This summer, we’re putting a spotlight on the industry’s top producers; getting the inside story about their shows, how they got to where they are, and advice they have for future TV journalists.
For more than two decades, Gary Schreier has covered some of the biggest news and business stories in America and around the world. “I think it’s been an extraordinary 15 to 20 years,” says Schreier, who started at CNBC, followed by 16 years at Fox News and Fox Business. Now, back at CNBC as EP of “Closing Bell,” Schreier reflects on a wide-ranging career.
TVNewser: You’ve produced for general news and business news. How have you approached producing for the different types?
Schreier: Production is never just production. You always want to think about it hard and how to make the story bigger on television than it would be if you were reading it in print — digitally, online, or a newspaper — or on radio certainly. I think sometimes the difference between general news and business news is general news can lend itself where the production isn’t as important; the story itself can be so compelling, and the pictures so compelling that it just presents itself. Where as business news, say even during a financial crisis, you need to think harder on how to represent things. Business news can tend to be a lot of numbers, a lot of statistics, and you need to break those down and present them in a form that’s much more acceptable to the people. So, it’s a little more challenging, but I find it fun too. It makes you think harder, it makes you work a little harder, and if you can distill something that’s hard to understand with a lot of numbers and stats and bring it down to a level where people kind of crystallize it and get it and helps them make a good, informed decision for their life, and for their money, and for their finances, it’s kind of rewarding.
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TVNewser: For business news, you need to program for both Wall Street traders and a less business-junkie, more general audience. How do you do it?
Schreier: If you program for the .1 percent, you’ll get the .1 percent. But I think if you want to expand your horizons, you want to sort of explain things out that maybe a few people get, but most people don’t, and I think that’s your barometer. You have a business audience, and they’re all not equal as you said, because some people are on trading floors, they live it, they breath it; the CEO, the billionaire, the hedge fund professional, but then you have people like you or I; working professionals that are not billionaires or millionaires, but would like to be, and are certainly interested in money and finance. And so, I think there is a medium you can meet there. We try to do that; I think the best way to do it sometimes is when you have on a guest that says something you think is above most people’s heads, the anchor then says, as an advocate of the audience, “what do you mean by that?” and then they distill it down and break it down.
TVNewser: Since the financial crises, a big chunk of your audience has grown ticked off with the industry you cover. Does that change the editorial process at all?
Schreier: The best thing you can do as a producer is to always be fair. Whether or not people are ticked off, and they certainly had a right to be, you don’t want to give into the herd mentality with the stakes and the pitchforks if it’s not the right people. There were certainly some culprits in the financial crisis, not everyone was equally bad, and not everyone was equally good. So, if you’re fair to the people, you ask the tough questions but know your facts, know exactly what role they played, what role they didn’t play, and ask the right questions, I think your audience gets it; certainly the guest gets it, even if you ask them tough questions, as long as they’re fair questions, they come back. And the audience will recognize that. And I think CNBC does a really good job of that.
TVNewser: Producing for business news, are there stories that particularly stood out for you?
Schreier: 9/11 was certainly a general news story, and a horrible story, and not something I like to talk about. But remember what it was: it was a target at our financial capital, and we tried to look at it from a human capital point of view, the human capital that was lost. A lot of good people, really special people, talented people, men and women, people’s mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, killed that day. We came at it that way, and I was always very proud of that and that we tried to really make an effort to remember who we lost, who they were, what they contributed to the financial community, which is a close-knit group. Other than that, the financial crisis, housing crisis; it’s all fascinating, and what I think is an important learning experience for everyone. If you don’t learn from history you’re doomed to repeat it.
TVNewser: During the financial crisis, did you feel a greater responsibility since this was a story affecting the whole world?
Schreier: The short answer to your question is yes. It’s a very weighty story, what was happening mattered every minute, every day, things were happening very fast. But, I’d also say every day you have to treat it that way. On “Closing Bell,” you’re dealing with people’s money. We always try to keep in mind that people’s lives and livelihoods sometimes are really being affected by what we’re reporting and what we’re relaying to the public. It’s an important thing to keep in mind. But certain stories like the financial crisis carry more weight than others, but you have to keep that in mind every day.
TVNewser: You were a longtime producer for Neil Cavuto as well as Maria Bartiromo for a shorter time. How was working with them?
Schreier: I’ve had tremendous luck in my career of working with some of the greatest professionals and journalists in news and business news. Neil Cavuto, his career speaks for itself, Maria Bartiromo, her career speaks for itself, and right now, I’m working with Kelly Evans, who is an up and comer; she’s young, but she’s just brilliant, super smart, the next generation of business news.
TVNewser: For up and coming producers trying to rise up the ranks or break in, what’s your advice for producing for business news heavyweights?
Schreier: The best on-air people that I’ve worked with, and I’ve worked with a lot of good ones here at CNBC and throughout my career, are the people that demand excellence of themselves and demand almost perfection. And if they get it right 99 times out of 100, it’s that one time they didn’t get it right that keeps them up at night, that makes them think twice about things and makes them come back and try harder the next day. You need to try and be as good as that person. You want to display a level of excellence that they trust you because they’re the face of the mistake. If you give them bad information, bad guests, bad bookings, they’re the face of the mistake. If you demonstrate over a period of time, that you sort of strive to achieve the same level of excellence or more that they want, then that bond comes over time.
TVNewser: Cavuto, Bartiromo, and Evans always get the spotlight. What should people know about you outside of TV news?
Schreier: I’m a long suffering Mets fan who does not see any light at the end of the tunnel. Jack Welch wrote a book where he said “if you find the right job you’ll never go to work,” and I feel like I’ve done that from the moment I started working and getting paid out of college for news jobs and business news jobs. I really don’t feel like I’m going to work, I feel like I love what I do. And I wish that for everyone. There’s too many people I know that work for a paycheck, and it’s nice because you spend so much of your time at work. I have a great family, an amazing wife, and two kids that I love more than life itself. And to be away from them as much as I am because of work [that’s just a fact of life], it would me miserable if I didn’t enjoy it, and I’m really glad that I do enjoy it.
Full disclosure: From late 2010 to mid-2011, I worked as a booker for Fox Business’ “Freedom Watch,” for which Schreier served as executive producer.