Keeping Up With Fast Money: A Day In The Life Of CNBC's Melissa Lee

Hosting one CNBC show is pretty much an around-the-clock commitment for CNBC’s Brian Sullivan. So how does Melissa Lee run two?

She can do it because she’s built a process that keeps her tuned into the markets, shuttles her from New Jersey for “Power Lunch” to Times Square for “Fast Money,” and even leaves some time for her to unplug every day. Unlike fellow CNBC hosts Josh Brown and Sullivan, for whom work-life balance is something other people do, Lee manages to put on three hours of programming while still saving time to be a person.

“At any given moment of the day, I can tell you precisely what I’m doing—which is frightening, but the only way to do it with the limited time we have!” Lee said in an interview with Benzinga.


The process starts each morning around 6:30 or 7, Lee said, with the obligatory email check and a quick news roundup—Twitter, the newswires and the major papers.

“Basically my mission when I first wake up is to get a sense of what’s going on right now and what could be the big stories of the day,” she said.

Both "Fast Money" and "Power Lunch" start planning at around the same time, so Lee keeps an eye out for which stories might work for each show. She suggests stories to investigate, takes to consider, and guests that would round out the segments.

“Since the shows are extremely different, there’s not competition for story ideas, so I keep in mind which stories would work better after the market closes or with a live market for Power Lunch,” Lee said.

Then, she blocks off time in the morning to unplug and exercise, then she’s off to New Jersey to finish prep for “Power Lunch.”

See Also: From The Mean Streets Of Scarsdale To Russia And Back: A Chat With CNBC's Tim Seymour

'A Race To The End Of The Day'

Once Lee arrives in the studio, the rest of the day is scripted. The “Power Lunch” team meets at noon to round out the show with the latest news, and at 12:30 the “Fast Money” crew hops on a conference call to prep for the close.

“From 11:30 on, it’s a race to the end of the day, and pretty much every moment is spoken for.”

After “Power Lunch,” Lee chats from 3:00 to 3:30 with the “Fast Money” team to decide the focus. Lee said these days of record-high markets sometimes make it tough to offer material analysis.

“They’re a test of our creativity and market knowledge,” Lee said. “We try to make it fun and offer a take that’s different from the rest of the day so people tune in for our analysis.”

Behind The Scenes

After the close, Lee’s on camera again from 5 to 6 for “Fast Money.” She confessed that “95 percent” of the show is ad-libbed. A script gets the team from topic to topic, but most of the content bursts forth from the market knowledge of the hosts.

“I have to get my head around everything for each individual story, because it’s got to be top of mind,” Lee said. “There’s no time to be looking for a fact—I have to get in the mindset of bringing my best to the conversation so I’m not bogged down searching for facts. That way, they're just there and I can make each conversation on ‘Fast’ the best it can be.”

Once the after-market analysis is done, Lee hangs it up.

“That’s the luxury of having markets be your master—when they’re closed, I’m off duty,” she said.

'A Day Of Preparation'

The fast-paced nature of financial media and the workload of two shows means Lee has to constantly be on the top of her game in order to offer a compelling news product. CNBC is also competing with newswires and Twitter as sources of breaking news, so she can’t just read the headlines. When Lee’s stumped on how to find a take, she relies on a low-tech solution to find a unique angle.

“Each day is a day of preparation,” Lee said. “I keep a spiral notebook and I write things down so they stay in my brain and find them quickly. Most things I write down, I don’t use that day, or even that week. But when a story breaks, the information is in my head or I know where to find it. You develop an institutional memory and knowledge base that goes beyond what you can absorb in one day. That’s the demand of financial journalists these days."

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