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INVESTMENT STRATEGIES: AN INVESTOR'S PRIMER AND GUIDE
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FEATURED SPEAKERS

They've Got the Beat

CNBC's Sue Herera and Maria Bartiromo earned modern success the old-fashioned way: through perseverance.

May 11, 1999|DEBORA VRANA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sue Herera and Maria Bartiromo are two of the best-known faces in financial journalism, a world once dominated by white men in suits. Both women, in recent interviews, expressed their thoughts on the stock market, the booming demand for business news and their ever-busier lives.

Sue Herera, 41, grew up in Brentwood. Her father was a shoe wholesaler and her mother a homemaker. One of the first jobs for the Cal State Northridge journalism graduate was an internship at KNXT, before the Los Angeles TV station became KCBS. She made the leap to business reporting in 1981 when she joined start-up business channel Financial News Network, where her first beat was the highly technical futures industry. In 1989, she joined another start-up, CNBC, which has become a giant in business news. Herera anchors "The Edge" and co-anchors "Market Wrap I."

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Why business news? "When I started, I knew nothing about business news. I'd call up guys in the [trading] pits in Chicago and they would hang up on me. After four months of that they finally realized I wasn't going away. I learned business news from the guys on the CBOE [Chicago Board Options Exchange], the NYSE [New York Stock Exchange] and the CME [Chicago Mercantile Exchange]. I learned on the job."

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On challenges: "Learning the language of business is one of the hardest things. I would call and say, 'Hello, this is Sue. What's happening in live cattle today?' Then 'click.' I got some books and articles, did some research and came back with, 'Hi, this is Sue. Can you tell me who is aggressively short live cattle today?' And they'd say, 'Oh, yeah, we hear Cargill [Inc.] is a big short in the April pit.' I learned the language and I got assertive."

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On success: "I owe a lot of my success to the fact that they [traders] took the time to teach me how the market worked. Luckily, I was young enough that I thought I could do anything. For a woman in broadcasting, to have a niche, to have an area of expertise, is really valuable."

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A typical day: "Leave home 9:30 a.m., in office by 10 a.m., leave at 8 p.m. Eat a sandwich at my desk. If you are following the market, you can't come in the middle of the day and play catch-up."

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Balancing home and family: "It's hard. You realize you can't do everything well, so you pick your battles, you get to know your dry cleaner really well. My husband, Dan, is graduating in June with an MD at age 50, and then starts his residency. Coordinating schedules can be challenging."

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Relaxing: "I love to garden, but it's a challenge on the East Coast. I'd kill for a bougainvillea, or to be able to leave a hibiscus out overnight."

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Most interesting story: "The Asian financial crisis. Also the explosive growth in business news, the insatiable appetite for it. When I go to parties, everyone talks about the stock market. They want to know if I have any hot stock tips, and I say: 'No, I'm restricted about what I can own. That's why you will be rich and I will be working until I'm 200.' "

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Investment restrictions: "Most of us [CNBC journalists] own stock through mutual funds--that way there is less chance of a conflict. If we buy single stocks, we have restrictions that require a four-month holding period before we can buy or sell them. When we plan to buy or sell a single stock, we must report it to legal counsel in advance. There is strict prohibition on discussion of nonpublic material, like a merger."

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Investor advice: "Have an investment plan and stick to it. It's the most important thing you can do. I see people doing certain things and I think, 'If this all ends, it's not going to be pretty.' "

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Maria Bartiromo, 31, grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., where her parents owned an Italian restaurant. After graduating from New York University, where she majored in journalism, with a minor in economics, Bartiromo worked at CNN's business news division as a producer and assignment editor for five years. She joined CNBC in 1993 and became the first person to broadcast live from the New York Stock Exchange floor on a regular basis. She is co-host of CNBC's "Business Center" each weeknight.

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Why business news? "I was studying economics and thought I would eventually get a job on Wall Street, maybe investment banking. Then I took a journalism class and liked it. I began at the bottom at CNN--it was a huge learning curve. Throughout my five years there, I really learned and developed a niche covering Wall Street. The challenge is, the markets are always changing."

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On success: "Working very hard helped. Also, to cover business news during the longest bull market in history."

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On her nickname, "Money Honey": "It's all in good fun. The tabloids are the only ones that really call me that. There is not a soul on Wall Street who calls me that; they call me 'Maria' or 'Bartiromo.' "

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