Alison Kosik is a business correspondent for CNN. Based at the network’s New York bureau since 2007, she reports live daily from the New York Stock Exchange and provides business and financial reporting and breaking news for CNN and CNN Newsource. She covered the financial sector during the 2007 recession, the downfall of Lehman Brothers, the wave of home foreclosures, the flash crash of 2010 and President Obama’s 2009 Stimulus Plan.
Although Kosik often reports on complex topics, she believes stories about business and financial issues should be “a conversation with the audience—not just talking down to them.” “I must do hundreds of hits per month—I put out a tremendous amount of content—but I always try to do my best to make everything understandable to our viewers. They don’t necessarily want to hear about the nitty-gritty of an issue as much as they want to know how it affects them. My role is walking viewers through these historic moves and trying to not induce fear but to put things in perspective and ease what people are feeling in a time of crisis.”
Opportunist: After almost seven years with CNN, you must have some great stories. Can you share a few of your top moments with us?
Alison Kosik: One standout was when I interviewed Hillary Clinton on the floor of the exchange. It was in September when dignitaries traditionally come and ring the bell to honor the lives lost on 9/11.
I also had the opportunity to cover the financial crisis when the market was having huge swings. The Dow tanked 400 points in 10 minutes—it was such a volatile and scary time for so many people. But the most devastating and heartbreaking was the Newtown school shooting. I have two kids, and it was the type of thing that had a lingering effect. I remember going on TV with tears in my eyes. I think we all did. It was a very trying and difficult time, but definitely one to remember.
Opportunist: What do you enjoy most about being on TV?
Alison Kosik: It’s not really about being on TV. It’s about the stories and information I’m bringing to the viewer. TV is just the conduit.
Opportunist: Is there anything you dislike about it?
Alison Kosik: Absolutely not! I love what I do. I worked very hard, I continue working hard—and I really love it all.
Opportunist: You get to interview some pretty prominent people. Is there anyone you were especially impressed with?
Alison Kosik: I loved interviewing President Clinton. Hillary was memorable too, but more rushed. President Clinton was more of a sit-down while Hillary’s interview was on the floor of the exchange. Whew, it was so crazy and crowded with people pushing their way in.
Opportunist: Have you encountered any difficult interviews?
Alison Kosik: No, I wouldn’t say it’s ever difficult. If I’m interviewing someone, I’m going to know my stuff.
Through social media you find out how you’ve made an impact—good and bad. For example, when I did a story on reverse mortgages and how to stay away from the scams I got a series of tweets from viewers thanking me for helping them make better choices.
Opportunist: Do you ever find it difficult to maintain neutrality when reporting the news?
Alison Kosik: I don’t find it difficult. My job is to report both, if not all, sides. An hour ago I did a hit on Hobby Lobby and that probably has four sides. It’s such a complex topic, but I think I hit on all of them. I also think it’s okay that some stories lend themselves to analysis and opinion. Sometimes people want you to give your perspective, and if I have an opportunity to give mine I will tell you it’s my opinion. I see nothing wrong with calling out hypocrisy and showing I am a human who can relate. At the end of the day I always do my best to give facts, but I also think journalism has changed—it’s more than just giving facts and tossing them back and forth. It’s important to be objective, but we’re human.
Opportunist: Going back a bit further, when did your interest in journalism begin and what was your path to TV news?
Alison Kosik: I knew I loved to write early on. I started writing in high school and actually got paid. It was exciting. I was a newspaper reporter at the Sun Sentinel in Hollywood, Fla., and loved it. Then I discovered the sound and pictures aspect to reporting and became hooked. So I decided to go into broadcast journalism and went to American University. I did three internships and worked a job on Capitol Hill at the same time. I also worked for CBS Newspath in New York City and made $100 a day but had the best time. [Laughs] Eventually I took a position as a TV reporter at a station in Texas, sight unseen.
Opportunist: Who influenced your career?
Alison Kosik: My dad—kind of in reverse. I love him to bits, but he didn’t necessarily want me to be a journalist. My first TV offer in Texas paid about $13,000 a year, and he was not happy with me moving out of New York to take a job in Corpus Christi. He would not even speak to me. [Laughs] So I wrote him a letter and explained why I wanted to be a journalist and why this opportunity was so important to me. In a roundabout way, it was the naysayers along the way who encouraged me. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t have kept pushing ahead, working really hard to prove that I could actually make a living doing something I love.
Opportunist: Was it ever a challenge for you to break into a traditionally male-dominated industry?
Alison Kosik: I went through some trying times, especially when I was starting out. There were some difficult newsroom situations between genders and with male bosses and young cub reporters. I don’t feel it anymore but, yeah, I ran into that in my early 20s. It’s a scary thing when you’re starting out and you don’t have cred yet and you’ve got these influential male bosses who try to use their position.
Opportunist: If someone just starting out wanted your advice what would you tell them?
Alison Kosik: Be thorough, and grow a thick skin. There will always be naysayers. So know your subject, put all your ducks in a row and do your job thoroughly.
Opportunist: Can you tell us about some of the current stories you are covering?
Alison Kosik: Right now I’m working on a big story about greed and cutting corners but I can’t say much more than that. The GM recalls are huge because it’s the largest American car company ignoring complaints about their ignition switches for more than a decade. They got bailed out by taxpayers and were under the government’s watch—but even the government didn’t pay attention. There is plenty of blame to go around and we have only touched the top of it. Another interesting story is how the Fed is going to unwind its massive stimulus program.
Opportunist: You recently tweeted about Yo, the one-word messaging app that was hacked. How did Yo—currently with more than a million users who simply send each other the word “yo” on their smartphones—convince investors to give them $1 million?
Alison Kosik: This was a story I anchored for CNN International’s “World Business Today.” We had Samuel Burke [CNN technology news correspondent] on, and I was retweeting our segment. I didn’t personally cover it; he was covering it with me. I remember telling him, ‘This sounds ridiculous.’ [Laughs] It’s a one-word app, but it’s something that has certainly gotten the attention of influential venture capitalists and can turn into something more. Everybody laughed about Twitter and its 140-character text messages, and look at Twitter now. It’s a public company. It’s going to be interesting to see if Yo is bought out and taken to greater heights.
Opportunist: What do you predict will be the biggest financial stories of 2014?
Alison Kosik: I think it will be interesting to see if the economy can really bounce back. There has been some improvement, but this is not an economy operating on all cylinders. Everyone is waiting to see not only if the economy truly can finish strong but also if it can stay consistently strong because the Fed is set to raise interest rates next year. Inflation is going up and the Fed is ready to pull the plug on the stimulus program.
Opportunist: Based on what you’ve discovered through your reporting, how do you feel about the U.S. economic outlook and the so-called American Dream?
Alison Kosik: CNNMoney recently did an American Dream poll that found most people think the American Dream is out of reach. Income inequality isn’t translating into financial security and there are too many Americans out of work. The recovery is slow and there is a disconnect between what stocks are doing and what the economy is doing. The top central banks here in the states and overseas say the disconnect is puzzling, given how the global and domestic marketplace is doing.
The old ways don’t work anymore. The landscape for employment has changed. Obtaining new skill sets is highly important right now. The Internet has exploded in every way, shape and form. From commerce to advertising and communication, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive. The trick is reinventing yourself.
Opportunist: When you’re not chasing the next big news story, how do you spend your time?
Alison Kosik: I have two wonderful kids whom I spend time with when I come home. I am also a workout fiend and enjoy the gym. I have recently taken up surfing and I love it!
Opportunist: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Alison Kosik: Oh God, that question. [Laughs] You know, what I learned a long time ago is you don’t make a five-year plan. I don’t think you can predict it or make plans.
Leslie Stone is an award-winning writer/editor with more than two decades of experience covering business, finance, real estate and lifestyle issues for newspapers, magazines and online publications. Originally from Virginia, she currently resides in Florida. Follow her on Twitter at @lescstone.
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