This past February, longtime CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo became the latest cable news star–preceded by Liz Claiman, Eric Bolling and Neil Cavuto–to follow former CNBC head Roger Ailes to Fox News and Fox Business.
During his tenure as CNBC president in the mid-’90s, Ailes assigned Bartiromo to be the first TV journalist to report live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, which made the sharp and beautiful Brooklyn native a star and earned her the nickname “Money Honey.”
Jumping to FBN/FNC brought with it a hefty pay raise (between $1-2 million) and the title of Global Markets Editor. Currently she has a weekday-morning show on FBN, called Opening Bell With Maria Bartiromo, and a weekend-morning show on FNC, called Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo.
Sitting down in a cafe at the Los Angeles Convention Center after shaking hands and signing autographs at the NCTA Cable Show, a couple of months into her second job under Ailes, Bartiromo replies to the, “Why switch?” question with, “It’s because of Roger.”
“I trust him … when he put me on the air, he had a vision. I was the first person to broadcast from the floor of the Stock Exchange–that was a big deal. I feel like he’s a man of his word, and I trust him,” she says.
Ailes obviously had faith in Bartiromo’s abilities, and that faith had to endure a weak ratings debut on Feb. 24 for her FBN daily show. Her Sunday-morning show on FNC ,which debuted March 30, is faring better.
In July, per Nielsen Media Research, it topped the cable-news ratings for its time slot, averaging 807,000 total viewers, and 207,000 viewers in the coveted Adults 25-54 demographic. Since its first full month on the air, Sunday Morning Futures has stayed stable in total viewers but has increased the A25-54 segment by 9 percent.
For context, for July 31st, the primetime content at FBN itself had only 6,000 viewers in that demo (out of a total viewership of 57,000), while top-rated (by far) FNC had 370,000 (of 2.22 million).
Viewers of both cable news and business channels tend to skew older, so getting younger viewers is an ongoing challenge. But with the dip in jobs, we may also be seeing a rise in entrepreneurship, both among seasoned workers and those new to the workforce.
“We’re bringing in a great demo [on FNC],” says Bartiromo, “so that tells me that there’s an appetite for business and economic conversation on a Sunday. … After the 2008 financial collapse and all of these white-collar jobs going away, people recognize that there are not the opportunities that you thought there were in business. People are saying, ‘You know what, I want to try something on my own.’
“It’s become easier to start your own company; it’s become cheaper. So all of that combined has created this huge spike in entrepreneurism. I talk to young people a lot, because I went to NYU, and I’m very active there. The students at NYU tell me that they have changed the way they are looking at and approaching the job market. They really want to see purpose.
“It’s not just about what you’re making; it’s not just about your salary. It’s about, ‘Does this company have purpose? I want to do something, I want to create something, that has purpose, that has meaning.’ Not everybody is going to have a really successful business, a start-up, but I say, go for it. If you have a really great idea, totally try it. You may fail, but you’re young, so what the heck?”
Bartiromo also wanted to come out of the rarefied air of stocks and bonds, and up from the muck of party politics, to find the sweet spot where the two converge.
“My niche,” she says, “is the meeting of politics and business. Today, when you see an economy that is bumping around the bottom, and people are still talking about, ‘I can’t get a job; I can’t get a job; I’ve stopped looking,’ or, ‘I can only get a job that doesn’t pay much and doesn’t require any skills.’ You’re saying, ‘How did this happen to me? Who’s helping me?’
“So, if we can bring together business with policy to try to come up with solutions … I’d like to have my program be the place to come for policy meeting business, economic policy meeting end-market demand. That’s what we’re trying to do. That means covering the stock market; that means covering the economy. ‘Where is the growth? Where are jobs?’
“But it also means talking about keeping people accountable to policy, like the Keystone Pipeline. On the Fox News Channel show, ‘Sunday Morning Futures,’ we’re getting the businessperson into the conversation. I don’t want to only hear from the politicos, talking the talking points.
“I don’t want them talking their agenda. I’d rather have the business guy saying, ‘Hey, I have billions overseas, guess what, I’m not bringing it back here because the tax policy needs to look like this.’ There’s a massive capital flight going on, and where are they going?
“Money is mobile It’s going to Florida; it’s going to Texas. This is no surprise. It’s no coincidence. It’s actually quite sad.”
As to where the jobs are, Bartiromo says, “Number one, technology. We started off the conversation, you were right on the money–entrepreneurism. The jobs are in start-ups; the jobs are in technology. The jobs are also in healthcare. We’re living longer. Your kids, my kids, they may live until 100. We’re gong to need a million new medical technicians, physician assistants.
“Manufacturing is seeing a little bit of a renaissance in the country. So, some manufacturing–not apparel, that can go overseas and get it done for cheaper–but some manufacturing, particularly in the auto sector and aerospace. So there are some jobs.
“The problem is, many of these jobs require certain skill sets, and we’re not educating out people to be ready to get those jobs. Again, that goes back to policy. There are a handful of sectors that are seeing jobs, but the truth is, it’s not enough. We should be much farther along at this point in the cycle, in the recovery.”
Bartiromo also doesn’t fault those who are succeeding, saying, “Look, I’m not going to get mad at someone who’s worked really hard and come from nothing and actually done really well for themselves. I say, that’s America. Good for you, that you were able to work really hard, get a little luck and achieve this great success. I just want that opportunity for all of us.”
Despite the troubles plaguing journalism today, Bartiromo would still encourage people to go into the field if that’s their passion.
“I love it,” she says. “I am a little disappointed in some ways with journalism, because I feel like, if you’re a commentator, and you tell me where you are [ideologically], I like that. But if you say you’re a journalist and then you have all these biases, that’s not right.
“That being said, I love broadcast journalism, and I do think it’s ours to lose. In other words, if you’re doing a good job, you’re coming out with accurate, timely information, and you have a following, it’s yours to lose.
“But I think it’s a wonderful industry; I’m proud of it. Any economy, any democracy, needs a free and independent press, and I’m thrilled to be able to do that. … I hope the next generation of journalists recognizes that this is critical. As journalists, we need to make sure this stays free and independent.”
Bartiromo adds, “You owe it to your viewers. Who are you working for? Your viewers or the government? I mean, it’s just ridiculous.”