Anchors Aweigh!

We rate TV’s business anchors.

The Dow is back from the dead, mutual funds are humming — and suddenly, watching biz news on television seems fun again. Here is Fast Company‘s guide to the suits behind the stock feeds.

Who Lou Dobbs
Anchor, Lou Dobbs Tonight (CNN and CNNfn)
Lawrence Kudlow
Cohost, Kudlow & Cramer (CNBC)
Maria Bartiromo
NYSE reporter (CNBC)
Geoff Colvin
Cohost, Wall $treet Week With Fortune (PBS)
Neil Cavuto
Host, Your World With Neil Cavuto and Cavuto on Business (Fox)
Our Take One word: Dobbs has all of the credentials that a serious money-desk anchor could hope for: white hair, a Harvard degree, 20 years of news experience, and really nice cuff links. He’s the dean of TV business personalities. So why did he have to chase Internet gold with an idea considered loopy even by 1999 standards? Dobbs is back, but he seems cheapened. A fire-breathing supply-sider who did time in the Reagan White House. But he’s no corporate shill: Kudlow so insistently pounded Merrill Lynch for its involvement with Enron that the brokerage switched its video feed from CNBC to the kinder, gentler Bloomberg TV. Kudlow and cohost James Cramer (pet name: “Sweaty & Nutty”) have one of the more colorful shows on the tube. The “money honey” was biz TV’s “it” girl in the 1990s. But when the boom went bust, critics labeled poor Maria a shameless tease. Make no mistake though: Bartiromo is smart and relentless. And after 10 years covering the Exchange, she is one of the chosen few who enjoy exclusive media access to the Exchange floor. The other hacks are stuck in the broadcasting booth. From Rukeyser to Colvin: dull to duller. Colvin isn’t the hippest cat on the block (hence his cooler cohost, Karen Gibbs). But hand it to Fortune’s editorial director: He knows his stuff. His show is a lot like C-Span: not much glitz, but packed with substance. A recent segment involved throwing darts with Princeton’s Burton Malkiel. The boys at the Harvard Club busted a gut over that gag! Like any good Fox News guy, Cavuto’s take on business — or on anything really — derives from the essential philosophy, “Liberals are idiots!” And in the Fox tradition, he’s unafraid to go for low-hanging fruit. (“So, Christie Hefner, why does your perverted father parade around in his jammies? It can’t be good for Playboy’s sales, can it?” Cavuto didn’t actually say that, but he came close.) Never boring.
FC Rating 2.5 (out of 4)
Points deducted for trying to reclaim former glory.
Blustery, but has an insider feel.
An attractive woman in a world of pasty white guys. What’s not to love?
Dry, but thorough.
Please, turn the volume down.
Viewership Strong. The show boasts 716,000 nightly viewers — blessed numbers for struggling CNN. At 241,000 viewers per night, the show at least fares better than Tina Brown’s. The duo’s ratings hew closely to the trajectory of CNBC’s. Rebounding — but CNBC’s average daytime viewership has dropped from 370,000 in 2000 to 279,000. Rukeyser drew more than a million viewers on Friday nights. Fortune‘s re-creation draws 700,000 — and word is that sponsors aren’t rushing in with support. Sky high. Cavuto’s show ranks 27th among cable shows, drawing 3.4 million viewers.