Lunch with Paul Kangas, Nightly Business Report

Paul Kangas

I remember one specific lunch with Paul Kangas. Silly, isn’t it? I spent a fair amount of time with Paul during the many years I was associated with public television’s Nightly Business Report. That included several meals with a man who, among many other things, appreciated good food and drink. Why would one particular lunch stand out?

It was 1990. A year before I had moved from Chicago, my hometown, where I worked for CBS, NBC, and as a freelance contributor for NBR, to New York. Here I was NBR’s New York Bureau Chief and Senior Correspondent. Paul had been with NBR since it first went on the air in 1979. A former stockbroker, Paul was at first the broadcast’s stock commentator. Later he added co-anchor to his role.

But Paul was so much more than his title implies. On a broadcast that itself defined a new role for business news on television, Paul set the standard for both the program and the industry.

In those pre-Internet days, Paul’s nightly review of stock market quotes and news was a crucial source of information for investors, especially individual investors taking control of their savings and retirement plans.

But while Paul may have focused first on the individual investors he championed, and avoided Wall Street clichés and jargon like the plague, his “Stocks in the News” and Friday “Market Monitor” interview segments were must-see-tv throughout the financial community. He was renowned and respected on both Wall Street and main street.

Which brings me back to that lunch. Paul had come to New York to record segments for a special broadcast, “How Wall Street Works”, at the New York Stock Exchange. The special went on to win numerous awards and was the first of a series of educational videos released by NBR and our best seller. The program was the product of our terrific senior producer, Jack Kahn. But the star power came from Paul who tied it all together with his intros and interviews. My little contribution was a piece on the mechanics of how a stock is actually traded.

As it turned out, Paul told me we were both joining Bill LeFevre for lunch. Bill was a Wall Street legend in his own right. A senior analyst at New York brokerage Ehrenkrantz King Nussbaum, LeFevre was a frequent Market Monitor guest on NBR and sought after for his financial analysis by journalists worldwide. Paul was to be Bill’s guest at the NYSE’s members only luncheon club. I was thrilled to be invited along.

When you’ve been a journalist for many years you get to drop a name or two from time to time. I have had the good fortune to share a restaurant table with some pretty good names, ranging from Bill Gates to Julia Roberts, and they always draw their fair share of attention. But nothing surpassed the attention Paul and Bill attracted that weekday at the NYSE, as a constant stream of people approached our table to ask for an autographic or just to say hello.

The reaction from a usually hard edged crowd of professional traders went far beyond fan reaction to someone who appears on TV. There was a respect and appreciation for Paul and his work as they recognized his professionalism and extensive knowledge of their field coupled with an accessibility and real humility from a man just happy to be helpful to his audience. For me, a new kid on the block, it was quite an experience.

Paul was not just great with the public. He was great with his colleagues as well. I began my association with NBR as a freelance reporter from Chicago in 1982, shortly after the program, which began in Miami, went national. I remember after my second or third story I got a call and was surprised to hear Paul’s distinctive deep bass voice. He just wanted to welcome me to the team and tell me he was enjoying my work. How many big shot anchors do you think would take the time to do that?

Paul Kangas set the standard for stock market reporting on television, and was recognized with an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He helped make NBR the most-watched daily business program on television. He also won a Financial Writers and Editors Award from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Paul did not invent NBR. That credit goes to members of the WPBT board, to George Dooley, CEO of the station, and to Linda O’Bryon, the station’s news director who was assigned to make it all happen.  Linda made some great personnel moves over the years, but Paul was undoubtedly the greatest. No, Paul did not create NBR. But he provided its spirit.

Paul retired in 2009. I left the program a few years later as it began its metamorphosis into the product of CNBC it is today. But I kept in touch with many of my colleagues from that time. NBR was unique and was produced by a team of unusually talented and dedicated people. I was proud to have been a member of that team. I was aware of Paul’s failing health, but was still surprised to learn of his passing yesterday.

Paul will be remembered for his many contributions and many leaders from the financial community will certainly add their remembrances in the days ahead. I will remember him as the guy who always brought no-nonsense professionalism to work, along with good humor and concern for his colleagues. Not to mention a guy who appreciated a good lunch.

Paul’s signature trademark sign-off was, “Wishing you the best of good-buys”. We, Paul Kangas, now wish you the best of goodbyes.


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