“Fundamentally, technology, and creative arts have always interacted with some friction:” Five Questions With CNBC’s Julia Boorstin

Julia Boorstin 2013

I first met CNBC’s Julia Boorstin during my days at YouTube. As CNBC’s Senior Media & Entertainment Correspondent she had a really sharp POV on how we were evolving as a platform. Additionally when she heard about the work I was doing with YouTube as a platform for causes and non-profits, she immediately offered to introduce me to several Hollywood executives who had shared goals. Since she was at the Oscars last night, this seemed like a great day to publish our recent chat.

Hunter Walk: Your reporting career began as a writer but you relatively quickly added an on-camera role with CNBC. Was being “on-stage” an easy transition for you – are there photos of young Julia starring in her high school production of Cats? Or was there a different motivation for the switch?

Julia Boorstin: Well, I never did CATS—I have a terrible singing voice—but I did do the Nutcracker, and various other dance performances and plenty of high school speech and debate. I started dancing when I was four, and I was pretty serious about ballet and danced in a professional Nutcracker before moving on to modern dance, which I continued with through college.

That said, I didn’t start at Fortune Magazine out of college with any expectation of being a journalist on-camera. I was nudged into it by my former boss and amazing mentor Andy Serwer who was overloaded with a ton of TV requests. Fortune and CNN had a partnership; I first appeared to talk about an article I’d written in 2001 about the bubble bursting. When it turned out I didn’t freeze and was comfortable bantering with the anchors, it morphed into a regular thing, with segments a couple times a week on CNN Headline News.

I remember when I first interviewed with CNBC chief Mark Hoffman about a decade ago. he asked if I had any experience on stage. When I explained that I had danced, he said if I could be on stage in a leotard, with the risk of falling on my face in front of hundreds of people, then being on TV in a blazer would be no problem. He was right!

HW: This year you’ll celebrate 10 years at CNBC. That’s been the period of time where we’ve also seen social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube emerge. How have these products become part of your toolbox? Are you active on Snapchat yet – either personally or with CNBC content?

JB: I can’t believe it—it’s flown by! It’s been such a thrill to cover these game-changing products from their infancy. I use Twitter as my newsfeed—it’s one of the first things I check in the morning and I have Tweetdeck up throughout the day. I also Tweet about upcoming interviews and clips and articles I’ve written on CNBC.com. I’m also a big retweeter.

I post my Tweets to my public Facebook profile, but am looking to do more there—especially with the new live video feature. I am on Facebook a lot – definitely a DAU (daily active user), but I’m on my personal profile. I’m amazed how Messenger has allowed me to easily connect with so many old friends, and I find it invaluable  to keep in touch with far-flung classmates and connect with old friends.

Interestingly, recently I’ve been spending a lot more time on Facebook, because I’ve been reading a ton of articles I’ve come across there. (The ‘Instant Articles’ feature is definitely working on me. I’m a LinkedIn Influencer, but really should be posting more there. And while CNBC is active on Snapchat, I’m not doing much. I’m hopeful that CNBC will be included in Snapchat’s Discover feature, and I’ve been talking to CNBC’s growing social team about doing more on the platform.

It’s amazing how all these new platforms have sped up the pace of journalism and everything else. When I started at Fortune Magazine I would have weeks- and occasionally months—to report and write a story. In TV it was typical to have a day to write and put together a package. But as I started doing more breaking news and Twitter (and everything else) sped up the pace of news, I often have to tweet instant analysis or quickly write up 500 words for CNBC.com.

HW: Often your coverage spans tech and media, two worlds that historically have accused the other of just not “getting it” – the gap between LA and Silicon Valley. Was that trope ever truly true? Has it changed in recent years? Do you foresee advances such as Virtual Reality dependent upon engineers and creatives collaborating?

JB: Media and Internet companies – Hollywood and Silicon Valley—are more interconnected now than ever. And they’re only going to become even more intertwined. Many of the Internet giants – which we think of as ‘tech companies’ are next-generation media companies. Look at Netflix and most recently Apple going beyond just distributing content to make their own. And ad-giants Facebook and YouTube are competing with newspapers – and every other type of content—for consumers attention and ad dollars. And on the other end, CNBC’s parent company Comcast, defines itself as a technology company. Just look at the most recent earnings season—the focus has been entirely on how media giants are using technology to adapt to the digital future.

I don’t think that the two types of companies didn’t, or don’t *get* each other. They see that they take different approaches to content; they have a different sense of the value of pure creativity or “art” versus a data-driven approach. They know they need each other. And these days it’s not uncommon to see tech titans at Oscar and Golden Globes parties. Sometimes they look out of place, but they’ve definitely have a place there.

But yes, fundamentally, technology, and creative arts have always interacted with some friction. Think back to Edison: he invented the Kinetograph camera and the Kinetoscope projector. But then he sued filmmakers who used similar technology. The legal battles between tech-oriented distributors and content creators has certainly continued—think Viacom suing YouTube and ESPN suing Verizon over its skinny bundle. Content and distribution—Hollywood and Silicon Valley—they just have different ideas of what’s most valuable.

HW: What’s one company, person or topic you wish audiences cared more about? And why do you think it’s been a tough one to cover?

JB: This is a tough one to answer. It’s always disappointing when enterprise stories I’ve been working on get killed for breaking news, but I definitely understand those decisions, especially with the market as volatile as it’s been. I think one general area I wish we could do more on is philanthropy—I think it’s fascinating to watch how some of the most astute, disruptive business practices of our generation are being applied to non-profit models. I think it’s an area of interest for CNBC viewers, but as it’s not viewed as part of the market-driven forces of our economy or viewed as key to our focus on actionable news, I think it’s hard to give it as much attention as it deserves.

HW: You’re a tv pro. Any tips for folks who find themselves on live tv? I was always told to not gesture as wildly as I might in person because it appears exaggerated on-screen.

JB: Relax, smile, and look straight into the camera (or directly at the person interviewing you, depending on the format). I find the most awkward looking interviews are when people are alone in a studio, don’t know where to look, and end up squirming. I find when I get nervous I talk too quickly and my voice raises by about an octave. Oh, and don’t wear stripes or houndstooth. The more you can relax, the better! Remember that they asked you on for a reason, so there’s no reason to be worried!