RIP Mark Haines, seven years later (Biz Cable Perspective)

Since the passing of CNBC’s Squawk Box anchor Mark Haines, business cable has also gone down the tubes while the markets have continued to go up.

His passing marked a new beginning in the era of personalities, you know news “anchors” with opinion and perfect delivery, with a Joe On the Street attitude.

Mark Haines was a man who looked out for the average investor, but came off as a professional news anchor. If any Squawk geeks remember the days at their Fort Lee, New Jersey studios, he was a goofball. He was threatened many times by “management” to be fired, but a GE board would send a fax to the offices across the Hudson sticking up for the man while managers would go MIA. Other times, he would have fallout hats when a foreign markets would go down, potentially insulting the viewer in that region.

He was funny, humorous, and had the opinions, after he did his research.

Most importantly, he was known for his aggressive interviewing style of CEOs or anyone in power. This was the skill he learned in law school before going into TV journalism. I always thought the best anchors had prosecutorial backgrounds. A lot of seasoned professionals in journalism or Corporate America thought he was mean to them. He treated people as if they were no different than anyone else.

The best moments of his career, was the end. Just a week before his passing, Cisco had really historical bad quarter. It was so bad even the street and other business press was speculating if Cisco bought Juniper, Brocade and all the other networking gear companies if that would boost the company. Johnny Boy Chambers (as I like to call him) got grilled by Haines in the middle of the interview with the statement stating things like leadership problems and not blaming the sector as a whole. This lead Chambers into an awkward position. Sadly this was his last quarterly interviews with CEOs as Cisco, being a bellwether IP networking company to be the last company to report.

The interview was so great, I watched it numerous of times.

When I watched the interview for the 15th time, I saw a link on CNBC.com stating “Mark Haines 1942-2011”. I thought it was some bad misprint, then I read the post, and I couldn’t believe it. His long time co-anchor Erin Burnett left earlier that month to go and start her 7:00 show on CNN. He had been doing the NYSE program since early 2006 to evade dealing with managers who didn’t like him in New Jersey. That was why they set up shop there at the time.

His legacy still lives on to the people who admire business news. I didn’t care for his admiration to Bob “I’m always” Wright and his affiliation to Autism Speaks. In lieu of flowers, they recommend the loyalists to give to his charity of choice.

I still respect the man. Since his passing, cable news is a joke. It’s extremely political, CNBC accelerated 2 minute reports, that are so quick, the reporters can’t get it out of their mouths fast enough; followed by the debates against a bull vs a bear, or it it’s political, they need to have a GOP and a Democrat debate, and make a big deal if they agree. CNBC has less journalistic output when they were in that signature office building just off the GWB prior to 2003.

The other issue of his legacy was the degrading of personalities. Nowadays you have “journalists” who often give opinions and have more charisma. I’m talking about people like Stuart Varney, who thinks his English accent can woo viewers. Neil Cauvto on the other hand acts so much like a civilian, but a person on TV should know more than you by nature of default.

Personalities on cable news, are just if they can do a talk, and walk with their joe shome opinions, then that will bring viewers.

Going back to Mark Haines, he had that same status inside and didn’t share it on the outside, while it was his job to focus on the markets like any business cable network should be covering. Another thing was Mark Haines didn’t take himself seriously but took his job seriously. NYSE floor reporter Bob Pisani said he treated his Squawk show as his “gig”. In 2011, the word “gig” might had more class. Today, many of the CNBC and FNC people is like talk radio on TV. Music isn’t special theme packages, with an aggressive news or market swings, no it’s Top 40 music. Anchors read the market quotes as if it’s no big deal. Too many people latch on to these “talents” as if they are really their real life friend. People lost part of somebody like an extended member of the family in 2011, but someone else passes, people would take it even more seriously.

Long have we treated air talent and the viewers as their “TV friends” or as the late Fred Rogers would say “my television neighbor”. The relationships aren’t just friendly, but on the same social strata and the style and subtle delivery over institutional knowledge about market, domestic or global events trumps anything else.  Mixing politics all the time on a 4:00 post market coverage like traders want to talk politics on the floor like they do with sports. Very realistic.

I like being informed, and educated and cable news, while it never always followed the traditional norms of broadcast TV, nowendays you can’t even get that anymore. His passing, his professionalism and delivery was all a void that became missing 7 years to the day, and no one is willing to at least fill that void, rather than replace him alltogether.

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