"My Last Priority Is...Lipstick"


With her Sophia Loren-like looks, CNBC anchorwoman Maria Bartiromo turns heads. The tabloids long ago dubbed her "The Money Honey." But Bartiromo is justifiably proud of her 10-year track record as a newswoman. Today, people forget that she was the first journalist to deliver a broadcast live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, in 1995.

Bartiromo hosts and co-produces CNBC's Market Week, anchors Street Signs and Market Wrap, contributes news commentary to other network and affiliate shows, and writes a column for Individual Investor. In her new book, Use the News, she tries to inform the individual investor how to interpret the deluge of information that can move markets. She explains what the top market makers watch, and how she decides what's relevant in the daily market numbers. Recently, Bartiromo sat down with BusinessWeek Contributing Editor Karin Pekarchik to discuss her new book. Here are edited excerpts from their conversation:

Q: What is the most important thing you want readers to gain from reading your new book, Use the News?

A: There's a lot of information -- the Web, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines. With the information explosion comes a lot of noise. If you focus on the noise and waste energy, you hurt yourself and waste time.

Q: What segment of the public are you trying to reach with Use the News?

A: I'm trying to educate people how to use the news. I take them into my world, and it's the same two worlds I speak to on CNBC. [So,] there's a balance: I try to talk to the first-time investor. But at the same time, [I'm expecting] many readers to have a level of professionalism and experience.

Q: What kinds of developments should individual investors be looking at?

A: We've had hard lessons in the past year. You need to look at how [a company's] earnings are growing, compare it to its sector, and compare it to the S&P. You need to look at management: Who is the CEO? How long has he been there? What has the stock done? Look at insider transactions. Does he have an incentive to get the stock up? Is there enough cash flow to generate interest payments? What about debt? Money flows: look at the supply and demand. In the book I list the Web sites I visit to do research. And finally, has the story changed? Economies change, so you need to reevaluate. Is the reason that you bought still there? If not, sell.

Q: Do you have any particular advice for women?

A: Women can understand business. Some women think "it's over my head," to their detriment. It's not brain surgery. We have access to information and should be using it. Money has become taboo for a lot of people, but I'm here to say it's just not so.

Q: An almost cult-like devotion has developed around you that goes beyond your news coverage. Joey Ramone of the Ramones wrote a song about you, there's the Stock Market Hairdex, and even a celebrity Web site where fans can buy Maria Bartiromo posters. How do you feel about your popularity and success?

A: My last priority is whether my lipstick is on right. I don't have that as an issue. Viewers see me as a woman trying to get her hands dirty. I'm not insulted by it [the attention]. I was initially concerned about [the attention regarding my appearance] overriding my achievements, but generally the tabloids aren't criticizing.

Q: Your team for Market Week is made up of all women, and even the co-writer of this book is female. Is it coincidence, or is it another way for you to level the playing field?

A: Funny you should notice that. It took me about six months to realize it. Diane Galligan, my co-producer, is one of the most talented people in TV. [But] this summer we have a male intern from Harvard. There's no ulterior motive, just a coincidence.

Q: Your book has hit the best-seller lists, including BusinessWeek and The New York Times. Given the market slowdown, has its popularity surprised you? Were you worried about the timing?

A: After spending so much time, sure I had some doubts. People said "business books don't sell" but I felt confident. I'm telling you what I do, and it's an appropriate book for me to write. In a tough market, we need to buckle down and get people through it. I intend to navigate the storm we're in.


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