BROOKE GLADSTONE: And now the next installment in our continuing if occasional coverage of Al Gore's class at the Columbia University School of Journalism. Last time Rupert Murdoch made a guest appearance. This week the former vice president hosted another celebrity, and once again Columbia student Michael Arnone came in to talk about it.
BOB GARFIELD: Michael Arnone, welcome back to the big show.
MICHAEL ARNONE: Good to be back.
BOB GARFIELD: This week you had another special guest in your class with Professor Gore. It was none other than the "man with a plan," Mr.--?
MICHAEL ARNONE: Alan Greenspan!
BOB GARFIELD: Tell me about it.
MICHAEL ARNONE:Well it was the largest class so far. About 80 students were there. Students in the Business Reporting class were invited this time. Mr. Greenspan actually did most of the talking. Mr. Gore facilitated the discussion and he also acted as a watchdog, because -- I mean as we all know -- Mr. Greenspan cut the interest rates on Tuesday. There appears to be some l-- some rule or law that the Federal Reserve chairman can't discuss his decision for a week after having made it.
BOB GARFIELD:The federal funds rate came down a half a point last week. The markets were expecting at least a three quarter point drop and reacted very badly to the Fed's announcement. Were there a lot of questions about that to Mr. Greenspan?
MICHAEL ARNONE: Unfortunately no, because right at the beginning of the class Mr. Gore came right out and said no questions about it and practically saying the word "economy" was enough to have Mr. Gore shut the question down. He talked much more about the history of business journalism, how journalists should cover economics with a sense of how economists think; therefore that would give them the ability to give greater understanding to readers and watchers.
BOB GARFIELD: Biggest attendance of any Al Gore journalism class to date, right? Was it like having Madonna in the room?
MICHAEL ARNONE:[LAUGHS] Well actually it was funny because, as you know, I mean having Al Gore there has been this media bonanza, but when people heard about a month ago that Greenspan was coming it was almost like Al who?
BOB GARFIELD: What was the most interesting question posed to Alan Greenspan?
MICHAEL ARNONE:I think one of the most interesting things that Mr. Greenspan talked about was the power of political leaders to affect markets, and he's surprised that investors and citizens and even reporters believe that they can. Of course this coming from the man who is widely believed to have the most power in the American economy.
BOB GARFIELD:Of course Alan Greenspan is widely credited for being the steward of the recently-departed bull market and of the magnificent economy that this country has had for the last 8 years, but he's equally famous for his rather oblique style of speech. His testimony before Congress, while sometimes expansive, is often cryptic bordering on unintelligible. Was he coherent when he answered your questions from the class?
MICHAEL ARNONE: He actually is an exceptional speaker. He did speak in very specific economic terms that went over the heads of quite a few of the, the students in the class who don't have business backgrounds, but the overall thrust of his arguments were very clear and you know, very well thought out.
BOB GARFIELD:All right, Michael, one last question, and with it I'm afraid a confession. Back in January we did a piece about Alan Greenspan and the media myth that has developed around him. In this piece we -- and by we of course I mean I -- described the figure he cuts as he swoops across the media scene. Now of course I'd seen his photo on TV an in the papers, and I did the thing that journalists are never supposed to do: I assumed. I said he's short. I said he's balding, bespectacled and short. Michael, I have to know. You were there in the presence of the Great One. [LAUGHTER] Is he short?
MICHAEL ARNONE: No.
BOB GARFIELD: Oh, dear God.
MICHAEL ARNONE: No, no he's - he, he's pushing six feet. He, he is a man of stature both physical and figurative.
BOB GARFIELD: Then consider this the correction and my apologies to all concerned. Michael Arnone, thanks again for joining us.
MICHAEL ARNONE: Thank you, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: Michael Arnone is a student in the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism class taught by Professor Al Gore.