NBC has the only newscast that pays scrupulous daily attention to the fluctuations on Wall Street. With its specialist sibling financial network CNBC, NBC has a corporate interest in making the NYSE seem newsworthy. In 2006, for example, NBC paid more attention to the stock market than its rivals combined (68 min v ABC 22, CBS 39). But when stocks suffered their largest single-day sell-off since the fall of 2001, those differences dissolved. All three networks chose it as their lead and covered it with the same intensity.

Each newscast kicked off with a double-barreled lead: an alarming report by a financial correspondent followed by a reassuring interview with a market maven. The recent trend at NBC has been to assign most of the economic beat to the specialists at CNBC. This story was no exception. Cable anchor Maria Bartiromo had the lead--" the meltdown was fast and furious"--and in-house stock picker Jim Cramer (at the tail of the Bartiromo videostream), host of Mad Money, handled the follow-up: "I think it is a buy not a sell," he advised. "I would not be worried on Main Street."

CBS' Anthony Mason used the terms "disastrous" and "breathtaking" to describe the 416-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average after the stock market in Shanghai lost almost 9% of its wealth overnight. ABC's Betsy Stark (subscription required) called it a "plunge--a frightening reminder of how interconnected financial markets around the world really are and how quickly they can unravel."

For analysis, ABC and CBS turned to industry insiders. Floor trader Art Cashin of UBS opined that "worry is probably too strong a word…This is something to be watched," he told CBS' Katie Couric. "If it stays nervous then we are going to get nervous." On ABC Sam Stovall (no link) of Standard & Poors offered this jargon to anchor Charles Gibson: "Adjustments are likely to occur over the next couple of days but at best it is going to be a pullback or a correction and certainly not the beginning of a bear market."


Suddenly everyone wants to know what the Shanghai index is doing. This does look like an over correction but we shall see.

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