Remembering Mark Haines


Does anyone really like a curmudgeon?

Mark Haines SzelhamosApparently so, because the truth about a deep down “softie” came out yesterday in the aftermath of the sudden passing of Mark Haines. We got a glimpse of that part barely 2 weeks ago when Mark Haines bid farewell to his broadcast partner, Erin Burnet.

The difficult task of making the on air announcement fell to Carl Quintinilla, who was choking back tears as we all sat stunned at the news. Newsmen don’t usually do that sort of thing. They’re stoic, unbiased and without on-air passion.

To break through that facade there has to be a very deep and personal connection.

CNBC did a wonderful impromptu job in remembrance of a bigger than life on air personality in the world of business news. Uncharacteristically, they recognized the continued existence of some past on-air personalities, such as Ted David and Liz Claman, by passing on their words of condolence.

These days, I rarely watch CNBC after 6:59 PM, but tonight had to be different. Last night, their 7 PM show, remembering the life and work of Mark Haines was truly in the spirit of NBC’s past, “Must see TV”.

As an inveterate and addicted CNBC viewer, I used to start off my mornings with Mark Haines, Joe Kernen and David Faber.

I was disappointed when that entertaining trio was split up, but came to realize that Haines could entertain on his own.

He entertained by being unlike anyone else on air. He didn’t fawn over self-anointed experts or personalities du-jour. He asked probing questions and had very expressive body language, never seeking to mask his real thoughts.

Everyone is remembering a classic interview with Barney Frank. In fact, it was ironic that Bill Griffeth, such a genuinely nice man, was called upon to interview Barney Frank this afternoon.

Can you take a guess what kind of mood Frank was in when even slightly pressed?

As a liberal Democrat, I typically agree with Frank’s positions on issues, but I just can’t stomach his personna and pomposity. Although power hasn’t corrupted Frank professionally, it certainly has done so on a personal level.

Who would ever think that two seemingly disparate people like Mark Haines and Stephen Colbert could be joined together in a non-partisan demonstration of just how pompous Frank really was?

Mark Haines and Stephen Colbert? One was precisely what you saw on air, the other a comedic parody, but with similar aim and goals.

Except that while Colbert goes for “truthiness”, Haines went for “truth”

The man was never fazed, although sometimes he would lean back in that chair with a characteristic look of disbelief.

“Did that guy really say I what I think he said and with a straight face?”

Mark Haines obviously respected the intelligence of his viewers and the truth.

When was the last time you could say that about anyone on TV, where the superficiality is so overwhelming? In a “me me me” generation and industry, Haines stood out.

Definitely nothing superficial about him.

And yet, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, in obviously an unrelated post, the world goes on.

Yesterday my son left for Army basic training. I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer once my wife and I got back into the car. I did handle myself better when I had to make a late night run to his Army supplied hotel room to drop off his Blackberry recharger. It was like a bonus round for me.

This morning, when the news came, I had no tears, yet still a surprisingly overwhelming feeling of loss. The kind you have when you know there will be no bonus round.

Maybe it was the kinship over the New York Mets, maybe harness racing, maybe bringing Barney Frank down a peg or seven.

Whatever it was, he will be missed by so many. For me, it means that more of my TV watching will now become background noise. It never was when Mark Haines was on air.

I remember that when Szelhamos passed away, I was so grateful that my own children had gotten the great gift of knowing him.

Both of my sons are interested in investing, the oldest just having made his first entry into the markets last week. Neither are at the CNBC stage of their lives though and neither will see the likes of Mark Haines again.

Eveyone needs someone to be brutally honest with them and open their eyes. Haines did that every day. Reminds me of the scene in Moonstruck when Cher slaps Nicholas Cage in the face and says “Snap out of it”. Except that instead of being a single scene, it was day in and day occurrence

When Mark arrives at the pearly gates, I would love to see his take and the questions he slings at St. Peter.

If anyone can get to the bottom of what awaits us, it’ll be Mark Haines.


POSTSCRIPT: During an invited visit to CNBC in November 2011, I had an opportunity to see the sincere reverence with which Mark Haines was held by long time employees. What you see on the air, whenever his name is mentioned is the real thing.



POSTSCRIPT May 24, 2012: On the one year anniversary of Mark Haines’ passing, CNBC commemorated his memory, including showing his portrait that hangs in the New York Stock Exchange. On this day, coincidentally it was once again time to send my son for the next phase of his Army “Advanced Individual Training.” This time, a year later there were no tears. Time changes so many things. AS in the case of remembering Mark Haines, the on-air reflections evolved, but were no less touching. A year later, Mark Haines is still missed by many