NBC's Latest Financial Expert: 'Mad' Cramer

     With increased volatility in the stock markets, business coverage has been front and center for the major newscasts. But NBC has made an interesting choice of who’s reporting it.


     The “NBC Nightly News” can draw from a deep pool of CNBC business reporters, but it has continually featured “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer. Cramer has appeared on the “Nightly News” five times in 2007 and eight times on the “Today” show.


     However, analysis in an article in the August 20 Barron’s written by Bill Alpert showed some weaknesses in his expertise as a stock picker in addition to other recent antics.


     “Last spring, he was giddily exhorting the Dow Jones Industrial Average toward 15,000, with no troubles in sight. Earlier this month, as the Dow tumbled in the direction of 13,000, he had an on-air meltdown, complete with screaming, sobs and predictions of financial doom,” wrote Alpert.


     Beyond Cramer’s infamous meltdown on August 6 and his admission in December 2006 on TheStreet.com (NASDAQ:TSCM), a financial Web site he launched in 1996, of manipulating the press to influence the markets when he was working at a hedge fund, he’s not an all-knowing stock guru.


     Alpert’s scrutiny of Cramer was greeted by an uncooperative CNBC: “When we asked Cramer and CNBC for their own records of Mad Money’s stock-picking performance, they had more excuses than a Tour de France cyclist dodging a blood test,” wrote Alpert.


     Alpert showed Cramer’s stock picks, albeit on the plus-side, aren’t beating the Dow and S&P indexes – a benchmark for picking stocks.


     Barron’s reported Cramer’s stock picks have lagged at a gain of 12 percent over the last two years versus 22 percent for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, 16 percent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 and 14 percent for the NASDAQ for the same time period. But CNBC insisted it isn’t the role of the show to pick stocks.


     “They [CNBC officials] said that the show is mainly educational, and not just about stock-picking,” wrote Alpert.  “In the end, they said we should focus only on the tiny universe of stock selections – about 12 a week – that Cramer researches the most. And we should do it only for the issues picked this year.”


     So if Cramer’s show is primarily educational, why is he regarded the “go-to guy” when it comes any dramatic shift in the financial world?