5 Questions for… Liz Claman
As the nation continues to struggle through the economic downturn, critics contend journalists should bear some of the blame for not foreseeing the looming crisis.
Not necessarily true, says Fox Business Network’s Liz Claman.
“Months ago,” she tells TVNewser, “we had guests on our show predicting the Dow would fall below 10,000 this year due to the sub-prime fall-out. Sure enough, that happened [yesterday]…
“We’ve had guests on recently who say we’ve only just begun the so-called ‘unwinding’ process and that many types of mortgages still face painful re-sets for 2009. We have worked hard to get a panoply of guests with contradicting voices. Anyone who watched Fox Business this year heard about the potential for something like this to happen…
“It’s so convenient to blame the media, though. We’re all used to it. Bring it on. We’ve got the tape to prove that our guests warned of the possibility.”
Claman made her FBN debut almost one year ago, October 18, 2007. She spent nine years at CNBC. And before that, Claman worked at Boston’s WHDH, Cleveland’s WEWS, and WSYX in Columbus. Her first TV job was as a production assistant to ex-CNNer Paula Zahn, at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles.
(1) TVNewser: How do you compare reporting/anchoring during good economic times with your job during the last couple of weeks?
Claman: I’ve never felt more focused and connected to my work than I have over the past 7 months. I say seven months because it was in March that the investment bank Bear Stearns began imploding at a frantic pace. It was the proverbial ‘trip-wire’ of the financial disaster we find ourselves facing today.
Back then I started working the phones and haven’t stopped since. Okay, I’m obsessed, let’s just call it what it is. I’ve barely been sleeping. If I’m not calling or emailing sources, or working late on the live specials we’ve been putting together at FBN, I’m lying in bed in the dark with my heart racing and my mind speeding, coming up with ideas of whom we should put on our air to give people a better perspective of what’s going on with their money. The responsibility we have to get the story right is immense.
And we’re extraordinarily mindful of all the rumors saturating the market. We’re very careful of running with single-source information. I’m way less interested in being the first to report a story than I am with being correct.
A source called me about two weeks ago to tip me off that the SEC was about to temporarily ban certain types of short-selling. I was the first to have it but wouldn’t go with it until I had confirmation from a second source. I rushed to the newsroom and worked with our managing editor Ray Hennessey to double-source it.
Then we had our D.C. bureau guys work their sources and only then did we go with it. We were first, and forty minutes later, the SEC issued the release. Back when I worked local news, the joke promo we all used to have was “First at 6, Correct at 11!” Forget it: we HAVE to be correct here right off the bat.
(2) TVNewser: Almost one year after leaving CNBC to join FBN, how do you view your decision to leave the ‘established’ network for the ‘newbie’?
Claman: Look, I was voted Biggest Non-Conformist in high school. so anyone who really knows me knows that leaving the safe and comfortable position for a chance to build something from the ground up would be the exact choice I would make.
The transition was a dramatic one, though. Moving from quiet Englewood Cliffs, NJ — where CNBC is based — to the hyper-speed pace of Midtown Manhattan and News Corp. headquarters, was like flipping a switch for me. I’ve never experienced such a range of emotions in any job than I do here. There’s unbelievable elation, excitement, exhaustion, worry, and hope, with moments of hilarity thrown in.
Anyone who’s ever worked at a start-up knows exactly what I’m talking about. Until CNBC, I never stayed in any job for more than three and a half years, so it says a lot about CNBC that I was there 9 years.
But my dad used to say that on the career path, “Sometimes you think you’re in a groove, but you’re really in a rut.” I woke up one day and realized I was in a rut and wanted to shake it up again.
What I never expected was how great a decision it would be for me. Warren Buffett once told me he loves what he does so much that he tap-dances to work. I’m in full Riverdance mode at Fox Business.
(3) TVNewser: What surprises you most about FBN’s style, culture, or its reporting philosophy?
Claman: Bar none, the best part about FBN’s style and culture is the team mentality. If one of us breaks a story, we throw out a compliment. We all peek into each others’ offices and bounce ideas off one another.
Before I arrived, I asked Geraldo Rivera what the atmosphere was like at Fox. He said, “In a word, ‘supportive.'” And that’s exactly what I’ve found at FBN. We’re fiercely competitive but not against each other in a negative, sniping way.
It just wouldn’t make sense if A-Rod hit a home run and the rest of the Yankees sneered at him for it. We cheer each other on. As for reporting philosophy, we don’t want to look at things in the obvious way. It’s a daily challenge to dig beyond the surface and try to attack a story from a different and perhaps more pertinent angle for all Americans: from workers to business owners to CEO’s.
(4) TVNewser: You have, in previous interviews, talked about how much studying you do to keep up on business news and trends. Do you prep any differently for your role at FBN than you did at CNBC?
Claman: I have definitely built upon my methods since I got here. Our focus thankfully is broader than just, “Is it publicly-traded? Great, we can talk about it then.”
I now feel much more liberated to dig for stories that haven’t been mentioned yet in the papers. I’m constantly tapping and mining everyone I know about trends and businesses including my poor nieces and nephews. Crazy Auntie Liz is always bugging them about their favorite bands and websites.
Early in the year, I started hearing from college kids that Twitter was heating up as a communication tool with Gen-X’ers. One of FBN’s producers, Gary Kaye, was hearing the same thing. So we flew out to Silicon Valley to talk to the Twitter founders as part of our “Three Days in the Valley” coverage we put together. Months later, Twitter was the hottest communication tool at the political conventions. I was happy we had bird-dogged it early.
I didn’t leave CNBC to come to Fox Business simply to do the exact same thing I was doing back in New Jersey. I came because I felt I could do more. And they want me to do more. When I first sat in Roger Ailes’ office he said to me, “Look. I like to look for people who are not being used to the best of their ability. Then I put ’em in the place where they become stars because I gave them the outlet for their real talent.” I felt honored that he saw potential in me.
(5) TVNewser: When you once commented, “I’m not some delicate flower…I’m more like a Venus Flytrap,” what exactly did you mean?
Claman: I’m a redhead. Haven’t you seen a Venus flytrap? When it’s open, it’s heart-shaped and the inside is RED. It looks inviting and shiny but remember: it’s carnivorous.