Only TV Reporter at the 1987 Crash

Monday, October 15, 2007 | 08:55 AM

Plunge_20071012_2 There is a terrific narrative by Jan Hopkins (Live From New York), who was the only reporter on the floor of the NYSE the day of the crash. She covered it live, and her reporting on the crash helped CNN win a Peabody Award.

Here are her recollections:

"At best, most people get to merely observe great events. On Oct. 19, 1987, I found myself the narrator of one. On that Black Monday, I was the only TV reporter broadcasting live throughout the day from the New York Stock Exchange.

That's quite a contrast with today, when telecasts from the floor are ubiquitous, and reporters seem to outnumber the NYSE's dwindling crew of specialists and traders. Although CNN didn't regularly report live from the exchange, we'd had a reporter there the previous Friday when the Dow had shed 108 points, or 4.6%. I was assigned to go to the exchange Monday, in case things got worse.

My producer, Barbara May, and I arrived well before the opening bell. Our cameraman, Jim Peithman, lowered wires out a window of the exchange balcony to our production truck, parked in an alley. For most of the day, I was on that balcony with Gary Miller, a Big Board employee assigned to keep an eye on us. His bosses decreed that we couldn't use camera lights because they might distract the traders and specialists.

The market was tense as stocks continued their fall from the week before. I did updates whenever a producer in Atlanta ordered one, each time calculating the Dow's slide by longhand with Barbara.

From where we stood, we couldn't see the monitors that the stock specialists used, and there were no huge plasma screens around the trading floor as there are now. Barbara used an internal phone to call the exchange's market-news desk for the latest reading on the Dow. Then, we did the math ourselves. We didn't have access to computers, and we hadn't brought calculators. By shortly after 2 p.m., we realized that the Dow had fallen more than 292 points, or 13%, to around 1950, a decline that eclipsed the market's previous worst one-day percentage swoon -- 12.82% on Oct. 28, 1929.

Until that juncture, I had been careful to stress that, despite the large point decline, this was nothing like the 1929 crash. But now it was worse. With its global satellite reach, CNN was broadcasting the story live around the world. What we reported and how we reported it had the potential to make a bad situation worse. I carefully chose my words and tone, and tried to avoid expressing fear. Still, I had to describe the panic developing below.

As the action intensified, the balcony became crowded with reporters and photographers, awaiting the closing bell. I remember a sign at the end of the day, indicating that the ticker was running several hours behind. Eventually, we learned that stocks had plummeted 22.6% -- that would be about a 3,100-point drop now -- to 1738.74. I remember the traders' uneaten lunches in paper bags. Most of all, I remember thinking that we had been part of history.

Richard Torrenzano, the Big Board's then-communications chief, recently told me he believes the media helped calm investors on Black Monday. That might have helped ease the way for the market recovery that soon began."

Quite fascinating . . .

Black Monday – Part II   
Barron's October 15, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007 | 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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I remember getting into the car after work and putting on WFAN. Paraphrasing, "The Dow Jones Indistrial Average fell 508 points today in heavy trading. Game 3 of the World Series is tonight...".

Posted by: The Dirty Mac | Oct 15, 2007 9:16:53 AM

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