Melissa Francis is a favorite around here. Readers recently favored the host of CNBC’s On The Money in our most popular poll ever, where she beat out competing CNBC starlets like Erin Burnett, Becky Quick and Maria Bartiromo. We’re frequent guests on her show, so we’re hardly impartial. But clearly OTM’s brand of high-energy, edgier business reporting is close to DealBreaker’s heart. If only it weren’t on during happy hour!
Market Watch’s Jon Friedman profiles Francis in his latest column. He tells the tale of a child star gone good. When still a wee lass, Francis played Cassandra Cooper on Little House on the Prairie. She describes herself to Friedman as a ham on the set, craving attention. Michael Landon, also known as ‘Pa’to viewers, would entertain the youngsters on set by puting a frog in his mouth, and letting it leap out just as they were about to say their lines.
Francis went from acting to Harvard, where she studied economics and got mixed-up with the business of business reporting. She worked as a summer intern to Michael Jensen, a long-time NBC News financial correspondent. When she landed at CNBC, she was first assigned to be an energy reporter. And here’s where the story get’s interesting.
Early in her CNBC career, she covered an OPEC meeting in Vienna, trying hard to gain the trust of the influential Saudi delegation. “After enduring several verbal exams on my knowledge of the space, I was invited to the big-night-before-the-meeting dinner,” she recounted by email. Her CNBC colleague Steve Liesman had stressed that the dinner was a big deal. “He said the outcome of the meeting [whether the cartel was going to change the quota and by how much] is usually revealed to one reporter at dinner the night before the meeting. It was sushi, which I can’t stand. So I was trying to swallow something with eyes (whole) when the minister’s right-hand man said, ‘That’s why we’ll cut by 500,000 barrels a day tomorrow.’
“Needless to say I nearly choked (really). I had heard that from another delegate shortly before, so this was the confirmation I needed. I excused myself and went to the ladies’ lounge with my cell and called our assignment desk. I kept saying into the phone, ‘Tell Maria [Bartiromo that] OPEC’s gonna cut by 500,000 barrels a day! Tell Maria OPEC’s gonna cut by 500,000 barrels a day!’ Maria went on with it. It turned out to be right, and I was suddenly no longer the new kid on the OPEC block.”
Friedman answers one crucial question we’ve had: whatever happened to “Missy.” As a child actress, she was known as Missy. And we’ve had reliable reports that she was still known by the nickname into college. According to Friedman, it was Michael Jensen who told her to drop it, presumably to make her more credible as a financial reporter.
The question Friedman doesn’t answer is: will she or won’t she? There’s been a spate of defections from CNBC lately, as reporters and anchors leave to join the fledgling Fox Business Channel. Is Melissa Francis going to join them, as some have whispered? If he knows, Friedman isn’t telling. His column sounds ambivalent.
“You could make a case that her CNBC bosses have overlooked her, too, even though they have given her her own show,” Friedman writes. “For her part, Francis is happy to hold down the 7 p.m. slot and evidently has a good time doing interviews with a variety of people.”
So the question of Will She or Won’t She remains open. For now. CNBC’s Melissa Francis isn’t over the hill [Market Watch]
It’s Monday night and don’t kid yourself, you don’t have any plans. The most action you’re going to get tonight is from the vibrations of the treadmill as you speed walk across the belt (yeah, it’s early in the week so you better get your fanny to Equinox for at least 30 minutes cause you know it’s the only time you’re going to work-out this week). So, after your hard core Monday evening workout, we suggest you put your feet up, grab a Heineken and tune into CNBC circa 9pm. To coincide with the debut of Dr. Alan Greenspan’s publication, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World – the delicious dish, Maria Bartiromo has interviewed Dr. Greenspan delving into his “life, career and impact of the most important central banker of modern times.” We say, DVR Monday night football, get out a fresh can of cheese balls and pay close attention. We can’t think of a better appetizer to tomorrow’s main course – the Fed announcement. Greenspan: Power, Money & the American Dream [CNBC]
Time for some more Friday afternoon silliness. By which we mean, let’s do some reporting on the business media.
Over at TheStreet.Com, Doug Kass is reporting that Fox Business channel has been poaching personalities familiar to CNBC audiences. And Marketwatch’s media columnist Jon Friedman spills a few hundred words on the trivalry between CNBC and the upcoming Fox Business Channel. And, of course, on rumors on a even stronger alleged rivalry between CNBC anchors Maria Bartiromo and Erin Burnett.
Let’s start with Kass. According to Kass, Fox is expected to “bag” Liz Claman and Eric Boling. They’ll join a line-up led by Director of Business News Alexis Glick. “Also being ‘courted’ are David Faber and Mark Haines and a well-known CNBC political commentator,” Kass writes.
He says that Bartiromo is off the “most wanted” list because she’s got a contract that extends into 2009.
Friedman, however, says that CNBC still seems spooked by the possibility of losing one of its money honeys.
“Of course, CNBC’s worst dream is that Bartiromo and/or Burnett becomes so disenchanted that one or both jumps to … the Fox Business Network. It’s a fair question as to whether CNBC can manage to keep its two anchors happy,” Friedman writes.
There are potential pitfalls when a successful organization boasts two stars. Remember, Shaq and Kobe helped the Los Angeles Lakers win three consecutive NBA championships not so long ago, but ultimately they weren’t content with sharing the limelight and the team fell apart. “Cheers” was once the most popular situation comedy on primetime TV, but Shelley Long bolted to become a movie star, as co-star Ted Danson got more acclaim.
Is CNBC big enough to accommodate two audience favorites? Does its public-relations department have enough tricks to make each one feel loved? If one falls behind in the Battle of Q Ratings – measuring popularity with the public — would she rush to find a new home?
Incidentally, we’re told that the alleged rivalry between Bartiromo and Burnett is very over-played. But you really can’t blame the fellas for dreaming that one day the Money Honey and the Street Sweetie will break into a cat fight on air. Or a pillow-fight. Or a mud-wrestling match. ‘G Phone’ and Other Street Chatter [The Street.com] Assessing Maria Bartiromo and Erin Burnett [Market Watch]
It seems like half of CNBC’s on air talent is on vacation this week. And, if you trust this story on today’s Page Six, it’s not a moment too soon.
The femmes have become a bit more fatale over at the business network, according to Page Six. There are apparently too many queen bees and too little honey in the hive of CNBC.
CNBC’S endless fawning over “Money Honey” Maria Bartiromo and her younger, fast-rising rival Erin Burnett has the network’s lesser-known finance femmes on the warpath.
A source says reporters including sexy blonde Melissa Francis, who covers energy, have complained to CNBC suits that while they get zip, Bartiromo and Burnett are treated like princesses – with massive promotion, regular gigs on the “Today” show and “NBC Nightly News,” perks such as limos and gushing quotes from network brass in newspaper articles.
“The catfight that started with Maria being jealous of Erin’s rise has spread down the line. Now all of the other female reporters are getting p – – – ed off,” our insider said.
“They’re going to management and telling them they want equal treatment – better public relations, better placement on the air. They are all being divas now. It’s gotten ridiculous.”
Page Six adds that “CNBC has muzzled Bartiromo, Burnett and Francis.” But an unnamed network flack denies everything. “That’s insane. It sounds like the jealousy is coming from outside the building,” the flack says.
This should probably be read with a bit of skepticism. To begin with, some of the details are wrong. Melissa Francis is the host of On The Money, not “an energy reporter.” More importantly, here at the DealBreaker Bunker we’ve got a pretty good idea about what goes on inside the Global HQ of CNBC and we haven’t heard anything about a “catfight.” The ordinary rivalry that goes on insider all networks—certainly. But this seems overstated.
After the jump, a very boring reading of the Page Six item and two crazed, conspiratorial readings.
Erin Burnett is lavished with praise by Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz. Ever since DealBreaker readers awarded her the top honors in our “Who Moves Your Market” poll, Burnett has come under increased scrutinyfawning from the press. But this is the longest, most in-depth profile to date. It’s pretty clear that Howie is a bit smitten with the Street Sweetie.
“The 31-year-old is razor sharp, works crazy hours, is comfortable discussing liquidity or collateralized debt obligations — and everyone keeps talking about her looks,” Kurtz writes before immediately talking about her looks. “Under the lights, in a smoky blue dress that matches her eyes as well as her shoes, her flowing dark hair perfectly teased, she is not exactly hard on the eyes.”
Kurtz rehashes what you already know: Chris Matthews ogling her, Jon Stewart mocking her, Rush Limbaugh praising her and the CNBC executives adoring her. Grew up on a Maryland farm. Played field hockey. Went to Williams. Worked at Goldman. But there’s plenty of new stuff. Which we read so you don’t have to. Wait Till We Get Our Haines On You
• Burnett on Haines: “We were like two dogs circling around.”
• Haines on Burnett”We hit it off immediately She’s very bright, funny. She’s not a diva. She understands the markets. She works like a dog. It’s just a ball to work with her.” Burnett On, Uhm, DealBreaker?
• “It’s been an immense responsibility,” she says. “We’ve been purveying facts rather than becoming part of the fear-mongering.” How Burnett Got Her Rapid-Fire, ‘Even Cramer Can’t Out Talk Me’ Banter Down Pat
• “After Burnett was promoted to a booker’s job, Citigroup recruited her to help create an online financial news service. It was there – ‘doing thousands of interviews that very few people watched,’ she says — that Burnett honed her skills. In 2003 she sent a tape to Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg’s editor in chief, and was hired for its business channel, where she received several months of voice coaching.” Burnett on Breakfast: Shorting It
• “She seems to subsist on little food, her sole intake before noon consisting of coffee and a bag of Sun-Maid dried apples, nibbled while Haines is doing the talking.” Burnett On What You Really Wanted To Know Anyway
• Burnett is tight-lipped on the subject [of whether she is married or has a boyfriend], saying only that she’s “in a relationship.” After a pause, she adds: “And it’s not with a woman.” Further interrogation reveals only that her beau works in financial services. Looking Good at CNBC (Pretty, Too) [Washington Post]
The people have spoken. In our totally unauthorized, unaffiliated, unscientific and unauthoritative poll for who should become the permanent anchor of CNBC’s midday show The Call, the clear winner is…
Well, let’s not rush into things. It was a hotly contested plebiscite at every level. In the end, the second place contender ended within striking distance of the first, just seven percent behind. A lot of the real action was in the second tier of contestants—Rebecca Jarvis, Trish Regan and Erin Burnett. They all finished within just a few points of each other.
Perhaps most surprising was the poor performance of Maria Bartiromo. Once the top star of the network, many of her fans seem to have deserted her. Or, you know, maybe they just don’t read DealBreaker.
After the jump, the progress and final results of the DealBreaker Reader Poll.
This is really getting exciting! The poll results have shifted dramatically since this morning. Melissa Francis is still in the lead but Becky Quick is living up to her name, coming up from behind with an amazing speed. (It may be that her stint hosting The Call with Trish Regan this morning helped boost her visibility with those of you who get to your desks too late to catch her on Squawk Box.)
Rebecca Jarvis, who was at the head of the pack just behind Francis this morning, has slipped down to the second tier with Erin Burnett and Trish Regan. Margaret Brennan follows a good distance behind. Maria Bartiromo and Michelle Caruso Carrerra are in the back of the pack.
We’re closing this poll down in one hour or so. Get your votes in now!
And, yes, we realize this is all a bit silly. But it’s a Friday in August. A quarter of our team has already checked out for the beach. The Dow is climbing slowly upward with the lightest volume of the year. It seems like a good time to enjoy ourselves by engaging in timed eating contests, smuggling hits from our flask while no one is looking and polling our readers about the women of CNBC.
The latest results and your chance to vote (if you haven’t already) after the jump!
A major upset seems to be in the works in our reader poll of which CNBC woman should get the job of hosting the Call, whch airs each day at 11 am. Melissa Francis and Rebecca Jarvis have taken the first and second place, beating both the Money Honey Maria Bartiromo and Street Sweetie Erin Burnett. Trish Regan, Becky Quick and Burnett are all jockeying in the second tier. Margaret Brennan trails then. Bringing up the rear, we have Bartiromo and Michelle Caruso Carrerra.
But all this could change. There is still time to vote for your favored anchor. After the jump, we bring you the poll and the latest results!