Courtney Reagan, CNBC Business News Correspondent

{editor's note}

Being a television news correspondent is a fiercely demanding job.  Working at CNBC for nearly 12 years, I saw firsthand the dedication of reporters…the relentless hours, the intense deadlines, the digesting and memorization of a dizzying amount of information before having to relay it to an audience with no teleprompter guiding them through.  Courtney Reagan is one of the best. Not only is she a dedicated and versatile reporter, she's also a kind soul, a person with selfless energy that's impossible to ignore.  She pursues life with 100%  passion and dedication.  And just to clarify, this isn’t limited to her remarkable career at work, it’s also with her personal endeavors; her marathon running to raise money for cancer research, her quest for knowledge in higher education, her devotion to her friends, and most importantly, her unwavering love for her family.  I'm excited to take a moment to show you the "real Courtney"...not only the gorgeous personality you see on television, but the extraordinary woman behind the scenes.

           Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

           Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

{news nerds unite}

The path to becoming a successful television correspondent is not for the faint of heart. 

What you see on television…the beautiful face, the effortless presentation of an outrageous amount of information into sixty seconds of cohesiveness…is only the beginning of it.

Behind this casual elegance comes late nights, early mornings, years in trenches, an unwavering dedication to the craft, and truly…it takes a special kind of person to succeed.

A self-proclaimed ‘news nerd’, Courtney’s love for news began long before she ever realized what a career in this industry would require.

“Growing up, I used to babysit kids on a Friday night and just wait for them to go to bed so I could watch 20/20.”

Courtney with her family from Dayton, Ohio.  (From Left:  her husband Jared, Courtney, Father John Reagan, Mother Brenda Reagan, Brother Johnny Reagan, Sister-In-Law Heather Reagan and nephews Gavin and Brody). / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

Courtney with her family from Dayton, Ohio.  (From Left:  her husband Jared, Courtney, Father John Reagan, Mother Brenda Reagan, Brother Johnny Reagan, Sister-In-Law Heather Reagan and nephews Gavin and Brody). / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

{made for tv}

She loved being a ‘consumer of news’ as she calls it, but wasn’t sold on the idea that a career in the industry itself was a realistic possibility.

“I actually started as a finance major at Miami University in Ohio, and was required to take a public speaking class.  One day, my teacher pulled me aside and asked me whether I’d ever considered a career in public speaking, like a television news reporter.”

Courtney walked over to the mass communications department at her school, deciding right away that she’d double major in mass communications and finance.

“I never intended to be a business news reporter and frankly, didn’t know that niche existed.  I really just wanted to gobble up as much education as I could since I truly didn’t know what I was going to do when I graduated."

Julie and Courtney / PHoto COurtesy Courtney Reagan

Julie and Courtney / PHoto COurtesy Courtney Reagan

{a life-altering tragedy}

On April 10th, 2005, one of Courtney’s friends, Julie, died in a fire on campus.  Local news reporters from Dayton and Cincinnati swarmed the campus to provide coverage for their respective stations.  It was the first time that Courtney had seen local news reporting up close and in person.

“The reporters were doing their jobs, asking friends and family about Julie and the fire.  Watching them, I realized that I wasn’t fully ready to be a reporter myself and knock on the door of someone who had just lost their child.”

This moment of clarity came right around the time that Courtney would have had to start sending out her demo reel for reporter positions in local markets.

“I had taken an unpaid internship at Dateline in New York City the summer prior to my senior year, and learned about NBC’s prestigious Page program while I was there. I knew if I applied and was extended an offer I would take it, because it meant I could still be in news without having to report on local stories like the one I had just experienced.”

Courtney on her first day as a Page, October 31, 2005 / PHoto Courtesy Courtney Reagan

Courtney on her first day as a Page, October 31, 2005 / PHoto Courtesy Courtney Reagan

{golden ticket}

Made famous by “Kenneth” in the hit sitcom “30 Rock”, NBC’s Page Program is one of the most sought-after entries into the network news giant.

In fact, a 2014 New York Times article describes it like this: “7,000 people apply for 60 to 85 slots each year, making the page program about 10 times as competitive as admission to Harvard or Yale.”

As a Page, ambitious news-junkies like Courtney receive an incredible opportunity to work within various shows at NBC over the course of a twelve-month period. 

“During my Page program, I was offered a job as a desk producer at CNBC because of my background in finance and communications.  I decided to take the job while never really giving up the hope that at some point, I would be the one doing the storytelling.”

Courtney covering NYC’s preparations the day before Hurricane Irene was expected to hit, the literal calm before the storm / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

Courtney covering NYC’s preparations the day before Hurricane Irene was expected to hit, the literal calm before the storm / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

{moment of truth}

Courtney would stay late at work, long after her colleagues had gone home for the day.  She would sit at CNBC’s teleprompters and work on her on-camera delivery, putting together a reel that she hoped would provide her an opportunity on camera.

“One of my bosses asked to see my reel, and told me that he wanted me to come into work on Monday ready to go on-air for news updates if they needed me.  I told my parents and my now-husband, but I asked that they not tell anyone because I was so nervous and realized this might be the only opportunity to ever do this.”

What started out as a trial period turned into a regular gig, with Courtney receiving more and more air-time throughout the day.  This was, to her credit, a very unique example of a news reporter starting their career in New York City, the number one market in the country.

“Because CNBC as a business news network is so niche, and because they value content knowledge over the ability to be on camera, I had this opportunity to do something that is very unique.  I would be remiss to say there wasn’t a little bit of luck and ‘right place, right time’ in the whole situation.”

Courtney getting ready to interview Kourtney, Khloe and Kim Kardashian about their expanded clothing line at Babies R Us / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

Courtney getting ready to interview Kourtney, Khloe and Kim Kardashian about their expanded clothing line at Babies R Us / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

{the early bird gets the worm}

Capitalizing on any opportunity she had for air-time, Courtney was frequently taking the early morning shifts, arriving at work at 4am and leaving oftentimes twelve hours later to provide business news updates to the local markets throughout the country.

“I started to gain confidence as a business reporter during the financial crisis.  I had to explain this complicated topic about Wall Street making big bets on people paying their mortgages to local news viewers throughout the country.  It was during this time of complete financial instability that I started to realize that my role was an important one, and there is something to value in being able to explain what was happening in an understandable way.”

Courtney on the CNBC Squawk Box set with Matt Shay, the CEO of the National Retail Federation, and Steve Sadove, the former CEO of Saks / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

Courtney on the CNBC Squawk Box set with Matt Shay, the CEO of the National Retail Federation, and Steve Sadove, the former CEO of Saks / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

{buying power}

CNBC was also in need of a retail correspondent, someone who could devote themselves to consumer behavior and psychology, or “why we buy what we do.”

“I started offering to jump in on holiday stories and other types of consumer stories, hoping to get my feet wet before approaching the idea of becoming the full-time retail reporter.”

Her first story was standing in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and from there, the retail stories kept funneling in. Courtney had solidified her ‘beat’ as CNBC’s retail correspondent, but also, to her credit, kept in the back of her mind the fickle nature of the television news industry.

Courtney’s graduation from NYU MBA program in May 2013 with parents John and Brenda Reagan outside the school / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

Courtney’s graduation from NYU MBA program in May 2013 with parents John and Brenda Reagan outside the school / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

{something like a phenomenon}

“I consider myself a realist when it comes to women in news, that oftentimes women age out of news or the schedule becomes too demanding once you have children, so I decide to pursue an MBA both to expand my knowledge in my current position and also as a backup plan in case this career didn’t work out…either by my choice, or theirs.”

She applied to NYU’s Stern School of Business and pursued her MBA while continuing to work for CNBC full-time.

She also, in her “free time”, decided that she’d run the New York City Marathon under the condition that her training supported organizations that she was passionate about.

“I knew I wouldn’t stick with the training of the marathon unless the reason was bigger than me. I thought that if I could run the marathon while raising money for my Aunt and in hopes of finding a cure for others down the road, then I think I will find the time to train and make it worth it.”

The first year, 2012, Courtney trained while working full-time and going to grad school.  The money she raised, $13,450, was for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in honor of her Aunt Peggy.  If you remember correctly, that was also the year that Hurricane Sandy struck New York City.  Imagine training nearly six months for a marathon, while working full-time and going to school part-time, only to have it canceled two days before.

Determined to actually have an opportunity to run the race, Courtney decided she’d train again…and again.  In 2013 and 2014, Courtney raised $28,290 and nearly $25,000 in honor of her Aunt Peggy, Aunt Debbie and friend Rachael for the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation team.  Courtney was also recognized as the top individual fundraiser for her entire team, something she says was a much prouder moment than crossing the finishing line.

Jared and Courtney crossing the finish line on November 3, 2013 / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

Jared and Courtney crossing the finish line on November 3, 2013 / Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

{the sky's the limit}

As Courtney’s career continues to grow at CNBC, she has evolved into a “jack-of-all-trades,” owning the retail beat but able to eloquently and intelligently cover a variety of other topics.  In fact, when this interview was conducted, Courtney was reporting from the New York Stock Exchange, providing minute-by-minute market updates to viewers throughout the world.

A Midwesterner at heart, Courtney has not lost-sight of the thing that matters most to her, family.  This summer will be her second anniversary to her wonderful husband, Jared, who aptly proposed to her on-set at CNBC a few days before they ran their first marathon together.

Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

Photo Courtesy Courtney Reagan

{driven q&a}

You pursued your beat as CNBC’s retail correspondent.  What's your advice for how to create your own niche within a company?

“It’s like starting a company. Find a need that exists, known or unknown, and see if you have a great way to fill it. Then, make sure the right people know your desire to satisfy that need, and that you have the skills to fill it.”

For a job like yours that includes tough hours, deadlines, and long days, what have you found has helped with handling the pressure?

“Admittedly, the pressure is part of what I like about it. I have a personality that performs best under pressure. That doesn’t mean I don’t get stressed, because I do, I really do, it just turns into motivation for me. However, I’m trying to work on ways to handle my stress better. I try very hard to be “off” on the weekends. CNBC isn’t on the air on the weekends, so that helps too. Yes, I follow the news and check my email, but it’s limited and I try not to work when I’m “off” unless it’s truly, truly necessary.”

You call yourself a 'realist' when it comes to your career and making sure you have a backup plan.  What’s your advice for other women in creating their own ‘backup plan’?

“It makes me feel better and allows me to sleep better at night to have a backup plan. This job is in many ways a dream job, one I knew had a low probability of becoming a reality. Even when it became my reality, I know it could end tomorrow. So I guess my advice is that your backup plan should be setting up a scenario that allows you to sleep better at night; whether it’s saving money, keeping up a hobby that could be a money-maker if necessary or getting an new certification. While I’m married to a man with a great job, I want to know that I could financially support myself if I needed to, if this job ended, or if I needed to move to a city that would make it hard to continue in this type of job.

Working as a television news reporter is a very sought-after career.  What's your advice for a woman looking to becoming a news reporter?

“My advice would be to find a niche, a subject or topic, that you know better than anyone else. Be an expert. The most valuable thing in TV news, or online/print news, is content. On air presentation is simply icing on the cake, it’s not going to land the job for you.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Tyler Mathisen, who hired me, told me years ago to “just be you”. Meaning, you can watch Diane Sawyer, my TV idol, but don’t try to be her, be you. People like you. Use your expertise, and your personality to tell your stories. It took me awhile to figure out exactly what he meant, but over time I started to figure it out. I still think I have work to do there too.”

Next week, meet Kelly.  She landed her dream job as VP of marketing at Eloquii plus-size fashion in the most incredible and serendipitous way.  Her fun story about never saying "no" to a conversation is up next, on DRIVEN for Women.  

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