Wall Street Week with Fortune, the PBS series that reinvented itself last year after a messy split with original host Louis Rukeyser, is setting itself further apart from its progenitor. The program sharpened its reporting this fall on the scandal-plagued financial markets while expanding its coverage to economic trends beyond Wall Street. Acknowledging the steady drumbeat of news about improper trading practices and corporate malfeasance, Executive Producer Larry Moscow wants WSW to reflect investors’ ire over scams that deflated their portfolios and retirement accounts. Investors, he observed, are now saying, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
“We want to put PBS at the vanguard of reporting on that rebellion by providing independent information about what’s going on,” Moscow said. “These are different times and we have to do things beyond sitting in the studio and talking about it.”
The shift in tenor was unmistakable in co-host Geoffrey Colvin’s introduction to the Nov.
It’s 8:30 p.m. Eastern time on CNBC, and four chimes are sounded. A series of images follow: George Washington in front of the New York Stock Exchange, the Statue of Liberty, the bronze bull in perpetual snarl at the tip of Manhattan. A few remote-control clicks away, four eerily similar chimes can be heard at the same time on PBS, ushering in a different flurry of stock footage. These images are less “top-down”: businessmen and businesswomen collaborating around a conference table and a spinning globe that morphs into the eye of a woman looking at her computer screen, as if to remind us of the hallucinatory effects of staring too long at stock charts. These two leading business programs — Louis Rukeyser’s Wall Street (the one with George Washington), and Wall $treet Week with Fortune (the one with the spinning globe) are as interrelated as inflation and interest rates.
One evening in London, in 1966, Anne Darlington, a Johns Hopkins graduate on a Fulbright Fellowship, was surprised to see Louis Rukeyser, then chief of ABC’s London bureau, on a BBC interview program. She remembered him as a writer for her hometown newspapers, the Baltimore Evening Sun and the Sun. Four years later, in January 1970, Darlington was preparing a TV series on sports fishing for the fledgling Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting when someone at a Baltimore cocktail party suggested that a series on economics and financial management might be more appropriate. One of the Center’s executives scribbled the idea on a piece of paper and gave it to Darlington, adding, “Do you think you can do anything with this?” She thought she could.