowed to do a segment that was entirely educational or that simply explained something that happened in the market that most people wouldn't be able to understand because they're not insiders.

But over time the show has evolved. We've figured out more of what people want, and we've also been given more creative freedom since we established ourselves in that first year. In fact, it's largely thanks to our executive producer, Regina Gilgan, who last night Jim described as, "the woman who keeps me from doing anything interesting in all my life," that we're able to do more than just stock picks.

Now we do the stories that Jim has always wanted to do, ones that explain what's really happening in the market. So, for example, if Jim hadn't explained the idea of the axe in a stock, the analyst who everyone on the Street knows has the edge in a stock, then you would've been left with coverage of that rally in RIMM like this lead from The Associated Press: "Research In Motion Ltd. shares rose Monday as some analysts predicted the Blackberry maker will report a strong first fiscal-quarter next week, with one analyst boosting his share price target above $200."

As Jim pointed out, the important thing wasn't that one analyst raised his price target over $200, it was that the analyst who was the axe raised his target. We think it's valuable for people to understand that, because no normal analyst could've caused a $7 rally in RIMM.

Look, I've been working with Jim for three years and two weeks now, and I still hadn't heard of the notion of the axe until yesterday. So my guess is that most Homegamers hadn't either. We love making the show more educational (and more useful, because who needs 600 stock picks a year?). We've been moving in that direction for years. Now that we're in year four we're going to keep moving in that direction, trying to stretch the four walls – and given Jim's temperament, maybe breaking a couple.




Cliff Mason is the Senior Writer of CNBC's Mad Money w/Jim Cramer, and has been that program's primary writer, in cooperation with and under the supervision of Jim Cramer, since he began at CNBC as an intern during the summer of 2005. Mason was the author of a column at TheStreet.com during 2007, which he describes as "hilarious, if short-lived." He graduated from Harvard College in 2007. It was at Harvard that Mason learned to multi-task, mastering the art of seeming to pay attention to professors while writing scripts for Mad Money. Mason has co-written two books with Jim Cramer: Jim Cramer's Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Rich and Stay Mad For Life: Get Rich, Stay Rich (Make Your Kids Even Richer). He is 100% responsible for any parts of either book that you did not like.

Mason has also had a fruitful relationship with Jim Cramer as his nephew for the last 23 years and will hopefully continue to hold that position for many more as long as he doesn't do anything to get himself kicked out of the family.




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