Hudson: I hope to be at Nightly Business Report for 30 years as well
TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
Tom Hudson became the co-anchor of Miami-based “Nightly Business Report” on PBS stations in early January, replacing Paul Kangas, who had been an anchor on the show for its first 30 years.
Hudson came from the Midwest. He previously was at Chicago-based “First Business,” where Hudson played a leading role in steering the show’s editorial direction both on-air and online. Previously, Hudson was an anchor for WebFN.com, a news anchor at WMAQ Radio in Chicago, and news director at the Quad Cities Radio Group in Davenport, Iowa.
At “Nightly Business Report,” Hudson is part of an overhaul of the show aimed at updating its appearance.
Hudson talked with Talking Biz News by e-mail about his career and about what’s happening at “Nightly Business Report.” What follows is an edited transcript.
1. How did you first get interested in business journalism?
I’ve been an investor since buying my first mutual fund at 19. While a general news radio reporter, it became quickly obvious to me that finance plays a key role in covering school board meetings, elections and even natural disasters. At WMAQ-AM in Chicago, I was asked to contribute to its Noon Business Hour, which at the time was a unique program on an all-news radio station. From there I began covering finance and the markets full-time. Being in Chicago, I spent the first several years concentrating on derivatives such as futures and options. It was an immediate graduate-level introduction to finance.
2. What do you like and dislike about covering business?
The constant challenge for television is bringing the numbers to life. So much of economic and financial reporting can concentrate only on the numbers. It is our responsibility as broadcast journalists to use our creativity and reporting skills to provide context, accessibility and meaningful images that complement the data. Succeeding on that challenge is very rewarding. Many times business journalists can fall prey to the process story. There’s a cyclical nature to business reporting with the monthly economic reports and quarterly earnings results. We have to constantly push ourselves to go deeper, be more perceptive and insightful than simply parroting the data.
3. How is TV business journalism different than print?
What’s the best video to show inflation? How do you visually represent quantitative easing? Television business journalism is challenged by finding meaningful methods to visualize what are essentially concepts. We can better incorporate techniques our print colleagues use successfully such as finding better narratives to illustrate these concepts and give voice to people making up the faceless financial data.
4. What is it like replacing someone like Paul Kangas after he was in the spot for 30 years?
Paul was gracious with his time and insights during the short six weeks we worked together. I didn’t replace Paul. I succeeded him. We have brought different backgrounds and experiences to the position. As an original member of the NBR team, Paul could not have been replaced and I never aimed to do that. Instead, we hope to build upon the tradition of excellence Paul helped build for NBR.
5. What’s the biggest thing you’ve had to adjust to while working on Nightly Business Report?
It has been a welcome adjustment to a bigger staff and more resources. While certainly not a large staff, NBR’s size and reach is larger than that of my previous position with First Business TV.
6. The show also made some changes when you joined. What’s been the reaction so far?
It is reassuring to hear from so many audience members about their passion for NBR, its mission and its traditions. Many have provided constructive critiques regarding technical aspects of the changes (graphics, music, etc.) and we are listening, considering and responding to those helpful comments. For instance, we recently brought back our daily graphic of NYSE and NASDAQ volume. Some have been extremely supportive of the “re-freshening” of the NBR brand and have asked why it took so long. And there are others who have been very critical of me and the program’s other changes. I am reminded of a Henry Kaiser quote: “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.”
7. What’s the biggest pet peeve you have about business news coverage?
Business news coverage shouldn’t be limited to just “business news”. It’s news. The last two years have proven again that the biggest story out there is about money. We can always do a better job of making economic data, market information, corporate details, government policies, business practices and other financial intelligence more accessible and interesting to a wider audience.
8. How can NBR continue to adapt to maintain viewer interest?
NBR will continue to focus on humanizing and analyzing the crush of financial and economic data that comes at our viewers every day. We will provide a deeper context than just stock prices and economic statistics. We will hold the powerful accountable. And we will tell stories that are meaningful, consequential and applicable to the lives of our viewers.
9. Do you see NBR as competing against CNBC and Fox Business? Why or why not?
In one sense, I do not view CNBC and Fox Business as competitors. They have more time to fill, are covering the market in real time and are distributed differently (cable TV vs. broadcast). NBR has less than 30 minutes five days a week to inform, enlighten and empower our audience to the ever-dynamic world of money. At the same time, we also have the ability to step back from the market minutiae and focus on bigger themes developing. In another sense, all media are competitors. We compete with a multitude of content for an audiences’ attention.
10. Will you last 30 years in this position like Kangas?
I hope so. It’s up to the viewers. I can only imagine how the economy and business journalism will change in the next three decades. I hope to play a part.
11. What do you tell your sons when they get up early in the morning on weekends?
Shhhh. Don’t wake up mom.