While Rukeyser discounts such description - in an e-mail, he says he has always asked about poor stocks - he tends to maintain a positive tone. In a recent commentary, he wrote: "Despite all the I-told-you-sos by perennial bears, Wall Street's behavior is being constrained significantly by unpredictable - and unpredicted - outside events."
But the new Wall Street Week intends to court certain disagreements and to acknowledge market downturns more explicitly than it did under Rukeyser's influence. (The selection of Chanos, who runs funds named for the Greek words for "cynic" and "bear," is an indication of that direction.) With recent disclosures about misrepresentations of finances of major corporations such as Tyco, Global Crossing, ImClone and WorldCom, public trust in corporate America is ebbing. And the program's producers say they want Wall Street Week to offer strong analyses.
"I don't think there has ever been a time, certainly not in recent memory, where people have been so uncertain about who to listen to," says Moscow, the executive producer. "Who do you trust? Who do you believe?"
"We're trying to find who are the credible voices out there."
In March, driven by PBS concerns that the show was not aging well, MPT pushed a reluctant Rukeyser to accept a more limited role as a commentator. He was fired when he responded with barbed criticism on the air.
He has kept up a guerrilla resistance to his former employers, signing on to do a show with the cable financial news station CNBC that airs at the same time Fridays as MPT's Wall Street Week. Rukeyser's CNBC show is offered for free to PBS affiliates, and more than 140 of the 349 PBS member stations run it - much to the consternation of the national system's officials, who have urged them not to support a commercial venture.
Jacoba Atlas, a senior vice president for programming at PBS, says she is confident the new program will have a broader appeal than its predecessor, which saw its ratings skew older and dip from its peak of 2.6 million viewers weekly to 2.2 million earlier this season. She says she has found widespread acceptance for Wall Street Week With Fortune among station officials.
"I think they're very anxious for the show to come back at full strength," Atlas says. "Maryland Public Television has changed it in an appropriate way that is consistent with its mission."
Out at Owings Mills, they say they aren't feeling pressure to produce anything other than a high-quality program. "It has to come down to feel and judgment," Colvin says. "I don't think there is any numerical measure that will tell me what we're doing is working or not."