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CNBC Finds Unique Ways to Cover Financial Turmoil

With our economy going through serious tumult, plenty of viewers are tuning in to CNBC to see how their stocks are holding up, and what’s next in terms of the coronavirus’ effect on our nation’s financial well being.

Facing stiff challenges to its traditional workflow, CNBC is getting creative to get the word out. The network is relying on 40 padcaster kits that allow reporters to go on air remotely. One inserts an iPad into the padcaster, which provides connectivity, camera and lighting for effective remote shots.

Dan Colarusso, senior VP of CNBC Business News, said CNBC obtained a lone padcaster a few months ago to test. “We always look for, one, good failsafes, and two, less expensive ways to go remote,” he said.

COVID-19: The Story of a Lifetime

Speaking March 25, Colarusso said CNBC’s Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey headquarters has less than 100 people in it day to day, down from its usual several hundred. “It’s a remarkably empty office,” he said.

Sections of the office are thoroughly cleaned, and then roped off. “We’re trying to give people a little piece of mind,” said Colarusso. “The whole thing seems to be very random, so you try to cut out whatever randomness you can.”

He said CNBC has selected a dedicated team to deploy “if all goes to hell” in Englewood Cliffs. Consisting of an executive producer, a few producers, and a few on-air hosts, they are kept at home. “If they ever need to be deployed somewhere else, we have the ability to bring them there,” he said.

Colarusso misses kicking around random story ideas on the fly. Most communication these days is planned well in advance. “It requires a lot more structure, and in this news cycle, it kind of becomes an obstacle course,” he said. “There are no deal-breakers, but it does make things a little more regimented and makes the improvisation that creates a great news cycle just a little bit harder.”

CNBC has a “secret weapon,” said Colarusso, in Scott Gottlieb, who announced his sign-off as FDA commissioner earlier this month. “We thought he was a smart guy with a lot of smart takes on things we care about covering,” said Colarusso, so the network signed him to a contributors deal. “He’s become one of the most reasonable expert voices on all this stuff.”

Clear communication with staff has been vital, said Colarusso, even regarding fairly trivial office matters. “People understand that when you pay attention to the little things, you pay attention to the big things,” he said. “People are a bit fraught by what’s going on, but they feel like the audience needs them more than ever. That’s a big motivating factor.”