At the time of our phone interview on a Friday afternoon, Lapin was traveling in a car en route to her next destination. And on Twitter, Lapin posted from New York – past midnight Eastern Standard Time on a Sunday – that she was “still going strong at the office,” made apparent by an accompanying photo on Instagram of a table filled with notepads, coffee cups, half-eaten food and sets of fingers typing away on three brightly-lit MacBook Pro laptops.
Lapin has reason to be busy. In September, the do-everything journalist left her job as anchor of the CNBC business news program, Worldwide Exchange, to start her own multimedia production company, Nothing But Gold Productions, which will allow Lapin to bring her personal brand to a multitude of news outlets, both in broadcast and out of it.
“As part of my production company, I am going develop and host television shows, and create digital and print content for major media outlets,” she posted on her Tumblr.
For Lapin, a Medill graduate who was valedictorian of the Class of 2005, the career move is a chance to become the “Recessionista-in-Chief” she describes herself as, a business and financial journalist who can close the gap in knowledge between Wall Street and Main Street.
“Building a multimedia production company consumes my mornings, afternoons and nights,” Lapin said. “I was a nerd in college and I am a nerd now, I love my work.”
Despite the time and effort it takes to build a production company, a hectic schedule is nothing Lapin is not already used to. At Medill, Lapin worked full-time at news outlets in Chicago, including covering the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange for First Business network, while still obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism summa cum laude and honors for her second major in Political Science.
“Working full-time while taking classes enabled me to fast-track my career,” Lapin said. “It was an adjunct, invaluable experience.”
But “fast-tracking” her career would be an understatement. Growing up, Lapin said that her goal was to become an anchor for CNN. She accomplished that at age 21, becoming one of the first anchors to launch CNN Pipeline, a video news service by CNN that provides both live and on-demand video via the Internet. She then served as a reporter for CNN in a variety of news capacities, from anchoring major events such as the 2008 Presidential election and the Virginia Tech massacre to launching the “Young People Who Rock” series, where each week she profiled a different person both with a unique story and under the age of 30. When she moved network stations, Lapin honed in on business and financial journalism. As an anchor on Worldwide Exchange, Lapin would break major financial news stories around the world, interviewing major CEOs or geopolitical figures and analyzing movement in the stock market among other business news.
“My goal in life was to be an anchor at CNN, but I got that at 21,” Lapin said. “What’s next? CNBC, which I reached at 25. At 27, I realized that I wanted to start a company that would allow me to disseminate my voice in the most powerful way possible.”
All of which brings back Lapin’s self-described title as “Recessionista-in-Chief.” As an anchor on Worldwide Exchange, Lapin was able to shape the way the recent economic recession was covered. In September 2011, Lapin told AdWeek that becoming founder and CEO of Nothing But Gold Productions would give her the opportunity “to decode really intimidating money topics for different networks,” some of which would be “finance news in a party dress” while her coverage for other outlets would consist of “very straight financial news.” With ramifications from the recession still reverberating, bringing business news in a non-intimidating manner to the masses is Lapin’s ongoing goal.
“The economy is the story of our time, the story of our generation,” Lapin said. “The last biggest story was terrorism but today the economy is the biggest conversation we are having.”
“People need to realize that financial information does not need to be as intimidating as it should be,” Lapin said. “The economy will change our personal lives and every story can be related back to money from celebrity bankruptcies to economic policies coming out of Washington.”
But Lapin’s “decoding” will go beyond her role as an television anchor. Lapin is also working on publishing a book entitled Decoding The Wall Street Journal, which will break down money-related topics in an easy-to-read manner, launching a suite of online personal finance and investment tools, and spending time on her charity “Lost Girls,” which gives career advice and pre-worn workplace attire to unemployed young women.
Despite Lapin’s young age, her range of professional experiences allowed her to reflect upon the rampant changes in the media industry and broadcast journalism, specifically. When Lapin was still a student at Medill, a video news service such as CNN Pipeline had not yet come into existence.
“There is no longer a space for the anchorman who is the voice of God,” Lapin said. “Viewers are smarter than that and want more authentic news as well as anchors who will talk with them and figure out the news together.”
Lapin also offered some career advice for journalism students looking to make a mark in the industry.
“Journalism is not about cutting your hair the right way, it is about being passionate about the news so if you are going into broadcast journalism because you want to be on television, you are in the wrong business,” Lapin said. “Know your voice and choose your own destiny.”
On her blog, Lapin wrote that she left her role as an anchor on CNBC because she “had to act on the sense of urgency…to demystify the intricacies of Wall Street and personal finance for everywoman.”
She wrote further, noting that helping people “navigate a time when the economy is in such turmoil will be the driving force for all of (her) endeavors.” While Lapin advised Northwestern students to choose their own destiny, it appears that she already understands her own.
Photo Credit: Nicole Lapin
Video: Lapin anchoring for CNBC’s Worldwide Exchange on tech valuations.