Tyler Mathisen entered his last semester at the University of Virginia with an eye on his prospects following graduation. All the while, his future was beginning to take shape right before him in a magazine-writing course presided over by a retired Time magazine editor. Shortly after graduation, Mr. Mathisen accepted a job on Capitol Hill as a “clerk/go-for” for the House Ways and Means Committee. But, just a few days before he was scheduled to start, his former magazine-writing professor called with a job offer.
It was a short-term project; eight weeks. Time was looking for a writer to put together 10 biographies of U.S. presidents for a special issue. “Basically, it was $5,000 for eight weeks versus $8,500 for 52 weeks,” Mr. Mathisen says. “And then I thought, How cool would it be to get a byline in Time?” So, he “sheepishly” called the committee’s chief counsel and declined, setting in motion a distinctly different career. Mr. Mathisen finished that initial project for Time in August 1976 and promptly interviewed with the publisher’s books division, which, conveniently, was in the midst of relocating to Virginia, where he was residing. He earned admission to its writer’s trainee program, which exposed him to every facet of the publishing business. “That was where I really learned to be a professional writer and editor,” he says. “The lesson there is that sometimes jobs find you. You don’t find them. Sometimes, as with mine, your career is a series of accidental mis-happenings.” He would go on to spend 15 years as a writer, senior editor and top editor at Money magazine. Here, he oversaw its initial expansion into online journalism, for which the magazine earned the first-ever National Magazine Award for New Media in 1997. He also served as the money editor for Good Morning America for several years before joining CNBC in 1997. Over his 21 years with the cable news network, Mr. Mathisen has worked in several roles, both behind and in front of the camera. These include managing editor of CNBC Business News and co-anchor of Nightly Business Report, which was named the best radio/TV show by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers in 2014. Today, he co-anchors CNBC’s Power Lunch, one of the network’s longest-running program franchises. He’s also vice president of the network’s events strategy. With that sort of longevity, Mr. Mathisen, who’s hosted the Fox School’s annual Musser Award Reception, is becoming an endangered species among journalists, a reality of which he’s keenly aware. “I’m stating the obvious, but the future is digital,” he says. “People will consume their journalism on every kind of device, anywhere, any time. It’s going to challenge the old business models—it is challenging the old business models—that rely on 30-second spots and print ads. But it’s also creating more opportunities for journalists. Look at all the sites generating news content today. They may not pay well, but they’re giving writers an opportunity to put their names in front of an audience.” The upheaval of journalism as we knew it has been positioned as a revolt against the old gatekeepers. Among these is Mr. Mathisen’s employer NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. “There’s a lot of anger directed at mainstream media. But the best in breed are the best in breed for a reason,” says Mr. Mathisen, who acknowledges that the threat to his platform is real and, even more, almost impossible to predict. “There’s a lot more competition doing good work—Vox, Axios, Politico—with serious backing. But the threat also comes from disruptors that we may not have heard from yet.” Regardless of the shape the remainder of Mr. Mathisen’s career assumes, he’s proud of his impact. “I’d say that what I’m most satisfied about is that I have been able to do good work at a high level where the standards were high over a long period of time—40-plus years. And I have, I think, worked at good places and helped to make them better,” he says.
Title & Company
Co-anchor, CNBC’s Power Lunch; Vice President, Events Strategy for CNBC
Temple University Awards & Affiliatons
Master of Ceremonies, Musser Award Reception
What I wanted to be when I was 20 years old
I presumed I would go to law school, work at a private practice and eventually move into government or policy-making. What I really wanted to do was be a sports broadcaster, but I didn’t study broadcasting—ironically. I never thought I wanted to be a journalist, though. I just didn’t know enough about it.
Best piece of advice anyone ever gave me
Spellcheck your work. And don’t rely on a spellchecker; really read it. Nothing enflames an editor or an employer more than work that is not proofread. I learned that lesson the hard way. I was exhausted when I handed in my first piece. I’d spent too much time on it. I knew how to spell “Ethiopia.” Really, I did. But, I misspelled it five times in a 35-word block. My editor, a tough woman, sat me down and circled each instance with a red pencil. I was sick about it.