At the intersection of Wall and Broad
Debra Borchardt of TheStreet.com worked in the securities business for almost 20 years, spending 15 of those years at Bear Stearns. Borchardt’s work experience covered such diverse areas as equities, fixed income and mutual funds with her last position in the clearing side of the business vetting money managers.
During her Wall Street years, she also worked as an actress appearing regularly in the soap opera “As The World Turns” and working as an extra on “Saturday Night Live.” She left the securities business to get her master’s degree in economic reporting at New York University.
Borchardt is now senior producer and a markets analyst at TheStreet.com. As senior producer, Borchardt is responsible for the quality and content of the videos at TheStreet, which produces 500 video reports a month. She is a frequent guest on CNBC, “Nightly Business Report” and ABC News Now.
Her twitter handle is @wallandbroad. For the uninitiated, the New York Stock Exchange is located at the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street.
Borchardt spoke earlier this week by email with Talking Biz News. What follows is an edited transcript. (And for the record, we are big fans of Borchardt’s business journalism.)
After more than a decade on Wall Street, why did you decide to switch careers?
One job I had during my financial career was summarizing the equity analyst presentations to the sales force. Eliot Spitzer changed all that and brokerages were petrified for anyone but an analyst to talk about stocks. I moved on to vetting money managers, but that wasn’t nearly as fun and I missed talking about the market. Wall Street ceased to be fun after Spitzer and I was ready to get out, but still make use of all my years of experience. I used to act in my off hours, so being an on camera financial journalist combined my years of wall street experience with my acting background.
How does being on Wall Street help you cover the markets?
There is nothing that can substitute for going to the stock exchange every day. Talking to the guys, getting a feel for the mood and tone. You can see at the opening what is happening at a post if a crowd gathers. It’s a fast way to get lots of sources and connections.
What is your typical day like?
I have a long commute, which I use to check what stocks are moving, answer emails, send tweets and do any social media. When I get to the office, I book my first interview on the floor and prep for that. Some mornings I tape with Jim Cramer, so I pitch him ideas. We normally tape three topics, so I have to be well versed in all three. Again – prep work. I have to write up titles and callouts for these videos right away which means I don’t come up for air until 11 or so. Next, I move on to booking interviews and preparing for interviews. Ordering graphics and finding broll for videos I am producing and some writing if I have time. I will tape as many as four to seven interviews a day.
What are your goals every day in covering the market?
I try to make sure I cover the items that will be the most important topic for the day. With so many options to choose from, it can be hard to prioritize what needs to be highlighted. I try to find a nugget of information that maybe other reporters haven’t hit upon on the main stories.
How is TheStreet.com’s audience different than other business media?
We have a very specific demographic. 85 percent male and mostly independent traders. They are affluent and knowledgeable about the market. So we can write and do video without having to always explain things. They mostly want stock advice, not piano-playing kittens. Our coverage is very stock focused, not so much the macro picture.
What do you think you do differently than other market reporters?
I feel like I bring an insider’s view to my reports. I tend to give color to my pieces, as opposed to straight news. I think my viewers can get market levels and headlines from most outlets, but I try to make sure I let them know what it means. Like, a stock is behaving contrary to its news. I’ll explain why as opposed to just reporting that a stock is moving in a certain direction.
How do you come up with something new every day to report?
That’s easy. There’s always news in a stock somewhere. Just look to see what stock is having lots of volume or trending on stock sites if the headlines are slow. I read a lot of SEC filings. There are a lot of hidden gems in S-1 filings for public offerings , which is an area I focus on.
Is there any difficulty in getting sources to talk when you’re reporting on investments?
Hedge funds are the worst to talk to. They never want to be interviewed. Mutual fund managers always want to talk because they want to push their fund. CEOs will talk if things are going well, but if they suddenly decline, then that means red flag and a story. Economists are terrible for video, they hedge every answer and go on and on, but they are good for print. Eventually you build up a nice network of sources, which is helpful because sometimes you end up smiling and dialing for hours to get the “right” source.
You also appear on other media. How does that help TheStreet.com?
Any time I can appear in other media, it promotes our web site. We don’t advertise and are dependent on portals and organic search. So, my appearances elsewhere gets our name in front of potential readers.
If you have some news that is breaking, how fast can you get it on the site?
We just renovated our studio, so I can tape and upload a video within minutes. We have the latest Tricaster switcher, virtual sets, LED lighting, new servers, fiber lines – you name it, we’ve got it. With our previous system, it would’ve taken 45 minutes. Our written articles can be published as soon as they are written.
Can you explain the “Test Kitchen” for people who have not seen it?
That video segment was born from reporters in the newsroom just talking about stuff we eat. Since we also cover companies, it was always a lively conversation. We’re all opinionated, so there is frequently a friendly disagreement over who has the best cupcakes or whether Chipotle is better than Cosi. We decided to put that conversation on tape and compare product as well as company. The better product isn’t always the better stock.
What is Jim Cramer really like?
I’ve worked with Jim for five years and continue to be impressed. He has a brilliant mind for stocks and a passion for the market. He is quite thoughtful in the office and has a laser-like focus for what he is trying to do each day. He is not like the “Mad Money” show; that’s TV, that’s different. No one wants to see calm and thoughtful on TV – that doesn’t sell. It’s Jim, but Jim in a ramped up way. But walking down the hallway at work, Jim’s calm and focused, which is amazing if you ever took a look at his schedule. I have learned a great deal from working with Jim. It’s been a true pleasure.