As an anchor at Fox Business Network, Maria Bartiromo can lay claim to the title of hardest working person in TV business news. Five days a week she is front and center at “Mornings With Maria,” a three-hour mix of financial news, politics and economic policy analysis with some water cooler chatter thrown in. On Friday evenings she hosts “Maria Bartiromo’s Wall Street,” which features in-depth sit-downs with chief executive officers. Her weekend is devoted to “Sunday Morning Futures,” a weekly discussion program with Washington newsmakers for Fox News.
‘Do your job’
Bartiromo believes she developed a strong work ethic from her parents. Her father owned Rex Manor, a Brooklyn, N.Y., restaurant where he ran the kitchen while her mother toiled in the front of the house after putting in a shift as a clerk at a local off-track betting location. “On the holidays we would all go to the restaurant because my father had to work,” said Bartiromo, who checked coats. Her first experience outside of the family business was as a stock clerk at Kleinfeld’s, a retail store for wedding dresses, where she developed a bad habit of trying on the bridal gowns before she put them away. The third time her boss caught her, she was fired. “I cried the whole way home, but I learned a valuable lesson and that is — do your job,” she said.
Breaking the news
While studying economics at New York University, Bartiromo landed an internship at CNN, which in the early 1990s was still considered a notch below the news divisions of broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC. “Because it was cable and not one of the big guys, I could do everything,” she said. She became a production assistant after graduation and worked her way up to executive producer of CNN’s morning business news show over five years. But her goal was to report on camera. After hours, she went out with a camera crew to put together enough stand-up reports for an audition tape. CNBC, the financial news cable channel that was still finding its footing at the time, hired her. Bartiromo’s boss at CNN was Lou Dobbs, now a colleague at Fox Business News, who told her she was making a big mistake. “They’re nobody,” he told her.
The early days of reporting from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange were hard. A lot of people didn't want me there.
At CNBC, Bartiromo became the first journalist to deliver live TV reports from the floor of New York Stock Exchange. Bartiromo acknowledges it got rough on the male-dominated trading floor in 1995. “The early days of reporting from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange were hard. A lot of people didn't want me there.” But Bartiromo doesn’t look back at her early years through the #MeToo prism of today. “It was new to all involved,” she said. “But I don’t want to criticize the guys on the floor because I had so many friends there. Ultimately I did get a lot of information from them.” In 1999, before she married Jonathan Steinberg, son of late financier Saul Steinberg, the traders put a ball and chain around her leg, a tradition on the exchange for those headed to the altar. “I had made it,” she said.
Maria Bartiromo and Tyler Mathisen on the set of CNBC's "Business Center," which they hosted together, in 1997. (Associated Press)
With her pioneering role, Bartiromo said she has heard from many women who say she inspired them or their daughters to go into finance. But the anchor is especially proud of her ability to glean information from her sources at big investment firms and pass it along to the TV audience. “Viewers had that research at the same time that the big guys who paid a lot of money for it,” she said. “I feel like I helped level the playing field for the individual investor.”
After 20 years with CNBC, Bartiromo decided to move to Fox Business Network in 2013,where she was promised the opportunity to cover more than just the financial markets. “I needed to broaden my portfolio,” she said. “I didn’t want to be the person on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange 30 years later saying, ‘Here’s what’s going on.’” Having a supportive family gave her the courage to make the move. “I know that if something goes wrong I know that I’ll land on my Chanels,” she said. “If not, I have my family.” Five years later with her contract coming up, she would like to continue. “I love it here,” she said.
Bartiromo’s familiarity with the finance community over 25 years helps her draw the most upscale audiences in cable news — “Mornings With Maria” viewers have a median income of $148,200, according to Nielsen data for 2018. Her rise from the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, not far from where the 1970s classic “Saturday Night Fever” was filmed, has helped her learn the value of a dollar. She relaxes on weekends by taking long bike rides near the Westhampton, N.Y., beach home she shares with Steinberg, chief executive for WisdomTree, an exchange-traded asset management firm. With a 3:30 a.m. wake-up call for a daily show that starts at 6 a.m. Eastern, she sneaks an hour nap in during the day when she can, especially if she has to attend an evening event.
White House calling
Bartiromo is among the Fox News stars who gets personal calls from President Trump, although she pushed back at him when he accused her of being “fake news” during a March interview in which she asked about his attacks on the late Sen. John McCain. She didn’t take the president’s favorite insult personally. “He says what he wants all the time,” she said.