Anchor Liz Claman, Branching Out at Fox Business Network
Monday, January 5, 2009
NEW YORK -- When Liz Claman made the jump from local television to business news a decade ago, she had never heard of Warren Buffett.
Last month, the Fox Business Network anchor aired an hour-long special with the legendary investor, who for the first time allowed cameras to record him teaching at a business school.
"I'm not a BusinessWeek reporter who knows how to perfectly distill a balance sheet," Claman says. "But I know a good business story when I see it."
A year ago, the self-described "crazy girl" took what some might have deemed a crazy step, giving up her CNBC anchor job without a new gig lined up. Claman soon signed with Fox's fledgling business channel, which reaches a fraction of the audience, and is enjoying her underdog role as an anchor during a three-hour afternoon block.
Part of the reason she rejected CNBC's offer is her "California free-spirit personality," Claman says, but also because she carried the baggage of having started there as a temporary freelancer. She felt the same way earlier in her career when "I never got the nod to be the main babe, the 6-and-11 [p.m.] holy grail of local news."
Claman, 45, was stuck in the middle of the pecking order at CNBC, where Maria Bartiromo and Erin Burnett were getting the lion's share of the attention -- and appearances on NBC -- lavished on female anchors. At Fox she is an unquestioned star, albeit in a far smaller constellation, and her experience provides a glimpse of how Rupert Murdoch's year-old start-up is faring.
On a recent Monday, Claman -- a bright red dress offsetting her red hair, her leopard-print stilettos hidden under the anchor desk -- begins the 3 p.m. hour on a down note. "Ouch -- after five days of gains, stocks across the board are taking a massive beating today," she announces. The Dow is down 420 points.
Claman talks about Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who is minutes away from giving a speech, but the control room puts up a picture of someone else, then quickly takes it down.
"I want to call an audible," Claman announces, launching into a discussion of airline problems, starting with her Continental flight the day before, which included charges for luggage and food. She calls for a graphic on the airline industry, but her producers, struggling with balky equipment, can't provide one.
Such minor mishaps are not uncommon, and Claman keeps things moving with little effort.
"There are no anchors I've ever worked with who are more involved with their hours without being heavy-handed," says Executive Producer Andy Hoffman, another CNBC alumnus. "She over-prepares, she asks for more research. I say, 'Liz, it's a four-minute interview.' "
Both say that booking top corporate executives is harder when you're the new kid in town, and that some insist on first appearing on CNBC.