Missouri grad Hoffman credited with CNBC turnaround

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 | 12:30 p.m. CDT; updated 12:02 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 11, 2008

COLUMBIA — In 2005, when Mark Hoffman became president of CNBC, ratings were at an all-time low.

Three years later, Fortune magazine named CNBC the top business news channel.


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Hoffman's leadership skills have been cited as one reason for the station's turnaround.

He will be part of a "President's Roundtable" at 1 p.m. Friday in Jesse Auditorium where global communication leaders will discuss how communciation is changing in the era of digital media. The program is part of the School of Journalism's Centennial Dedication.

Hoffman, a 1980 graduate of the school, is on the panel with Carol Loomis, the senior editor of Fortune magazine; Susan Bostrom, a leading executive at Cisco; Ralph de la Vega, the president of AT&T Mobility; David Dorman, Motorola's board chairman, as well as others.

Hoffman rehabilitated CNBC using journalistic skills and business practices he honed over a 28-year career as a broadcast news executive at stations in Europe, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

Accuracy and accountability are critical when considering how many viewers depend on CNBC to make financial decisions, he said.

When asked if CNBC is a regulatory force upon the market, Hoffman said, "We're not in the business of regulating markets, we're in the business of delivering news and information that is balanced."

To maintain this balance, Hoffman said, CNBC has raised the bar in the quality and the amount of information presented.

"We bring in over 850 various experts a week to millions of homes across the world," he said. "That qualitative debate is where our audience can gain the most out of our coverage."

Hoffman urges his team to maintain four qualities in stories - speed, accuracy, actionability and an absence of bias.

"If we can hit those four things, then (CNBC) is going to be one source people can use, count on and trust," he said.

The numbers show that many viewers have chosen CNBC to be their primary business news source.

Nielsen reported earlier this year that CNBC netted an average of 310,000 U.S. viewers daily. When taking into account international CNBC stations, and the fact that many businessmen and women tune in from work, daily viewership jumps into the millions, Fortune magazine reported.

Hoffman said he makes sure his team stays focused on its niche in order to maintain the dominant position.

"The economy is certainly at the center of what we do every day," he said. "It's in the center of the presidential election.

"There's many a big story that's been broken because people have followed the money."

One of the first key interviews with Sarah Palin was done by CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo, for example. Palin talked about energy economics a few days before she was selected as the Republican vice presidential candidate.

In the interview, Palin reportedly said that she and McCain had been "talking."

"We have to be sure to stay hyper-focused on politics of finance and business," Hoffman said, in part "because we are the business and economics team that NBC News uses."

Another reason Hoffman is cited as an influence on the success of CNBC is his talent at finding and maintaining valuable employees.

"There is no substitution for experience and no substitution for hard work," he said.

"I think personality is important. You start with those four qualities, but then you have to make a program, you have to make a show. You have got to bring value and bring interest, personalities and (debate) do that."

Jim Cramer, host of "Mad Money," one of CNBC's most popular shows, is such a personality, Hoffman said.

"Cramer is the whole package. He is brilliant, has an insatiable appetite for knowledge ... and he is a great performer and educator."

Hoffman also said that in order to be successful "you've got to know your customer and know your niche, but mainly you've got to create quality, and that is a great recipe for success."

He said his journalism education provided the foundation for his successes.

"Missouri was spectacular for me, and what I loved the most was the hands-on nature of the curriculum," he said. "It was an equal balance of quality and practice, and all that is extraordinary when you marry that to exemplary teachers. It made for a great experience."

For more information about the Centennial Celebration, click here.




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