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September 16, 2014

Sharon Epperson

CNBC reporter Sharon Epperson has a new book titled: "The Big Payoff: 8 Steps Couples Can Take to Make the Most of Their Money -- and Live Richly Ever After."

The book was released on May 8, 2007. Click here to buy a copy on

Below is an interview she did with in Sept. 2000.

Sharon Epperson has been a correspondent at CNBC since 1996. She covers personal finance, the energy markets as well as breaking business and financial news. She can also be seen on NBC's "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams," "Today," and "Early Today," MSNBC, and various NBC affiliates. Epperson is also a personal finance columnist for USA WEEKEND magazine and writes for ESSENCE and TIME, where she covered business, culture, social issues and health prior to joining CNBC. Her articles also have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and SELF. Epperson is a graduate of Harvard University.

Sharon Epperson Having worked in both print and broadcast journalism -- which do you prefer?

Epperson: I like both. I really like putting pictures with the words and letting people tell their stories. And what I think I bring to both mediums as a journalist is being able to tell someone else's story maybe a little bit better than they can, or more quickly, but then allow them to tell it in their own words. That can come across much better on television when it's done right. When it takes more time to explain something, that's where print comes in. I really see myself as a conduit and a storyteller and not necessarily a TV personality. I love what I'm doing on television right now, but I would never want to give up being able to write and have the words there for me to go back on because the memory of television is it's here one second and then people often forget. Is it hard to go back and forth between print and broadcast journalism?

Epperson: It's hard to write for print because the words are going to be there, and you want to make sure your copy is golden. I find it more difficult to write my column than to bang out my two minute script that I have to do every day. What is a typical workday at CNBC?

Epperson: I get to work between 8 and 9, and usually get an assignment after the editors get out of their morning meeting. I'm on the air with a quick overview of that story as early as noon, sometimes earlier if it's a breaking story. And I'm on between 12 and 4 with a little update. And then perhaps I'll do another update between 4 and 6. And then I will have a package on a taped piece that I've written and produced that will come on between 5 and 7:30. What was your toughest interview?

Epperson: I can't think of one because I feel there is a way to connect with even the most difficult people. When I started at Time, we did a cover story on the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan. And I really didn't know how to get that story as an African American and as someone who has some concerns about some of the things the Nation of Islam has done. When I went to Mosque Number 7 in Harlem to do the story, I was introduced to the then-head of organization as Sharon Epperstein. I felt like they were very closed, very uncomfortable with someone from Time doing a story, even though I was African American. I was uncomfortable because I had a feeling they thought I was selling out for being there and doing that. I don't know if we eventually warmed up to each other, but I eventually got what I needed... Being an African-American reporter, do you find it difficult to interview mostly white CEOs?

Epperson: It's difficult in another way. The funny thing is it's all about money. They [The CEOs] want people to be able to make money off of their company. They want their stock to go up, so it doesn't matter who they're telling it to for the most part... I haven't had that much of a problem... Sometimes I interview people through satellite. So they don't see me, but I see them. One time after I finished interviewing a CEO, he didn't know he was still miked and said: "Is that the black girl who just talked to me?" It didn't really impede me from getting the information that I wanted, but I would be lying if I said I didn't notice it every single day...

Yesterday (Sept. 5), CNBC was featured on "Nightline," and there was not one person of color in the whole segment. And it was a very positive story on CNBC. But there is not a strong effort here to make sure the network is extremely diverse because the thought is: as long as we're talking about money, people don't care about who is telling them what stocks to buy. They just want to make money off of it. I don't necessarily agree with that, but that's kind of the philosophy... One of the big things at Time is we always used the same experts of color. It didn't matter what the issue had to do with. If it was healthcare, education, politics, the African American community, we always had to interview Henry Louis Gates. His academic field is literature. He doesn't need to be the authority on everything. We don't find this problem much at CNBC because it is a more narrow beat and unfortunately there aren't that many people of color on Wall Street following this stuff. So even though I try to interview people of color, there's not a huge pool to tap into... What do you like most about your job?

Epperson: Telling the stories that can make people feel good. That can -- in the case at CNBC -- make them money. I love getting a good story and telling people about it. I really enjoy doing features. What was the mood in the newsroom during the crash of October 1997? Was it pure chaos?

Epperson: It wasn't anymore chaotic for me than normal, as I recall. I think I was handling the individual investor angle, talking to regular folks at a Charles Schwab office in midtown Manhattan. And believe it or not, they were not in panic mode. This long-running bull market really seems to have numbed many individual investors to bad news or bad days in the market. What are the rules for investing for CNBC staffers? Are you allowed to hold common stocks, even ones you have reported on in the past year? Or are you relegated to mutual funds?

Epperson: My husband has a few stocks, but I don't own any in my own name. I own only mutual funds and a few shares of Time stock I had from when I worked there. We are allowed to own stocks, but there are some rules as to when we can buy and sell, to prevent any conflict of interest, insider trading, etc. Would you like to be a full-time anchor at CNBC and get out of reporting?

Epperson: I would love to be an anchor. Since CNBC anchors conduct a lot of live interviews, there are many stories to be told that way as well.

Sharon Epperson won the Gracie Allen Award for her CNBC series on female CEOs, "Women at the Top," and a Silver World Medal from the New York Festivals for a three-part series on daytrading. For three consecutive years, she won the New York Association of Black Journalists' Award for Business Reporting for her work on CNBC. And while at Time Magazine, she received a first place honor from the National Association of Black Journalists for team coverage of the Nation of Islam. She holds a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University, and a bachelor's degree in government and sociology from Harvard.

Earlier Interviews:

  • David Maraniss of The Washington Post -- April 2000
  • CNN's Wolf Blitzer -- March 2000