CNN’s Erin Burnett isn’t just one of cable news’ hottest commodities, she’s a hometown girl from Mardela Springs, Md.
Forever loyal to her Eastern Shore roots, the host of Erin Burnett OutFront recently spent some time with CSM associate editor Nick Brandi to discuss her life then, now and beyond.
What’s your fondest memory of growing up on the Eastern Shore?
I’d say it’s probably just being outdoors and soaking up all of that beautiful Eastern Shore nature. I especially remember taking trips to Assateague with my two sisters when we were young.
We were told that at one point you had attended The Salisbury School in Salisbury. Is this true?
It’s true. I went there from ages 3 to 13; in other words, the full program at that time. My parents were co-founders of the school, in fact, and I think they all created a great institution of learning and nurturing there. It’s a very enriching environment and should serve as a model for other schools.
When you were a little girl, what did you dream of becoming when you grew up?
Lots of things, really. At one point I’d wanted to be an archaeologist. Later on, I wanted to be in the foreign service, like the CIA or something, then law. My father is a lawyer.
You and your husband (Citigroup executive David Rubulotta) are obviously extremely busy people. Do you ever get time to come back home for a visit?
Quite often, actually. I really enjoy coming home, so I get back there a few to several times each year at least.
You are a newlywed who waited 36 years to get married. What compelled you to wear a red dress at your ceremony?
(Chuckles) Well, we got married ay City Hall in New York City — have you ever seen or been to City Hall?
Yes, I’m from New York.
Oh, okay, then you already know what a casual, multicultural vibe it has. There’s a little slice of everything there, and that’s what I love about it. Everything goes! So, we knew that we wanted to be casual for the ceremony, and since [David] was wearing a red tie…
Ah, I get it. No grand statement, just a show of pre-spousal support through color coordination.
What has been the biggest unanticipated adjustment married life has imposed on you?
Ha! There’s been nothing yet, really, but give it time. I’m sure something will come up.
Which are your favorite professional sports franchises?
I love the Redskins, but when they’re out of it, I root for the Ravens. I also love the Orioles.
Which industry is tougher, Wall Street or television?
That’s an interesting question. They’re both really tough. But if I had to choose, I’d say television is just a little tougher, mostly because of the necessary immediacy of the medium and the size and scope of the stage on which it’s presented. Also, if one makes a mistake of some kind, the world knows about it before there’s even time to react.
In which of those same industries do you feel women have made greater strides and have achieved a greater degree of equality?
I think both are industries in which women have found a powerful voice, but there is also an evolutionary step in my area of media that I think is very encouraging when it comes to the role of women. The retirement age for a woman in news media a generation ago — think of Jane Pauley on the Today show — has become one at which contemporary women may find themselves at the peak of their careers, just like the guys, and I think that’s not only fantastic, but fair, too. Women like Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and Meredith Vieira are perfect examples of this positive trend.
Have there been times in your career during which you’d felt that your good looks either helped or hindered its trajectory?
I’ve seen the whole “looks” thing go both ways for women in business and industry. But what I’ve also found is that if you do your homework, really prepare, behave professionally and just keep at it, you will eventually achieve the credibility you’ve sought and be taken seriously, and all the looks stuff begins to fade to the background.
You had played yourself in the HBO docudrama Too Big to Fail. How did you find the “acting” experience, and can you see yourself doing more of it at some point?
It was a fun experience, though I think I’d be a horrible actress (laughs). Actually, there’s a movie that I think is coming out soon called The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, with Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde and Steve Carell, in which I once again played myself being broadcast on the TV in Steve Carell’s motel room or something like that.
You were a jock growing up. Do you still play sports? If so, which ones?
Not so much with the competitive sports at this point in my life, but I still hit the gym on a regular basis. Definitely still love field hockey, though. I played left wing and was very passionate about it!
Do you have any unfulfilled professional aspirations?
There will always be more to do, though I’m quite happy with where things are at the moment. I’m very happy that Jeff [Zucker, president, CNN Worldwide, as of Jan. 1] has come onboard; I think he’s going to do some very interesting and exciting things here. Down the road, it might be cool to write a book or figure out a way to get paid to travel (laughs) — I love to travel!
You apparently do love to travel and are more well-travelled than most. What has been your favorite place or trip?
Oooh… I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one place; I’ve loved so many. I guess my favorites would be Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, Hong Kong, Singapore, Iceland, Nigeria, Italy… the list, goes on. I just love the feeling I get when I look out the airplane window onto new terrain. The possibilities and excitement seem endless.
Which news assignment meant the most to you personally?
Recently, we traveled to the Mali border to spend time with refugees and fighters. I believe Mali is important, and I felt we could, as journalists, contribute by sharing the story with Americans.
If you could interview anyone in history, whom would it be?
This is hard. The list could go on endlessly. Okay… one of them would be Amelia Earhart, after her around-the-world flight, had she completed it. I think I’d also like to interview Cleopatra.
What is your favorite leisure activity?
Reading and — here’s a shock — traveling!
What’s your most reliable and effective trick to relieve stress?
I guess reading a good book or going to the gym.
Which nation poses the greatest threat to the U. S.’ standing as the largest global economy, and do you think the U.S. economy will ever return to its status prior to 2008?
That’s a really big question, so let me just put it this way: The United States is still the biggest and most powerful economy on earth. Our economy is nearly double the size of the number-two country, China. And we have resources — human and natural (energy!) — that every country in the world envies.
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