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]