LOS ANGELES, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Regardless of market conditions -- whether stocks are up or down -- the team that puts together "Marketplace" is always reasonably assured of a good audience for its Monday through Friday public radio broadcast.
The show -- a half-hour weekday roundup of business and financial news -- has an estimated weekly audience of 6 million listeners in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. When he created the show in 1989, Jim Russell's mission was to come up with something that was not necessarily for business people only, but for a wider, more diverse audience.
Russell now serves as the program's general manager. The "voice" of "Marketplace" -- the person most listeners identify most readily with -- is senior editor David Brancaccio, who has hosted the show for the past eight years.
Regular listeners are familiar with contributors such as features editor Cheryl Devall, New York bureau chief Bob Moon, Washington bureau chief John Dimsdale -- part of a staff of producers, reporters and technicians that the show likes to refer to as its "cast and crew." That sort of illustrates the casual, sometimes cheeky, tone that the show favors in its daily examination of one of the most serious of human concerns, the pocketbook.
"(The show) always had a little bit of arm's length attitude, a sense of irony about the stock market," said Brancaccio, 41, in an interview with United Press International.
Speaking by telephone from the show's studio in downtown Los Angeles, he said "Marketplace" reporters and editors constantly aim to entertain listeners at the same time as they provide useful information about their money. And he said he doesn't consider that "selling out" to entertainment values.
"I'd even say it's to educate," said Brancaccio. "Business stuff can be really boring in the wrong hands. It's the difference between a droning professor and a dynamic teacher."
Acknowledging that there are times when it is tempting to go too far in the direction of entertainment -- possibly at the expense of properly informing listeners -- Brancaccio said that Russell has a professional reference point that helps maintain journalistic standards.
"When push comes to shove on ethical issues," said Brancaccio of his boss, "he self-identifies as the Vietnam correspondent for UPI."
During Brancaccio's tenure, "Marketplace" has won the two highest honors in broadcast journalism -- the Dupont-Columbia Award (1998) and the Peabody Award (2001).
"Marketplace" is on public radio -- produced by Minnesota Public Radio and distributed by Public Radio International -- but that doesn't mean that the show's staff is unconcerned with ratings. Public broadcasting receives some funding from the taxpayers but largely depends on support from listeners.
According to the show's figures, its typical listener is 117 percent more likely than the average U.S. adult to have a household income of at least $100,000 and nearly three times as likely to have a college degree. The show also boasts that its listeners are 46 percent more likely than the average U.S. adults to hold securities and 77 percent more likely to own stock.
That's all very interesting to Brancaccio, but what really turns him on is what he calls "stories that keep people in their driveways burning fossil fuel" -- because they need to hear the end of the report before they can get out of the car.
"I strongly feel this is the coolest job in radio," said Brancaccio -- although he acknowledges a certain sense of absurdity is involved in the daily chronicling of the market's never-ending ups and downs.
"How excited should I get when it's up 358? You know it will be down 219 another day," he said. "It does become very absurd."
But Brancaccio acknowledged that he is obliged not to let the absurdity dampen his enthusiasm for his subject.
"If the audience smells anything like ennui on my breath I'm finished," he said. "If I don't find it compelling they're not going to find it compelling."