Liz Claman, Fox Business, Interview
FOX Business Network anchor and Edgewater resident Liz Claman is a busy mom. When she's not at home with her two kids in New Jersey, she is anchoring Countdown to the Closing Bell (3 PM/ET) and After the Bell (4 PM/ET) on FBN, or traveling the globe to conferences like this weekend's Berkshire Hathaway investor meeting in Omaha, Nebraska or Davos Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. On Monday, May 7th at 9:30 AM/ET, Liz will sit down with Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Charlie Munger for an exclusive interview. Below are some questions we asked her about how she balances it all.
This weekend you will interview legendary investor Warren Buffett once again. What have you learned about educating women investors from spending time with Warren Buffett?
Educating women investors is really no different from educating any motivated investor. You have to read, study, and become knowledgeable. One of the best ways to do that is to study smart, successful investors, like Warren Buffett. Buffett thinks in terms of buying great companies that have a 'moat' of competitiveness around them. Are they the best or at least top 2 in what they do? Are they run by passionate managers? These are the questions he asks.
How did you get interested in business journalism? Is this what you always wanted to do?
When I was in the 6th grade, my dad brought home our first video camera. I could not stop playing with it. I demanded that all my siblings play actors and sports stars and I would then 'interview' them. My sister Holly was ordered to be Barbara Streisand. My brother Brook played Mario Andretti. I was always the reporter. I knew then that that was path I wanted to pursue. But it was more than just the mechanics of conducting interviews. I was always very curious and constantly questioned the status quo. I guess you could say that I was genetically pre-disposed to be a journalist.
What are some of the challenges you've faced along your career path?
Anyone aiming high and reaching for a goal faces set-backs and challenges. If you don't, you're not in the game. After graduating from college, I couldn't for the life of me get a job in the journalism field. I remember bringing my resume to local television stations in my hometown of Los Angeles and being stopped at the guard shacks. They wouldn't even let me in the lobby. I just kept trying. I had interned at KCBS my junior year and I kept calling the guys on the assignment desk. "Anything today?" Finally, an entry-level position opened up. They called and said, "Here's the job: wake up at 4am, pick up 400 newspapers from the newspaper stand at Hollywood and Vine, bring them to the station and distribute them to everyone's offices." "I'm in!" was my response. Later, when I finally became an on-air reporter in Columbus, Ohio, the challenges came fast and furiously. You have to fight for every shot at every good story. You have to fight to fill-in anchor. You have to fight to land the best interviews. You have to fight to get that next job in a bigger market. If you're going to be successful in life, you've got to fight like a boxer, even if you fall. Back in Columbus, I was faced with "non-renewal of contract." That's TV-speak for "fired." I allowed myself about 19 minutes of self-pity and then shifted into "they just don't see my value" mode. I never let it make me believe I couldn't succeed. You'll be knocked down constantly but the prize goes to those who just keep getting back up.
Any advice to young women setting off on their career path?
So much about winning is attitude. Say yes to every work request. There's nothing employers hate more than someone who says, "That's not my job" or "But I'm off at 5pm." I remember trying to convince the news director in Columbus to hire me. I looked at him straight in the eye and said, "I'll be in early. I'll stay late. I'll be the one at 2am on a sub-zero February night waiting for the suspect to be released. You'll never regret hiring me." He hired me. And then I made good on that promise. And above all, DON'T be dissuaded when someone tells you no or if you get passed up for a promotion. It's part of the game of life. Just keep pushing and pressing on. I've seen a lot of people succeed in life simply because they were persistent. Work on your craft, read everything you can get your hands on, self-educate and PERSIST.
Is it more difficult being a woman in business journalism than it is to be a man in the same field? Can you describe a time you've encountered this and how you overcame it?
I've never seen myself as a "woman journalist." I always just saw myself as a hard-working journalist who happened to be a woman. I got so lucky because I worked with managers all my life who never judged people on their gender: Jose Rios was my first manager at KCBS. He was just as tough on me as he was on the guys and I actually appreciated that. Ron Bilek was the first news director to hire me for an on-air job at ABC in Columbus, Ohio. He didn't care whether I was a man, woman or martian. He just wanted to know if I had the guts to follow the SWAT team into a crack house to get the story. John Ray and Jim LeMay at my next station, WEWS in Cleveland were incredible. They sent me to cover Hurricane Andrew even though it was dangerous. I said I could handle it and they didn't say, "Oh but you're a delicate woman." It was, "Be careful and go crush the story." In Boston, Joel Cheatwood hired me at WHDH. He said, "I don't want anyone in here that doesn't give 100% every day and I get the feeling you will." He and every employer reserve the right to demand 100%. That's how you cobble together a team that wins. WHDH was a perennial ratings loser but he turned things around. At Fox Business, I kept begging to go out on an offshore oil rig and do the show live from there. After the BP spill, Kevin Magee, the head of our network, said go for it. We had to sign a million safety waivers. These jack-up rigs are way out on the Gulf of Mexico, 100 feet above the water. Just to get from the boat to the rig entails clinging to a little cage on the boat which is then hoisted hundreds of feet above the gulf by a huge crane. But it ended up being one of the best shoots I've ever been a part of because we showed people what it's like out there. I think if you show confidence and a solid work ethic, the people for whom you work will see it and give you the shot, male or female. I've always believed the only people who will hold you back are the ones you allow to hold you back. Just be really good at what you do and the rest will come.
You recently attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where you interviewed leaders like Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Google's Eric Schmidt. Is there any advice you can offer about finding success based on your interactions with names like these and based on your own experiences?
Leaders like Gates and Schmidt and Muhtar Kent of Coca Cola are all different but they have one thing in common: a sense of optimism. They don't look at stumbling blocks and say, "Well, that's it. We lost. We're done." They found another way around those blocks. That 'never say die' attitude is something you must espouse every day. We do it at Fox Business all the time. I love being around our anchor Neil Cavuto because he has this optimistic attitude about everything he does. He took a chance leaving CNBC years ago to help launch Fox News when it was just a punch-line for critics. Look at them now. Number one. I did the same. I took that flying leap away from CNBC even though the path wasn't clear. It was the best career move I ever made. All the top leaders have done this at one point or another during their careers. Glory goes to those who take chances in life.
What is the biggest challenge for you in finding life-work balance today? How old are your children?
Bar none, finding the life-work balance is the hardest thing I've ever done. Our daughter is 10, our son is 7. They're my world. I literally tell them that every night before they go to sleep. The balance comes by being there for the things that matter. And when you ARE there, you've got to focus. Put away the blackberry. Not easy I know, but last night, I did that and really focused on my daughter's science chapter. I played reporter: "Tell me some of the elements on the periodic chart. What's an atom? Who discovered it?" My dad was a surgeon in private practice trying to save lives every day but also worked hard to be a father to five kids. He had one Wednesday off a month. That's it. On the weekends, we used to go on rounds with him to the hospital and wait in the car. That was our one chance to really be with him. But during those drives, he'd ask us each, one-by-one, "What's the BEST thing that happened to you this week?" And then he'd really listen and follow up with more questions. I try to do the same with my kids. And I always make sure that my workplace is not some scary mystery to them. They've been to the Fox Business studios often and absolutely love hanging out there. My kids never say, "Why do you have to go to work?" because they know exactly what it looks like and that I enjoy going there. They also think it's cool that I interview certain CEOs like Paul Raines of Gamestop or Jeff Katzenberg of Dreamworks Animation.
Both my husband Jeff Kepnes (who produces special events for CNN) and I travel for our jobs but we try to stick to one rule: we both can't be out of town at the same time. When I was in Davos 2 weeks ago, he stayed in New York. When he was in London to cover the Royal Wedding this summer, I stayed back. We both are lucky to work for networks that are totally supportive of family. But the true work comes from within. When you become a parent, it shouldn't be that you shed your persona but by the same token, it's time to really stop being selfish. No matter what great tickets to a concert fall in my lap, if it's Tuesday, I'm picking up my kid from Hebrew School. Sorry, Bono!
You live in New Jersey with your family, correct? What fun activities you do with your family there?
Yes. We happen to live on the river so all we need to really do is step outside our front door to enjoy the best part of New Jersey. We take 'beach' walks on the Hudson and try to spot bright green monk parakeets making nests in the trees of Edgewater. We belong to the Englewood Field Club which is not only great for swimming in the summer but skating in the winter. We put our son in their hockey club and it's the cutest thing.. little kids with all their pads on. We ride our bikes in Palisade Park, it's so gorgeous in there. I'm an LA girl and love being outside so it's always nice to really enjoy working in Manhattan but living with just a bit of greenery. Local restaurants we love: Wild Ginger for sushi and Blue Moon for Mexican in Englewood. River Palm Terrace in Edgewater for incredible steak, Pizza Nova in Ft. Lee because they have whole wheat crust, and who doesn't love Big Red Tomato in Ft. Lee? Everything is made fresh there but I would put money on the fact that they have the best garlic knots on the planet, bar none.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Learning something new every day. When interns tell me they want to do what I do, I always say, it's the greatest job in the world if you want to really experience life and learn from other people's stories, successes and failures. Business news is the great American story: it's got unbelievable highs, depressing lows, crime, punishment, and comeback-kid excitement. Plus, you get to help people make and save money. That's a story I want to tell.
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