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Monday, Jul 15, 2024


JASON BOOTH Staff Reporter When Sue Herera first read about NBC’s plans to launch a cable financial channel, she figured it might be time for a change. She had made her mark as an anchor at L.A.’s Financial News Network, but there were growing rumors that FNN was having money troubles. “They kept changing banks and doing inventories of computers over and over again,” Herera said. So after a brief phone conversation with the new network’s chairman, Herera was on a plane for New York. Eventually, so were two of her L.A.-based colleagues, Bill Griffeth and Ron Insana. Today, all three are household names among Wall Street insiders and small-time investors alike, on what’s become one of the most important voices for business journalism CNBC. It’s a long way from California State University, Northridge, where the three first met as students. In fact, Herera and Griffeth first began working together at CSUN’s radio station, KCSN, in the late ’70s. That means that the pair have been on the air together for almost 20 years. And both have recently signed new five-year contracts with CNBC. Insana attended CSUN a few years after the others, studying with Herera’s sister, Brigid McMahon, who is now a director at CNBC. After graduation, the trio split up, only to find themselves working together again at FNN. “We never intended to all end up working together. But at the time, there were not that many jobs in television journalism and FNN was offering full-time work and insurance, which was almost unheard of at the time,” Herera said. Going on the air with people you have known and worked with for nearly 20 years has its advantages, especially when it’s live television. “We know enough about each other that the process becomes intuitive and we know each other’s next move,” said Insana. Added Herera: “You work up terrific relationships which in television is essential because our viewers tend to watch us for a long time. You become in a way family for them.” In addition to their duties as anchors, all three host their own half-hour programs Griffeth with “Power Lunch,” which focuses on offbeat news stories and company news; Insana with “Street Signs,” which scrutinizes the final hours of trading on the stock market; and Herera with “The Edge,” a look ahead at news which may affect trading the following day. It’s a far cry from FNN, which Herera and Griffeth joined in 1981. Both worked behind the scenes as producers before going in front of the camera. Insana joined FNN after graduating from CSUN’s School of Radio, Television and Film in 1984. Ironically, none of the three studied business or had any intention of specializing in business journalism. But they were entering the profession at a time when a growing number of baby boomers were beginning to invest in the financial markets. FNN was one of the nation’s earliest financial news outlets (and the first to feature a continuous ticker-tape running across the bottom of the screen). It fast became the nation’s premier business television channel in the early and mid-1980s. But due to increased competition and questionable accounting practices, FNN ran into financial difficulties in the late 1980s and eventually was bought by CNBC in 1991. Griffeth and Insana rejoined Herera on the air. They were the lucky ones. Once the acquisition was completed, about 250 of FNN’s 300 employees were laid off. But Herera and the others point out that FNN’s legacy is very much alive at CNBC. CNBC’s original focus was soft business news intended for consumers. In fact, CNBC is an acronym for Consumer News and Business Channel. But with the acquisition of FNN, CNBC shifted its emphasis to serious financial news. “Its funny. We look around CNBC and see how like FNN it has become,” said Griffeth.

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