When I was home over Spring Break a few weeks back, I found myself watching a lot of MSNBC. That wasn't surprising. I've watched quite a bit of MSNBC in the past six months, starting just before the 2006 elections and watching Hardball, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and Scarborough Country regularly ever since. I'd been a fan of Keith Olbermann's since his SportsCenter days and remember being in high school watching his then-MSNBC show The Big Show to catch up on the days headlines.
What was surprising though was that I started watching more CNBC than I ever had before. I've always been a casual (at the very least) observer of the stock market. My grandfather got me started with stocks before I was 10, somehow convincing his stock broker to allow me to purchase five shares of Electronics Arts (should have held on to that one) or ten shares of Topps Trading Card Company (held on to that one too long even when I knew Upper Deck was the true premium trading card of my generation). I always found the market interesting, and while my interest has ebbed and flowed over the past decade and a half, I've always had the market in the back of my head.
Then I started watching Jim Cramer's Mad Money. What a great show. Cramer, the former Goldman analyst, wildly successful hedge-fund manager, and all around, self-described, crazy-man, hosts a show where he goes over the market in detail. Which stocks he likes, which he doesn't, and when he isn't screaming, throwing things at the cameras, and pressing one of a few dozen sound effect buttons (no -- I'm not kidding) he actually makes a lot of sense. So much so I bought and read his autobiography, Confessions of a Street Addict and became an ever bigger Cramer fan.
But, Cramer's Mad Money is not the only CNBC show I've been watching. Lately, the 2:00-3:00 show (which, coincidentally features Cramer's "Stop Trading" segment @ 2:40) has been really good, covering the market downturn and upturn and downturn again with good interviews and analysis. It's hosted by Erin Burnett, and if anything has struck me since I've increased my CNBC viewership it is how underrated Burnett is and how overrated supposed CNBC star Maria Bartiromo is.
Maria's fine, don't get me wrong. She's a fine journalist, and she does a good job. But, she's also kind of annoying. And, maybe it's because I don't watch CNBC all day (Lately I've been watching from 2:00-3:00 and catching Cramer's Mad Money at 11:00, and I'll watch The Big Idea if I'm around and nothing else is going on) and I haven't watched CNBC a whole lot during the past few years (so I've missed Maria's rise to the top) but I just don't see what the big deal is.
But, I do think, especially given the recent controversy surrounding Bartiromo involving some improper dealings with Citigroup, it wouldn't be the worst idea for CNBC to start thinking about a successor to their "superstar" anchor. Burnett would be great choice. On her afternoon show, Street Signs, she comes off as very personable, very intelligent, and has a great rapport with both the people she interviews and with Jim Cramer during their daily segment.
While NBC may consider Maria the true 'star' of the network, keep your eye on Burnett. She's a natural at the anchor desk and I think she'll continue to rise up the CNBC heirachy. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's almost 6:00 and I've got Mad Money and Jim Cramer to watch.