Journalist Q&A: Maria Bartiromo, CNBC

CNBC's Maria Bartiromo talks about the keys to a good interview, being the first reporter and woman to broadcast daily from the New York Stock Exchange floor, and the big stories of her 20-year career.

Name: Maria Bartiromo
Title: Anchor, Closing Bell on CNBC; Managing editor and host, Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo on CNBC
Outlet: CNBC
Preferred contact: @mariabartiromo

CNBC's Maria Bartiromo talks to PRWeek about the keys to a good interview, being the first reporter and woman to broadcast daily from the New York Stock Exchange floor, and the big stories of her 20-year career.

Rumor has it you work nearly all the time. What is your day like?
I'm up between 5am and 7am and try to be asleep by 11pm, but things happen. My schedule is dictated by news events.

Weekdays, I host Closing Bell between 3pm and 5pm, so I'm preparing leading up to airtime. On Fridays, I tape my weekend show [Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo]. I sometimes do a morning show on Thursdays or NBC Nightly News in the evening. I also write a monthly column for USA Today.

My work requires a lot of phone prep interviewing people off the record – 80% of my time is spent preparing for interviews – and a lot of travel. I just got back from a week in Brazil. I was in London and Davos [World Economic Forum in Switzerland] this year. Then, there are stories I do on the fly.

How much of your work involves long-term planning?
If I want to interview leading CEOs, I put my stake in the ground months in advance. The Brazil trip was in the works for a year. While there, I worked in three cities – Sao Paulo, Brasilia, and Rio – and interviewed, among others, Carlos Brito, the CEO of ABInBev [the world's largest beer brewer].

What are some of the biggest business stories you'll be following in the coming years?
One is that businesses are looking outside the US for growth, in places like Brazil, China, and Indonesia. The West, the US and Europe, is still stagnating and struggling a bit, because of the Euro crisis, the debt here, and the job situation.

Other stories are the mobility trend; the innovations in healthcare, not just the digitizing of records, but what's new in mammography and radiography; and the regulatory environment created by the Dodd-Frank Act [The Financial Reform Act], which has 400 new rules to interpret.

What got you into financial journalism?
I just fell into it. I majored in economics at New York University. Then I was hired as a production assistant at CNN News, where I worked for Lou Dobbs.

Being at CNN during the first Gulf War was exciting. It also turned me on to see the economic end of it. I love finding out what makes things tick.

You were both the first reporter and first woman to broadcast from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange daily. What was that like?
It was difficult initially: it was new to all involved. There was a bit of a boys club. They didn't want me there as a woman and they didn't want me there as a journalist with a camera.

Two weeks into my job, my boss's boss, Jack Welch [the CEO of GE, which then owned CNBC] was going to be on the floor of the NYSE. I was so proud to be able to introduce him to the GE specialist there.

The day before, as I walked over to tell the specialist about Welch's visit, one trader yelled out to me, “Don't come back here, little girl.” I was mortified.

It was tough. But I'm proud to have been a pioneer. As a journalist, you must figure it out. You cannot be chased away or be afraid.

What makes a good interview?
When I land the person of the moment that everyone wants to hear from and we learn something from him or her.

A bad interview?
A guest with an agenda who blatantly blows off questions. You will endear yourself to the audience by answering questions the public wants to hear.

But I understand the balance. Everyone has their own agenda, which I'm not saying is bad. It's important, however, to answer the questions first. Then you can say, “I'm also doing this.”

What are the biggest stories you've covered?
9/11. I saw the plane go into one of the buildings and the towers come down. I was on a street corner nearby. I knew people who died that day. It was personal, as opposed to being strictly professional.

Covering the financial crisis in real time was quite amazing. We were watching the financial system collapse. It was stunning and devastating.

I realized it was too extraordinary not to write a book [The Weekend That Changed Wall Street: An Eyewitness Account] about it. In my regular reporting, I had spoken with all players involved, the CEOs, the government, and the investors. In the paperback version coming out in September, I've added a chapter about how that period has changed us and continues to do so.

What can Wall Street do to improve its reputation on Main Street?
People must understand that Wall Street and Main Street are connected. Those on Wall Street need to be better at communicating what they do.

When that bridge, school, or road needs to get built, people don't understand what the banks are doing to make those projects happen. These issues are what the public must understand and the things bankers need to talk about. The banks have more constituents than their own shareholders.

What's the best way for PR pros to pitch you?
PR pros must think about what my audience wants. They're a global-minded, intelligent group that wants to know about the global economy and pocketbook issues. That, of course, is the first line of defense.

I also love hearing from business and investor people. I'm very reachable, by phone, fax, or email.

Those in PR need to keep in mind the following questions: What's the relevance? What's the hook? Is there a reason my audience would look at this today as opposed to next week or next month?

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