by: Lulaine Compere
Michelle Caruso-Cabrera is an accomplished host, journalist, commentator and author. She was born and raised in New Hampshire to Cuban and Italian parents. She went to school to study print journalism but life steered her into broadcasting. Now, Michelle is working at CNBC as a host for the Power Lunch program. Her reporting has taken her around the world to exotic places and war torn countries. She has won awards for her work like Broadcast Journalist of the Year from The National Association of Hispanic Journalists was named one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics” in the country by Hispanic Business Magazine. Recently, she has released a new book “You Know I’m Right. More Prosperity, Less Government.” Michelle wears so many hats in her life it’s hard to classify her except as a driven personality and a hard worker.
What made you want to become a broadcast journalist?
I actually didn’t set out to be a broadcast journalist. I wanted to be a print journalist and write for a newspaper or a magazine. But I graduated in the middle of a recession, and newspapers were cutting budgets and staff. Just like today. I must have sent out hundreds of resumes to nearly every newspaper in America. Nothing. But TV was still growing. And in fact, Spanish-language TV was growing really fast. When I graduated, desperate to get a job, I called a man named Guillermo Martinez, who had gotten me an internship at the Miami Herald, answering phones. Turns out he had just started running Univision News and he hired me as a researcher. I made $19,000 a year. From there, I moved over to English language news in Tampa and then CNBC. Once I got into television, I never left. Turns out I enjoy a visual medium for story telling even more than a print medium, though both are extremely valuable.
What is your day to day routine like?
There is no day to day routine really, which is one of the characteristics that make my job so much fun. Generally I get up between 5 and 6am and read two newspapers online. I’m into the office about 8am to get hair and makeup. Done by 8:30am, and I start reading analysts reports about stocks, or economists reports about the economy, or making calls for stories that I am working on. About 10am, the “Power Lunch” (M-F, 1 – 2pm ET) team meets, and we discuss what should be in the show. Then, more reading on the air from 1 to 2pm. Then, more phone calls and reading. But today for example, I made the keynote speech at a real estate conference in New York, in front of 800 people, at about 8am. So it was a much earlier start.
How was reporting from places like Iraq, Venezuela, and Cuba.
Reporting from overseas is one of the greatest parts of my job, but also one of the toughest. I’m not sure about other reporters, but first, I always feel insecure—because I am never going to know as much about a foreign country as I do about the United States. So the second I know that am headed overseas, I start reading everything I possibly can about the country, and talking to everyone and anyone who knows anything about the place. It looks glamorous on TV, and in some ways it is, but it is an enormous amount of work. Exhausting both mentally and physically.
What are your thoughts on the tea party and their effect on Congress?
The tea party did a great job of focusing the election on the size of the government and the spending levels of politicians, something that had been ignored for many years by the electorate. They will force members of Congress to think very hard about the money being spent, and making sure it is justified. For now, they have slowed down if not stopped President Obama’s agenda. As for their ultimate effect on the economy—that remains to be seen. I spend a lot of time in my book on the idea that fiscal responsibility is social responsibility. Do we want to take care of the less-fortunate, the disabled, and the needy in this country? Yes of course. But a county that is run into the poor house can’t take care of anyone. The way to help the most people is to have an economically strong country, first and foremost. That’s what leads to jobs which are the very best form of social welfare.
Talk about your book You Know I’m Right and why you decided to write it.
I wrote “You Know I’m Right. More Prosperity, Less Government” because I felt really left out by the political process. I am a fiscal conservative, but a social liberal. When it comes to financial issues, I am very conservative, but when it comes to social issues, I have a much more live-and-let-live attitude. I want a government that stays out of my pocket book and out of my private life. Neither party fits the bill. So this was my way to say “This is what I want government to be, and I’ll bet a lot of people agree with me.” Sure enough, the response on facebook, and via email and at book signings has been phenomenal. People say things to me like “I thought I was the only one.”
What would advice would you give to people of Latin descent and women who want to get in the field of journalism or want to be in the broadcast communications?
My best advice for Latinos and women who want to get into the media is the same for nearly everyone. Read a lot. Write a lot. Exercise a lot. Question every assumption. That’s the glib answer. Practical advice—in high school join the school newspaper. In college, join the school newspaper. If you have a TV station, do that too. Being a journalist is not like being a doctor. You don’t have to get a license to practice, so just start doing it.