Covering financial and business news for 37 years, pioneering female broadcast journalist Sue Herera has been a reassuring TV presence through the 1987 crash, the dot-com bust and the global financial crisis — more than three decades spanning six different presidential administrations, each with its own reportorial challenges. In an interview with ThinkAdvisor, Herera comments on the new, unique — and daresay idiosyncratic — way the current president communicates with the press and public: tweets.
A founder of CNBC in 1989, she is the network’s breaking-news updates anchor during the business day as well as lead anchor for breaking news stories.
Herera is also the genial co-anchor, with Bill Griffeth, of the longest running business TV program on the air, “Nightly Business Report.” The award-winning show is produced by CNBC for American Public Television.
Amidst a slew of shows that sensationalize business and stock market news, “NBR” calmly puts events and market swings in clear perspective. Often focused on retirement issues, it even discusses with experts investing opportunities that arise during a market correction.
Herera interviews money managers, corporate heads and financial advisors. These have included Christopher Ailman, CIO of CalSTRS, the giant pension fund for California teachers; Roger McNamee, founding partner of Elevation Partners, an early Facebook investor; and personal finance expert Jean Chatzky.
On a recent “NBR,” Herera covered corporate earnings reports (“The bar is higher now”), the Federal Reserve and interest rates, retail sales (“rebounding”) and “potential headwinds and tailwinds” for stocks that viewers should be watching.
Spokane, Washington-born, Los Angeles-bred, she kicked off her career at Financial News Network in 1981 focusing on futures trading. At CNBC — which acquired FNN in 1991 — she has covered overseas geopolitical summits and anchored on-location series on the economies of China and Japan, as well as hosted special international series “CNBC in Russia” and “CNBC in India.”
ThinkAdvisor interviewed Herera one recent morning. She was speaking by phone from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, where CNBC is headquartered and “NBR” is taped. Though she has never worked in the financial services industry, she wrote a book about one important aspect of it: “Women of the Street: Making It on Wall Street — the World’s Toughest Business” (Wiley 1997). As for TV reporter Herera, she made it covering the Street. Here are excerpts from our conversation:
THINKADVISOR: What are the challenges covering financial news since President Trump took office?
SUE HERERA: This administration is one in which the president communicates primarily by social media, which is a new way for an administration to communicate not only with the press but with the country. So the challenge for our team of Washington-based reporters is the social media aspect. Things happen very quickly.
What do your reporters focus on?
Tax policies and trade policies because those are the issues that move the market.
How do you handle President Trump’s harsh criticism of the media and accusations of “fake news”?
You take it with a grain of salt and do the best job you can and double- or triple-source whatever you’re talking about. Your work stands on its own.
What approach do you take on “Nightly Business Report” during periods of intense market volatility, such as right now, or in a correction?
When we see a large downside — or upside — move in the markets, we try to take a step back and cover not just what happened on Wall Street but also why it happened. Providing perspective and context helps viewers understand why the market [is] behaving in a certain way and helps take the irrational component out of financial moves they may be considering.
You’ve been covering financial news for more than three decades. This includes the 1987 crash and the global financial crisis. What approach did you take as a broadcaster?
When covering a significant financial event, you have to make sure you’re very calm, and as clear and concise as you can possibly be in reporting facts and [employ] multiple sourcing.
How did those events differ in their impact?
Each had its own complexion, if you will. The 2008 financial crisis was very frightening to an enormous number of people and very complicated. In contrast, the 1987 crash was major, too; but the market recovered very quickly, whereas the financial crisis took a longer time to play out, and significant financial institutions were lost. It changed the face of Wall Street. Also, it impacted a larger number of consumers: The housing implosion hit a huge swath of America. It was much more an event that had dramatic Main Street impact than did the 1987 crash, which was more a Wall Street event.
How did you seek to help viewers during the financial crisis?