Exclusive Interview With Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker
Erik Schatzker, who is an anchor and editor-at-large at Bloomberg Television, was nice enough to grant Benzinga an exclusive interview. Erik co-anchors "Inside Track," an all-encompassing morning business news program which airs weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. EST on Time Warner Channel 30 in Manhattan.
We talked to Erik about Bloomberg's new look, his recent interview with acclaimed author Michael Lewis, and his impression of what Wall Street CEOs are trying to do to rescusitate their businesses. We were also curious about Erik's schedule, being that he goes on the air at 6 a.m. EST, and what his professional background was prior to becoming a highly recognizable Bloomberg anchor.
You can listen to this interview on Episode 2 of Benzinga's podcast.
Q: I’ve noticed a new look at Bloomberg Television this year, getting away from the old “charts and graphs” look that people once associated with Bloomberg. Can you tell me about that? What’s behind that? A: What is behind it, more than anything else, is Bloomberg Broadcast CEO Andy Lack. He has, as you may know, a deep background in television, initially at CBS and then he became president of NBC News. He realized that we could do more with Bloomberg Television than we had been doing before. Data is important, charts are important, its just like reading a magazine, you don't want all text. You want to see some graphical representation that helps to put the words into perspective. But, we don't want to take a wallpaper approach, because then they lose their impact. We are striving for a good mix. Q: On Monday, you had an extensive interview with author Michael Lewis about his new book “The Big Short” that some people are saying is the best book out yet on the financial crisis. Was Michael Lewis heavily critiquing Wall Street or does he think the crisis was caused by a few rogue operators? A: The thing that surprised me most about Michael Lewis was that the interview offered a side of Lewis that you don't get from his books. I don't think I need to go into too much detail about why people like Michael Lewis as an author, but they really appreciate his analytical eye and his ability to step back from a situation that even he, himself, might be in the middle of. You really feel like you are there with him. Michael Lewis in person is much more opinionated than you would think based on his books, because he does such a good job of being an unbiased reporter. In real life, he has opinions and he was happy to share them with me. Yes, he does think that Wall Street, in many ways, was responsible for the crisis. While there were a few people, who shared between them, more responsibility than others, the system is the problem. Specifically, Lewis thinks that the structure of incentives on Wall Street is counterproductive and compels people to do things that are bad for their firm, bad for their customers, and ultimately bad for the financial system and by extension, the economy. Q: You got the first television interview ever (in March 2009) with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. You regularly talk to all the big CEOs on Wall Street. What are they saying about how Wall Street is recovering from the financial crisis? A: The take that you get from these guys is that on one level they are concerned about the system. Their firms aren't going to survive unless the system heals itself and returns to some state of normalcy. For example, Bank of America's Brian Moynihan has spent much of his time in Washington D.C., as opposed to New York or Charlotte at BofA headquarters, since becoming CEO on January 1. He has done this on his own volition in order to address systemic issues in the financial system. At the end of the day, however, they are trying to get their businesses back to normal and generate as many profits as they possibly can. And that is where the criticism comes in from people like Michael Lewis - that going back to doing business that way is not really changing the way business is done. Q: What time do you get up in the morning, being that your show starts at 6 a.m.? And what time do you go to sleep in order to accommodate your work schedule? A: I typically get up at 3 o'clock in the morning or maybe a little bit earlier than that. I am out the door at 20 minutes to 4, and I get to work at 4 a.m. Going to bed is tough, because I have kids and want to spend time with them, but I generally force myself to sleep anywhere between 9 to 9:30 at night. Q: Besides Benzinga.com, what websites do you read every day? A: Good question, I spend quite a bit of time on some of the financial blogs. I read Zero Hedge, Calculated Risk, Alphaville, I sometimes read the Big Picture. I have been finding some interesting commentary on a site called Project Syndicate. I do most of my newspaper reading online, as well. So in addition to looking at the Bloomberg, which I probably do more than anything else, I am reading the newyorktimes.com, the FT.com, wsj.com, all of the above. Q: Erik, you’ve been at Bloomberg since 1998. What did you do before you joined Bloomberg? A: I used to work for Knight Ridder financial news, which was part of the Knight-Ridder newspaper business. That part of Knight-Ridder was then sold to a New York buyout firm which was building a would-be competitor to companies like Bloomberg and Reuters, called Bridge. So, I became a part of Bridge news, where I opened a bureau in Santiago, Chile in 1995. I was there until 1998 when I transferred back to Toronto. Shortly thereafter, I joined Bloomberg. Q: You’ve starting using Twitter. How’s that going? A: I actually think Twitter is an extraordinary tool. I love the fact that it is concise. I think it helps to inform my viewers about what I am paying attention to and what is important to me, and maybe give them a sense of what to expect in coverage from our show. In turn, I have found people who put out fascinating, informative Twitter feeds that turn me on to stories and information that I might have never encountered otherwise, or might have encountered days later. This way, it helps me get ahead of the curve frankly, and find stuff that I didn't know was out there. My Twitter feed is Twitter.com/ErikShatzker. Be sure to check out this interview on Episode 2 of Benzinga's Podcast.
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