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8 Things to Know About Life on Air

Maria Bartiromo shares behind-the-scenes secrets from her years in television

For more than two decades, Maria Bartiromo has been the face of financial journalism. She is credited as the first reporter to broadcast live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where she covered breaking news for the CNBC program Squawk Box, and Bartiromo has continued to make waves as a television journalist ever since. A year ago, the former CNBC anchor of Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo jumped ship to the Fox Business Network for her debut on Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo. Now, the anchor and global markets editor leads the network’s new show, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo. The three-hour program will take an economic angle on today’s top issues with input from leading financial players. “We want to be fresh and valuable and tell people what’s most important for their day so that people go to work feeling smarter,” she says. 

Here, Bartiromo gives us a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to be on air.

Maria Bartiromo

Maria Bartiromo

On reviewing material before going on air:

I probably spend 85 percent of my day preparing for interviews. There are certain guests that have been booked in advance, and for those, I have a lot of time to go through their portfolio and study up. But there are always things that break. There’s not a lot of planning in those unscripted situations. The best days are when we have to rip up the rundown and just go with it. 

On the toughest part about covering business:

It’s a lot of numbers. Making business and markets visual is a challenge. But business is something that resonates with people. At the end of the day, these are all issues we get. It’s about your life, your finances. 

On pre-show rituals:

I try to have a couple of minutes with the guest before I go on to make them (as well as me) feel comfortable and to get a sense of where their focus is. When the lights go on, people freeze up. I want to make sure the guest knows they can forget about the camera. I want to make sure we have a good rapport so they can be open and speak about what’s on their mind. 

On booking guests:

Most people don’t know that the anchor helps book the guests. I always make the first outreach. When the guest goes on air, they have to have a trust with the person they’re talking to. People might not know that the host did their fair share of work reeling that person in.

On how to handle yourself on air:

Be yourself. The audience is smart and television is transparent. Viewers can tell if you’re not being honest or trying to be someone else in about three seconds, so it’s important to go into a situation being authentic. Also, don’t overthink it. I can tell a lot of guests are nervous. When you go on the air, all these distractions get in the way and you forget that you’re actually the person who is most knowledgeable about the subject. Have confidence that you know your business best. 

On watching footage back again:

That’s the only way I get a true critique of my own performance. I make sure I covered all the right things and asked all the right questions. It’s important to watch yourself afterwards. 

On hair, makeup and wardrobe dos and don’ts:

You don’t want anything that’s too busy on the air. I like clean lines, not too many colors or patterns. When you have too much going on, the viewer might focus on that more than what you’re talking about. Television is a visual medium, so if you’re going to wear lots of jewelry and colors, it’s going to create a distraction. 

On waking up early:

My schedule will definitely change my life a little. I’ve done this shift a few times, but even then it’s an adjustment. You have to figure out how many hours of sleep you want to get, go to sleep much earlier, take naps, but I’m gearing up for it. It’s an amazing opportunity to be on at this time when people are getting ready for work and bringing them what they need to know for the day.