#inmyMM with Business Reporter Linette Lopez
This week, we talk to Linette Lopez, a correspondent at Business Insider and all-around top-notch journalist (you may have heard her on "Marketplace," a radio show from American Public Media, or "Hard Pass," a podcast she co-hosts, among other places). Here, she tells us about Wall Street egos, confidence, and why everyone is capable of lying.
MY MOM KNEW I was going to be a journalist before I did. Remember that awful Drew Barrymore movie from the '90s, Never Been Kissed, about a woman who goes back to high school as an undercover reporter? When I was working in politics after college, my mom bought me that movie for Christmas. I was like, “Why did you give me this terrible movie?” And my mom was like, "Because you’d be a great journalist!"
BEFORE JOURNALISM SCHOOL, I worked for state senator Jeff Klein. I’ve always been interested in politics, but it wasn’t the right fit for me. It was 2008, and the Democrats had just taken control of the New York State senate for the first time in years. Then, one morning we woke up to find out that another state senator, Hiram Monserrate, had broken a bottle and slashed his girlfriend across the face with it, which put us in danger of losing the majority that everyone had worked so hard for. And that was my breaking point. I was like, “All these people are criminals. They’re all jerks. And I can’t stand it here.” I was just tired of it. And so I decided to go to journalism school.
I'M FASCINATED BY POWER, so business reporting is perfect for me, although I didn't know it until grad school. A lot of students aren't interested in business journalism because it doesn't sound sexy and adventurous. When I taught at Columbia last year, my students wanted to go to Nigeria or Syria and like, get kidnapped. I was like, "I’d rather to go to Gstaad."
THE WORST THING a journalist can do is be deferential. I’m not afraid of anybody. I do not care who you are—I have questions, and my readers deserve answers. The way I talk to hedge fund managers, politicians—it shocks some of the people I work with. I really don’t give a shit. I’ve seen too many emperors without clothes.
CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF is incredibly attractive to people. If you want people to talk to you, you have to make yourself seem cool. Especially with these finance guys, because they’re nerds. Wall Street guys are all nerds. And everyone’s insecure. Everyone. When I feel small, that’s when I smile wider and force myself to get out there. I act like people should be talking to me. It’s the only way to beat that sense of intimidation.
I DIDN’T HAVE a business background, and when I started out, I wrote down lists of vocabulary words every day. I also read a lot of books. I read Greed and Glory on Wall Street, by Ken Auletta, which I think every business journalist should read, because it’s a story about how these two petulant children of men managed to change the course of history. The Match King, by Frank Partnoy, is another really important book—especially if you want to report on Elon Musk right now. It’s about this Swedish billionaire named Ivar Kreuger who created a match monopoly throughout Europe in the 1920s. He was a true huckster who was overstretching, and he’s the reason why companies now have to report quarterly earnings in the U.S.
DISCRETION IS EVERYTHING on Wall Street. If someone admires your work, they might reach out to you and say, “You know, I’m not supposed to talk to anybody about this, but…” I have to be very careful about protecting the identities of my sources, especially in the hedge fund space, because they could get in big trouble with their employers. I write a lot of analysis and opinion, so I don’t usually quote people, which is lucky.
BEING A FEMALE in this industry is incredibly dangerous. People get the wrong idea all the time, and talk to you for the wrong reasons, and don’t take you seriously. They eventually realize that I’m not joking, but it takes some slapping around. Sometimes I don’t know why I do it. It’s so dumb.
I’M ALWAYS SKEPTICAL. I don’t believe what anybody says. I think everyone has the capability to be a liar, because everyone wants to feel comfortable and good about themselves, so they lie to themselves about their position in the world and what they’re doing in order to sleep at night. So anybody, no matter how good and righteous they are, is capable of lying.
I TRY TO REWARD MYSELF with the morning off if I’ve been out late at night meeting with people. I also try to have one day a week where I don’t write. If you’re a journalist, you don’t have a job, you have a lifestyle. When someone wants to talk to you, you talk to them. If they want to meet you, you meet them. It’s not something where you have set hours.
I WORK OUT A LOT. I hate it, but it’s important to stay sane. This subject matter can be really depressing, because you feel that so many people in this industry don’t deserve what they have, or they aren’t as smart as they think they are—so I try to keep the endorphins going.
I LIVE A DOUBLE LIFE, definitely. In general, the places I go for work are worlds away from where I hang out with my personal friends. For example, I eat at a midtown steakhouse often enough that my name is engraved on a steak knife there, but I also live in Williamsburg and I like house music. I try not to mix my two lives, because when I do, it gets weird. Sometimes I feel like Batman. People who know me really well are always surprised by the different sides of my life.
I DRESS very casually if I’m just at the office. But if I’m going somewhere, I usually wear a dress or a skirt. I have a very feminine look, and trying to downplay it just wouldn’t work. Some journalists have the gift of blending in, but I’m not one of them.