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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Who does she work for?

Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images

CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo with racecar driver \
Mario Andretti at the 2004 gala for the Columbus
Day parade in New York.

Questions Grow About a Top CNBC Anchor

Published: February 12, 2007

In November 2005, Citigroup gathered top clients at a lush spa resort in Napa Valley for two days of wine tasting and a chance to road test some of the hottest luxury cars on the market.

The test drivers included Todd S. Thomson, then the chief executive of Citigroup’s wealth management arm, car collectors, clients of the bank and Maria Bartiromo, the CNBC anchor and celebrity guest.

Their charge: To pick the 2006 car of the year for Robb Report, the luxury magazine. Like many of the judges, Ms. Bartiromo chose the bright red Ferrari Spider, according to one attendee. So did Mr. Thomson, a car enthusiast.

“It’s the ultimate package of sex and performance,” he told a reporter for the magazine.

With its blend of high living, glitz and privileged access, the event provides a glimpse of the rarefied world inhabited by Ms. Bartiromo, who, in her years as CNBC’s most recognizable face, has lent to the reporting of once gray business news a veneer of gloss and celebrity.

Socializing with sources is a long journalistic tradition, especially for television personalities whose renown often allows them to travel in the same elite circles as their subjects.

But for Ms. Bartiromo, who accompanied Mr. Thomson last fall on Citigroup’s corporate jet to a series of client and other bank-sponsored functions in China, her ability to gain entree into the exclusive and mostly male world of chief executives and financial titans has made her a valuable commodity to CNBC.

After Mr. Thomson’s abrupt departure from Citigroup, however, such ties have raised questions about her closeness to her sources, all of whom she also covers as the cable network’s top anchor. CNBC has said that it paid commercial fare to Citigroup for Ms. Bartiromo’s trip to China. And last week, Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, CNBC’s parent, voiced his support for Ms. Bartiromo and the cable network.

“Substantially, I don’t think she did anything wrong,” he said.

A CNBC spokesman said that Ms. Bartiromo flew commercial to the California event and that the network paid for her flight as it was network business.

Ms. Bartiromo declined to comment for this article. CNBC declined to comment on whether executives had any discussions with her concerning her relationship with Mr. Thomson. However, people inside of CNBC did say that she will continue to cover the company as part of her regular duties.

Whether it is providing a personalized video tribute — shot from inside the CNBC newsroom — to Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chairman of the buyout giant Blackstone Group to celebrate his 60th birthday or mingling with a source at a benefit for the New York City Ballet, Ms. Bartiromo’s proximity to the people she covers has created a model of journalism that jibes perfectly with CNBC’s mandate to ramp up its ratings by adding pizzazz and drama to its coverage.

Still, Mr. Thomson’s departure and Ms. Bartiromo’s connection to him have raised questions within the network over the possible tension between CNBC’s duty to pursue big financial news stories and its loyalty to Ms. Bartiromo.

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