1970 – Louis Rukeyser begins a weekly television show on PBS called Wall Street Week.
Louis Rukeyser’s journalism career began in the 1950s, and he spent more than a decade at the Baltimore Sun as a political and foreign correspondent. He left the newspaper for a job at ABC News, where he began covering business and economics stories in 1968, before Levine began his stint covering the same beat at NBC. Rukeyser had developed a number of economic specials for ABC, but found that network executives weren’t as interested in his coverage as other correspondents. “The trouble with most television executives and producers is they think the economy is too dull and too complicated to do on TV,” Rukeyser said after he left the network. “And that happens to be nonsense.” Two years later, he began a show on the Public Broadcasting System called Wall Street Week. By 1973, the show had become so popular that Rukeyser left ABC to devote his full-time attention to it. The show became a fixture on PBS channels around the country.
Every Friday night, Wall Street Week was taped at Maryland Public Television, with Rukeyser and a group of investment professionals talking about the market, individual stocks, the economy and other business-related matters that concerned Wall Street. Rukeyser became known for his puns and his dry wit, and the show attracted millions of watchers. What was so interesting was how Rukeyser structured the show to cater to the average viewer. “The prevailing view is that the subject of economics is too dull and/or too complicated to hold an audience larger than the capacity of your average phone booth,” he said. “I think that’s nonsense. I think there is a hunger in the American public for clear, believable, understandable, usable pocketbook information.”
Initially, the show ran for 30 weeks, but expanded to 35 weeks in 1972 and became a year-round program in 1973. Each week, Rukeyser and three investment experts discussed whatever had happened during the previous week. Rukeyser would provide the review, and then the panelists would offer some commentary. Viewer questions were answered. When responding to a question from a viewer about whether to invest in a hairpiece manufacturer, Rukeyser responded, “If all your money seems to be hair today and gone tomorrow, we’ll try to make it grow by giving you the bald facts on how to get your investments toupee.”
The host prided himself on representing the views of his viewers, not those of his guests. In 1989, one of his panelists, Robert Nurock, who had been on the show for 19 years, quit because he claimed Rukeyser wouldn’t let him freely speak about the market.