Snits Undermine CNBC's Reputation

Today, CNBC’s Joe Kernin shredded a copy of the NY Times on camera, in a snit over the NYT’s coverage of the now-famous Rick Santelli incident.

Kernin objected to an article written by Brian Stelter which said CNBC promoted the incident.

Kernin also complained about all the NYT coverage of the incident.

The problem is: Stelter was exactly right. CNBC was only too happy to draw attention to Santelli’s tirade and sister broadcast net, NBC, helped fuel interest.

Said Stelter: “Once upon a time, cable channels were embarrassed by on-air outbursts or other anchor antics. Now, some are glad to post the video clips on the Internet as quickly as possible to maximize publicity and Web traffic….within minutes, CNBC posted the clip on and promoted it on the network’s home page.”

To top it off, NBC cross-promoted the incident. NBC played up Santelli’s rant by featuring it that evening on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams - at the top of the hour.

While ABC and CBS evening news ignored the Santelli clip (understandably now wanting to draw attention to their competitor) CNBC and NBC reportage was a little frenzied, almost giving the appearance of a hidden agenda to push the idea of a public groundswell.

What I did see of ABC and CBS coverage, the nets appeared to be taking a measured, cautious approach. They did not appear to be pushing the idea of a big public groundswell against the stimulus plan.

Without good polling, it’s difficult to know if there really is a revolt against the new administration’s plan to rescue homeowners. The discussion is heated, by those who bother to post about such things.

But as of last Tuesday, Gallup reported that support for the stimulus plan was growing - up to 59%

So, it’s a little disingenuous of Kernin to complain about the NY Times when it seems that the NBC Universal machine swung into action.

CNBC’s nova of publicity has a downside. First, it’s unseemly and unfair to single out the NY Times, especially an article by Brian Stelter - a credible, careful reporter.

Secondly, with this recent spate of dramatics, the cable net risks undermining their most valuable asset - their brand, a vaunted and (mostly) well-deserved reputation as the network where viewers turn for the familiar, steady hand of expertise and guidance.

The snit is here, on the CNBC website.