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Cat Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer

CNBC

May 20, 2021
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Ep 22: Cat Clifford - Senior Entrepreneurship Writer, CNBC
00:00 / 01:04

Bret Kugelmass
We are here today with Cat Clifford who's a senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. Cat, welcome to Energy Impact.

Cat Clifford
Thank you so much. I'm very happy to be here.

Bret Kugelmass
I've been following your work, love it. And I'm super excited to learn about you. Actually, if we could maybe just start with how you got into journalism to begin with?

Cat Clifford
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Well, it's interesting, I was reading the transcript of the person who came before me, The Wall Street Journal reporter, and interestingly enough, for me, it was an accident, too. Actually, initially, my first career goal was to be a professional ballet dancer. So, I spent the first few years of my life training to be a ballet dancer. I failed in that and then found a number of things. In college, I was trying a number of things, I ended up graduating and not wanting to do any of the things that I had sort of studied and tried with the internships and senior seminars and such. Anyway, I basically graduated, had no clue what I wanted to do, only knew the things I didn't want to do. I went to a career counselor and she had me fill out this form, like, what are the things that you're good at, that you're interested in? Icame to journalism that way, really started- I'm 39, so, my first internship was at a newspaper. I did an internship at the New York Daily News and worked my way up from there. But really, I backed in, because I love writing. I'm very curious, always have been, and everything else that I had thought to do, or thought I wanted to do, either failed or I ended up trying and wasn't interested in.

Bret Kugelmass
Was there a specific learning from your ballet efforts? Was it a very specific takeaway, when you decided not to do that anymore? Was there like one kind of learning or even just way of being that was encapsulated from that experience that has carried through with you for the rest of your life?

Cat Clifford
Yeah, definitely. I would say that, it wasn't that I stopped wanting to do that, I really just got to a point where I wasn't making the cut. I just wasn't good enough. So, it was, I say, the first love of my life. And it was a heartbreak. I definitely would have wanted that to happen, I just wasn't good enough, just to be clear. But I do think that training for that, and sort of I was in a pre-professional training company in high school, and the amount of time I spent dancing and really focused definitely gave me a discipline that I carry through my whole life, gave me a willingness to fail and try again, and to really be powered by something that I'm passionate about, which is something, as an entrepreneurship reporter, I've heard from almost all the entrepreneurs that I've interviewed. At this point, I almost feel like it's not original to me, but it is. I mean, I'm not the only person that has felt. But it is also true for me that, throughout when I was training ballet, several times had people say, Listen, I don't know if you're going to make it, I don't know if you're good enough, you might want to consider- and several times until I like aged out and really, it was clear, I wasn't going to make it, I continued trying. Just sort of like the persistence required to be heard, to hear something, you're not necessarily going to make it and then to still keep going for a while, just because it was something that I was so passionate about.

Bret Kugelmass
I'm wondering, when you started your career as a journalist, if there were also moments early on, where you had to overcome hardship, either in finding a job or in, I don't know, even just like perfecting your skills, and you maybe look back on some of the other challenges that you've gone through to help get through it.

Cat Clifford
I guarantee if you were to talk to my editor, even this morning, she would say I still have much improving to do. So, I don't ever consider it like something that I have- I mean, I still consider myself constantly improving every day, every story. I'm constantly reading journalists and work that I admire, and that I think those journalists are more beautiful writers, have better- you know, I'm always reading the work of people who I think are better than I am. And interesting, too, my career, I've basically been doing this for about 17 years and the funnel of my time in journalism has narrowed, as I've gone on. And what I mean by that is, you know, I really started as an intern at The Daily News, a daily newspaper, and from there basically was taking any work from anyone who would pay me. I was broke and needed a job. Actually, through networking, got an internship - not an internship, a paid job - but basically an assistant job at CNN, on the television side, and found myself sort of more interested and more intrigued by the reporting I was doing, actually, for business news. I was very surprised to find myself feeling that way, but it was because the thing about business news, even if it's a bit wonky, or maybe people would say it's nerdy, or even potentially dry, I always felt like, if I was writing about oil and the price of oil, or whatever it may be at that time, I always felt like there was a through line of facts to follow. If you follow the money, you're going to follow the story. With other kinds of news, it could be a bit more sensational, perhaps, or there are always multiple sides to a story kind of thing, or it doesn't feel as grounded, as important. But if you're following something that you can follow the money, you can follow this since you know the sincerity of the story, you can follow the bottom line. And so, I actually got into business news, went to CNN Money when CNN Money was much smaller, like early on. And then from my time at CNN Money, got into small business news and then from small business news - which was, you know, sort of like Main Street, small business news, that kind of small business - but I really liked that. So then, sort of narrowed into entrepreneurship. I went to Entrepreneur, was there for a while, did many things there, came to CNBC and have recently been narrowing even even further to sort of cover innovation in the climate space. I guess what I'm saying is, there's kind of been this progressive narrowing as I have sort of focused more.

Bret Kugelmass
Is that true of other journalists as well with your colleagues? Do they also do this narrowing down within a sub discipline or do people hop? How do you compare to some of your other colleagues?

Cat Clifford
That's a great question, and I think that there are many different kinds of journalists. I definitely think there are some journalists who are more generalist, but I think that's probably more rare. I think if you're going to be a generalist in a large national media company, you might be covering breaking news, or I'm sure that there are editors-at-large who have purview to talk about, but that's quite a senior position if you're going to be sort of an editor-at-large. Overall, generally speaking, people tend to focus in an area and, for me, it makes me a better reporter. As I've been able to, some of my reporting on climate tech and climate innovation has been some of the best of my career and I think that's because, as I learn more, as I get more into a niche. I know the questions to ask. I know more about what's relevant. I know more about what's news. Yes, there may be some generalists out there who are very reputable at large media companies, but, generally speaking, you have people that get focused into beats. And that's not only how newsrooms are organized, but then also makes you a better reporter, because as you know more, you can ask better questions.

Bret Kugelmass
Which do you like best? Do you - or maybe, I don't know if this is a fair comparison, it's not my field - but I imagine maybe there are two sides to journalism. There's the writing side, where you're trying to take what you've learned and distill it and compose it and think about how to communicate and think about how people are going to interpret it, and then there's the investigating side, where you're going out and trying to track down sources. Is that a fair characterization that there are two halves?

Cat Clifford
Absolutely, that's actually very accurate and very accurate in terms of how I spend my time, how I organize my time.

Bret Kugelmass
Which do you like better? Which do you prefer?

Cat Clifford
Gosh, that's a hard question. I think the reason I like being a journalist is because I like both of those. It's interesting, I haven't really thought about my entire career very often until we had this conversation or since the last time I had an interview for a job or something, but when I started out doing that flow chart after college, trying to figure out what I wanted to do and getting to the fact that writing was something that had always been something that I hadn't necessarily focused on - because I was trying to be a ballet dancer - but that I had always found real satisfaction and clarity when I would tackle something with writing. So, for me, the writing is a key component. Actually, as you know, one of my first paid jobs was at CNN in the television side, I was an assistant on television. And I realized pretty quickly, in addition to sort of working on business news - because I found a really solid thread to follow through the stories - but also, I really liked to write and for me, writing is a process of organizing my thoughts. For me, it's both. I am constantly, it is my entire capacity or my sort of time that I'm like a sponge and trying to learn and trying to always read more and listen to more. I love NPR, I listen to NPR a lot, or listen to podcasts, or I'm reading, My operating state is to be reading, learning, processing, sifting. But then, I find that the process of actually sitting down to write and taking all of the pieces from interviews, research all that kind of stuff and putting it into one cohesive - Oh, you might be able to hear some music on the street there. Now, you can't hear it. Okay. Anyway, anyway, I'm here in New York, I can hear the side the street noise - So, the process of writing, though, is very important and that's why, actually, it's also a very important back and forth with an editor. A lot of times, I'm processing something and then I'm trying to put it in this document and I think I've got it clear, but then the editor says, Well, this part's not really clear, you're not explaining this. So, I find both parts very, very interesting and exciting, and, depending on the story, one is harder than the other, maybe. They both really, for me, as someone who's really passionate about writing, in addition to being creative, and learning, both parts are really satisfying and important parts of the process.

Bret Kugelmass
Do you have any tips or tricks? What do you do, do you have post-it notes to organize things?

Cat Clifford
Oh gosh, yeah, I mean, it's a good thing you can't see my desk. I am a list maker of the worst variety. I have lists of many different kinds. I have lists of lists of priorities: daily priorities, weekly priorities, monthly priorities. I have post-its with like, gotta do this in the next hour. I also have several digital organization systems like what I'm thinking about for this day, this is what I'm thinking about for this day. I am absolutely always organizing. That's kind of part of being a journalist, too. You're taking ideas and you're organizing them, and you're sorting them and you're putting them in an organized process. So, yes, I'm definitely always taking material, figuring out how to organize the thoughts, priorities, and taking it and sorting it in any number of lists.

Bret Kugelmass
Is there a certain time of the day that you're better? Do you like to write in the evening or the morning? Or does it matter?

Cat Clifford
I definitely think that the best work I get done happens in the early hours of the day. I try to avoid having many meetings, because that's when actually the best writing will happen.

Bret Kugelmass
Is that like 6 AM or is that 10 AM?

Cat Clifford
No, I'm definitely not like a 6 AM person. I wish I were, I desire to be those people who get up at four and they're, The best work happens between 4:30 and 6:30. I'm like, Who are you? I wish I were that cool. I'm not, but I would say before one or two, the morning until, like, eight or nine or whatever, until like, one or two. That's when my mind is going to be the best for writing. I definitely, most of the time, will try and have my interviews and that kind of thing, like, well, it's one o'clock. That was a good time. I try to have interviews like one or two, because I find that I can be more sort of creative and open for that. But the writing is a very sort of specific and kind of like using a scalpel. And I don't mean to be graphic or anything, but that's when I need my brain to be the most focused.

Bret Kugelmass
Sorry, before I let this go, because I'm trying to become a better writer myself-

Cat Clifford
Me too!

Bret Kugelmass
Do you have any other rituals? Like do like have a cup of tea when you write or anything else that?

Cat Clifford
Oh, my gosh, I love that. I've definitely gone through waves where I've been a coffee person or a tea person. Right now, I'm like half and half. I don't really have too many. I know people have all these habits and stuff. I think the only thing for me - which, I know my colleagues will know, from when we were in the office, because I think I had sort of a bit of a monster reputation - because I really need to be quiet. And that was a thing that, when we were in the office, I would put earplugs in all the time, people thought I was crazy. Knowing that I have, I know what the story is, or at least I know where I'm going, then having the quiet time in the morning. Yeah. And then, I think the other thing - I mean, I really feel I'm still learning every day, so, the idea that I have anything wise to share is like, Oh, I don't know if I have anything wise to share -but I will say that one thing I have learned - and this is because, for 17 years, I paid my bills being a journalist and having to turn things in in various amounts of deadlines, sometimes when I was at CNN Money, the deadlines would be very short, you're basically doing kind of wire copy almost and now they're a little bit longer - but still, one thing I've had to learn, and this is like a muscle, as you were saying about ballet and stuff like training - now I do yoga and it's a very similar kind of processes - just start, because I have to. This is how I pay my bills, I have to write this piece, I have to file it, and I have to get it done in an X amount of time. So, one thing I have gotten good at is just starting, and then knowing that, okay, it's not gonna be perfect. It's not even gonna be close. But you got to start somewhere, you get the words on the page, and then - and I know my editor will say - I tend to overwrite. I put too much and it's always a matter - almost every editor I've ever worked with, and I've worked with a lot of them over the years - it's like taking away, taking away, because I'm always trying to put too much.

Bret Kugelmass
What's the relationship like with the editor? Do you do submit drafts and then they mark them off? Or do you ever have a shared Google Doc in front of you and type together? What is it like?

Cat Clifford
Definitely not typing together. But I will say the editor relationship is different with every editor I've worked with. Anything I would share about my relationship with an editor now is going to be very different from a relationship I've had with countless - I mean, I've probably had like, 25 or 30 editors in my career - and yeah, some of them, in certain instances, like when you're part of a group that covers breaking news, I may have three or four editors that cover things depending on who's free - in certain instances, like now, I 95% of time work with one editor. Also, not only is it different for each editor, but it's also changed through my career. When I first started, I was basically writing whatever the editor would tell me, I need you to write this story, the oil price is at this, call analysts, find out why. Or the company made this announcement, you need to cover this. Now I do - I mean, of course, there are times when no matter who you are, editors can say, I need you to write this and I do - but most of the time now - and I feel very grateful for that creative freedom, it's also a responsibility, it's both it's a freedom and responsibility - I come up with the ideas. It's all that sponge time, which is basically all the time I'm awake. I'm sponging coming up with ideas, putting them on 17,000 lists, but then, every morning, I come to my editor and say, This is my priority. That's another thing, maybe you could say will be a tip, is I try to prioritize my day, like, these are the top three things that are the most important for today. There are a million things I have on my to do list for story ideas, but I can't do them all. So, I start today. What are my most important priorities for today? I come to my editor with the story ideas. Sometimes, she'll say, I think that's too much, that's not good, it's not going to work for us. So, there can be some back and forth there. But, at this point in my career, I come with the ideas.

Bret Kugelmass
Cool. Okay, so that leads to some of your recent ideas, getting into the climate and technology, entrepreneurship, that space. You're getting more and more niche, but at the same time, this is one of the most urgent- I mean, you must think, Oh my, I'm like really hitting this at the right time, given everything that's happening in the world. This is probably one of the most important things to be writing about. Where did you decide to go from there? Did you just make a list of every type of technology and entrepreneur that's out there doing climate stuff?

Cat Clifford
Well, I appreciate your perspective, and that's my perspective, too, that it is very timely. That's sort of one of the things, I try to always be pushing the story, instead of catching up. I know that there are people within CNBC who say, I'm pushing this, and I am. I am pushing the climate coverage. I am pushing the climate innovation coverage. There are a couple of reasons. I was thinking about this yesterday in preparation for our talk today. As I sort of said earlier, the funnel that got narrower throughout my career going from general news to business news to small business news to entrepreneurship - which can include large companies, admittedly - but the entrepreneurship and innovation within the startup space is like a segment of small businesses, then kind of getting into the innovation and the climate tech spaces I have recently. There are a combination of factors. Number one, I have covered entrepreneurship, startup ecosystem, innovation - I already kind of have the vocabulary of venture capitalists and startup rounds, so I have that background. When I was covering that space, the thing that felt, exactly as you said, the most urgent to me - my personal analysis, this is totally personal not connected with CNBC or my jobs or any employer - but in my head, when I think about the world, I consider that there are two existential crises facing the world right now. And I think one of them is climate change. And I think one of them is inequality, of many different varieties. So, in my head, that's my sort of organization of the most important things.

Bret Kugelmass
I was gonna say, both are somewhat energy related. I mean, we've gone around the world trying to - as part of our research institute - trying to figure out where we can have the most impact. One of the things that we learned is just how inextricably energy access is tied to poverty.

Cat Clifford
One hundred percent.

Bret Kugelmass
Just like, there's general human wellbeing. If you can't get them energy, they're going to be living in terrible conditions. I mean, not like poverty like we think of in America, there's this big poverty divide, I'm talking dirt poor around the world, just because they can't get energy.

Cat Clifford
Yeah. 100%. I agree and we could spend three afternoons talking just about these topics.

Bret Kugelmass
Maybe we should at some point.

Cat Clifford
Listen, I'm happy to. So, basically, I knew that I had this background of spending 15 years plus writing about this space and I knew that what I brought to the table - and this is sort of my pitch to my bosses, this is what I bring to the table - I bring to the table an experience covering entrepreneurship, startup ecosystem, innovation. And then I believe that the climate change is this existential crisis, right. So, one of the things I started sort of naturally observing, because of the area that I'm covering and my areas of observation and thinking, is that there are some really, really amazing technologies being developed specifically in the innovation and entrepreneurship space to try and solve this problem. I want to be clear, I don't think that a high tech company is going to solve climate change on its own. There are many, many, many components to addressing climate change, and I think that's really important to be clear about. What I can add, and what I as a journalist can add to the story, is talking about those high tech innovation startups that are working in climate change space. The combination of it being the right time, plus my background, plus all the things that I'm learning, plus it just sort of being the right time to be on this story right now is why I'm focused on this.

Bret Kugelmass
Amazing. So, what's happening right now? Give us a taste of some of the articles that you've been writing?

Cat Clifford
Actually, just this morning, I put up a- I've been working for a little bit now, bits and pieces, have been doing other stories, too, but within nuclear energy, there's fission, which most people would be aware of, with the nuclear reactors, the bombs, and then fusion, which is a little bit of a lesser known area, but especially in my research and working on this area, I've talked to some really incredibly inspiring entrepreneurs in this area. I should say, one of the other reasons I'm interested in talking to these entrepreneurs is, because sometimes when I'm reading about climate change elsewhere, I can get very depressed. And I feel like it's one of the places where there's actually some amount of momentum and progress and optimism and finding a solution.

Bret Kugelmass
Optimism, not just people saying, Oh, we need less human beings on planet Earth. They're saying, No, we are trying to make this a wonderful, prosperous place for all people.

Cat Clifford
And trying to find a solution and having a scientific base for that solution and stuff. So, I did another story about a fusion startup, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, a few months ago. Great. That was my first venture into fusion. And then the one I published this morning was TAE Technologies, which is one of the older fusion startups - I don't know if they're startup anymore, they've raised almost a billion dollars - but-

Bret Kugelmass
It's still startup.

Cat Clifford
That's true. Yeah, there's always, How do you define a startup, but innovation company, that's for sure. What I wanted to do with this story, because, I think fusion at this point is so, most people - I mean, there's a subset of people who definitely are very in the know, but for most people - they don't know what it is. They don't know what it looks like. They don't know why it's hard. They don't know why it could help. So, what I tried to do with this piece was do a digital virtual tour of their facility. And the team was great. They gave me so much-

Bret Kugelmass
I love that. I was reading the article and I saw these giant pictures between every paragraph and I'm like, this is awesome. But most articles aren't written that way, that are just so visual. Is that something that CNBC does?

Cat Clifford
Well, not all my stories are like that, for sure. But this one in particular was so visual, I wanted to show this is what fusion is. This is what the technology looks like. This is why it's still not powering. So, that was something cool.

Bret Kugelmass
Just logistically, did you have to work with the digital team at your organization to get all those pictures in there? Was that hard? Because it's not the same format?

Cat Clifford
I did that. That's one of the things that is a function of, like, I've definitely observed over the 17 years I've been a journalist. When I started, there was a department for everything, like in the newspaper. Now, I do so much, I'm like a one man band. I mean, I didn't take the picture and I didn't go to California. They sent me the pictures, I edit them, upload them, put them in our system. They sent some video clips, too, where, for example, some renderings, you can see the plasma being, smushed together, slammed together to create this fusion football. All those video clips, I put into our system. I did get some help from our video producer, she gave me some tips how to do all that. But generally speaking, I'm putting all that together in our content management system.

Bret Kugelmass
When you first started writing about nuclear, both fission and fusion, did you notice that they're less covered in the mainstream media? And did you talk to any other environmental or science journalists who you thought maybe should have been writing about it, but weren't, trying to figure out why they don't write more on these topics?

Cat Clifford
No, I haven't talked to other journalists about it.

Bret Kugelmass
But did you notice that? That it's not covered as much? I mean, I think it should be covered more, this is why we're so excited to talk to you.

Cat Clifford
Oh, cool. Well, one thing I will say that I noticed with one of the first stories I did - this one was when Bill Gates was talking with Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC television - and he made a comment - he didn't talk directly to me, I wish he had, he talked to Andrew Ross Sorkin - but he made a comment about the political palatability or acceptance of nuclear energy and his thoughts on that. Then, I thought that was a really interesting jumping off point, but one of the things about being a journalist, you have to get both sides of the view and both sides of the perspective. One thing that was a real kind of learning experience for me is that that story, I got very impassioned perspectives on both sides. When I put it on my - I socialize all my stories, just sort of part of being a digital journalist - Twitter, my LinkedIn. When I put that one on Twitter, I got so many heated responses from both sides.

Bret Kugelmass
Tell me about them. What were some of the heated responses? And do you think that they're annoying, valid? Do you learn from that? I'm not on Twitter. I can't take the heat. It's like a little too much for me. I think I got into one Twitter battle and I was like, I'm out. What did you get out of this type of feedback from Twitter?

Cat Clifford
That's a good question. I use Twitter as another source of information. You know how I said I'm a sponge from the minute I wake up until I go to sleep. For me, Twitter is a source of information. I have it very carefully curated. I follow people, I follow people who are informed. And both sides - I mean, for nuclear, for sure. I follow both sides of the story - but for all kinds of entrepreneurship innovation, climate change, I follow people, I try to follow both perspectives. When I get that kind of heat, first of all, I've learned, I don't take it personally. So, that's number one.

Bret Kugelmass
You're braver than I am.

Cat Clifford
Well, I mean, it's the price of admission, right? You're going to be a journalist, you got to be able to just- I do read the comments, I do. Now, some of them are clearly coming from people who are just spewing, they're mad about something else - this may not be even a nuclear story, but any kind of any story I do. I'm going to get comments from people that, it's very clear, they're just heated and letting off steam and those I'm not going to respond to, but I very often get educated, informed - and maybe this is a hat tip to the CNBC readers - I get educated, informed perspectives from both sides, and it's helpful. It gives me story ideas on I both sides. I really do, I read them, and I get story ideas from them. It's important - one of the things that I really, really try - not to ever go into a story with my agenda. I try and find the story because it's important, but then listen to both sides. So, I think Twitter can actually, for me, be- LinkedIn, I also get comments on LinkedIn that are helpful. Both of those.

Bret Kugelmass
LinkedIn, it's more professional, right? People aren't doing as heated comments, or do you still get - since you're a journalist and writing on topics that might be controversial - do you still get heated responses on LinkedIn as well?

Cat Clifford
I can think off the top of my head, I get some heated comments. I mean, I think I'm going to get heated comments, no matter what, because I'm like putting thoughts out there. Based on some reading I've done about what other reporters have had in terms of really abrasive or unmanageable feedback, I'm not one of those - I do know certain reporters, they can speak for themselves - who, based on the area they're covering, definitely endure a lot of vitriol on Twitter and stuff. I feel like I don't get that. I feel like I get informed thoughtful responses. And yeah, I mean, I can think of a story I did, I guess it was published, on Earth Day - so that was last week, I think - about fossil fuel financing. That story idea actually came from another story I did like, maybe a month ago, where I did sort of a quick hit on the numbers that came out of the report that the Rainforest Alliance network and some other organizations put together on how much banks are putting on fossil fuel financing. What's it called banking, on banking on crisis, or banking on climate crisis or something? I can't remember the exact name of the report, but they do a very good job every year with this report. So, I did this headline number, and then, actually, it was a Twitter reader who gave me the idea, okay, so it's very clear which banks are investing the most, but that's also because they're the biggest banks. So, can look into who is increasing and decreasing their financing? And I spent quite a long time working on that story. I think that it's helpful to know what people are thinking, know what people are, readers are saying.

Bret Kugelmass
And then, how long do you spend on a story? I guess a story that's like, 800, 1,000 words, 50 to 100 words or something? How much goes into it? And what's the turnaround cycle on these?

Cat Clifford
One of the things that I definitely - I'm a firm believer - can write very quickly. Writing 1,000 words doesn't take me very long. It's not about what the word count is, it's about what you're trying to say. I think that the word count is almost irrelevant. I think it was Mark Twain who said, I didn't have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one. I know my editor thinks I overwrite everything, but even to write what I do and to present what I do, it almost doesn't matter how long it is, it's really about what you're saying.

Bret Kugelmass
Do you have any stories that are half on the shelf for like, eight months, where it's like, I have an inkling of the story here, but I'm working on some other stuff. And maybe I want to see what other learnings come into my life? Are there stories like that for you?

Cat Clifford
Yeah. So, I mentioned I have priority lists that are- so, one of my priority lists, I have stories on my to do list that I have been thinking about, or there's one story in particular, which I tried writing a couple years ago, for a number of reasons, it sort of got to a bunch of roadblocks, but I still have it on my to do list. Yes, there are definitely stories that I will chip away at for a while and then have other shorter pieces coming in the background that I could publish sooner or faster. Some stories, they take- you can write them in an hour, you know what I mean? So, it's really not how long 800 words takes, it's what you're saying.

Bret Kugelmass
Does all this accumulate into some broader thesis that you're developing, because you get to see so many perspectives, you write all of these articles. Do then - and I'm not saying, Oh, go write a book or anything, maybe you do - but I guess I'm wondering, do you get something out of this, just the total accumulation of knowledge that you pulled together that amounts to a different type of writing, where it's not so much just like reporting on this, reporting this, but you've got some really original idea that has come from your experience. Does that happen?

Cat Clifford
I sure hope so. I feel like that's what I should be doing. I sort of mentioned that some of, actually, where I focus my energy has to do with some of those theses that I think about, like I think climate change is the existential crisis of our generation. And that's sort of like why I'm focusing on this. I definitely feel that-I mean, all of that being said, my job as a journalist is not to give my point of view.

Bret Kugelmass
But that's what I'm wondering. You're going to have a very valuable point of view from all the journalism work that you do. What is the right forum for you then to protect your point of view?

Cat Clifford
At this point in my career, I don't write opinions. I don't write op-eds - there are people who are very senior journalists who do that - but, at this point, the other thing I could say is that the research and writing that I do informs what story I'm going to cover. It informs my feeling that this is an important area to be covering. But at this point, it is absolutely not my place to be- now, if I were to leave journalism, then I could take some of my opinions and observations and expertise and I could give my opinions. But as long as I am at CNBC, I'm a journalist. I can use my collective knowledge to inform areas that need further clarification, that ought to be investigated. But it's not my place to be giving opinions. Not now. Maybe sometime, maybe sometime, but I don't know.

Bret Kugelmass
Personally, based on everything that you're writing in article form. I mean, I'll just put it out there, I think I'd love to see a book from you some time.

Cat Clifford
Oh, cool. Well, thank you. I mean, maybe some publisher, will watch this and have the same thought, so, that'd be great.

Bret Kugelmass
Tell me, you said a lot of things that you like to do. You're just a sponge, that you read a lot of other people's work and you listen to podcasts. Can you tell me, who do you listen to? Who inspires you? Other people in the sector or just more broadly?

Cat Clifford
As much as I am a writer, and I like to I process my thoughts by writing, I also love listening, I love audio, I love listening. Everyone I work with knows, I always say, Oh, I heard this at NPR. I listen to podcasts, I listen to NPR, I listen to All Things Considered almost every day to, sort of, get an overview, sort of what happened that day or usually, if I'm doing something else, that's why I listen to the audio because I can be doing that when cooking and stuff like that. Then in terms of in the space that I've been covering, where I'm really trying to build up my knowledge, I read a lot. I mean, I don't know if they're competition. I don't know, it's not really competition, necessarily, I guess. I mean, I feel like we just need more climate coverage. I read what Bloomberg Green does a lot. They're a really outstanding leader in terms of a major outlet that has put an entire team beside behind this space. I read Bloomberg Green. I read the Washington Post, I read their climate coverage. I read the New York Times climate coverage.

Bret Kugelmass
Are there any specific journalists that you like over there that you want to give a shout out to that you think that their work is just awesome, and you learn from?

Cat Clifford
Oh, my gosh, like all of them, I mean, the other one I was gonna say is The Atlantic, the guy who writes the Atlantic climate newsletter - I forget his name right, uh - I'll look it up later. But I read The Atlantic - I can't remember what his name is - anyway, but I read The Atlantic climate newsletter, also. Another thing that I do is I get the Climate Nexus newsletter. That is a really great way, what Climate Nexus does is, they pull together like all of the main stories, prioritize them and give you links to all the places that are writing about that. So, I read the Climate Nexus newsletter like every day, that's very helpful. I also like, I don't know, what else do I do? I read. I mean, I try and read so much. Like, every day.

Bret Kugelmass
Do you ever read fiction? Is there some component of fiction that helps you think more creatively in some way or another?

Cat Clifford
You know, I love fiction. I have not read very much fiction recently and that is definitely a bummer or a disappointment or whatever. My mother is a voracious reader, and she reads so much fiction. It's not that I don't like to read fiction, I just feel like right now, at this point in my life, I literally, from the time I wake up until I go to bed, even if I'm not at my desk that entire time, I feel like I'm just constantly trying to really educate myself in this space. I'm not really reading a lot of fiction right now, which is regrettable. And I know, my mom is gonna wish I had a better answer. But that's the truth, just like right now.

Bret Kugelmass
I'm in the same place. Like, I remember as a kid, I used to read so much fiction, just get lost in these books. And it was just the greatest, you find yourself in another world. It's the greatest entertainment ever. Now, as an adult, I think that - I still read a lot, but it's nonfiction. And partially because the world is so interesting on its own. But it's not the same as just kind of like getting lost in someone else's universe.

Cat Clifford
What I am reading right now - and this is not fiction, so I can pick it up in little bits - is I'm reading - this is, again, maybe going to sound morbid or something - but I really definitely do not think it is, I'm reading the Lost Art of Dying. I'm almost done with that. It's about the ars moriendi and it's written by a professor at Columbia, I think she's a doctor, and sort of what our culture has lost by sort of not being connected with the process of dying. So, I mean, I'm sort of constantly thinking about our place in the universe. I've been watching, also, a lot of documentaries of late about sort of, the time since the Big Bang, and about space, I'm obsessed with things like volcanoes, black, black holes. I think a lot about these kinds of things, too. Maybe you could say that the through line there is trying to figure out - you know, I'm 39, maybe that has something to do with it, too - our place in the world. And, also, with all the climate change, trying to figure out our responsibility, our place. Sometimes, honestly, it's just very comforting to know how insignificant we are, that our entire time on Earth is, the blink of an eye compared to when the planet started. Some of that is just because I'm curious and because I'm trying to figure out where we sit, and it also calms me down to know that everything is sort of so small in the grand scheme of things.

Bret Kugelmass
So true. There's this expression - I'm gonna butcher it - it's something about like, how a fish doesn't actually know that it's in water. But like us, from outside that perspective, we know more about its own environment than it does, not just because they have small brains, but because we're outside water. That reminds me, when you were talking about space and helping us conceptualize our place and our responsibilities as planet, just by thinking about the broader thing, it almost gives us that outside perspective looking in to better understand the environment that we're actually situated in.

Cat Clifford
Totally. So, I would say that, in terms of external non-work reading about innovation, tech and that kind of stuff, I would say I do like to read sort of philosophical kind of things. About like, death, and that sounds morbid, but just our humanity and then I'm also very fascinated with sort of the big picture of our Earth's history and space and just realizing how small we all are.

Bret Kugelmass
As we wrap up, maybe you can just kind of give us a peek into what's coming next for you. What are some articles that you can sneak preview that are going to come out in the next month or two?

Cat Clifford
Cool, I would love to. Actually, one of the most exciting interviews I had recently, I interviewed the founders - I don't mean to be so promotional about it-

Cat Clifford
So, I interviewed Christiana Figueres - I'm not sure if I'm pronouncing that right - and Tom Rivett-Carnac. They're the two UN people who were largely responsible for the Paris Climate Accord in 2015. They also co-created the Climate Pledge, which is Amazon's initiative or effort - they co-created the Climate Pledge - which is coming together to get companies on board with getting up to speed with decarbonisation. And as CNBC in particular, I I really think that what companies need to do in the next decade is critical and fascinating. Seeing Amazon starting that trend, and many other companies in there - definitely have more work to do, there are many complicated ripples to that story - but how companies are going to be pushing that narrative is very fascinating for me and for CNBC. So, I have a couple stories coming from them. I interviewed them. It was very fascinating to me. I was glad to have a little bit of their time. I have a couple of stories already in edit and some more coming, so, I'm excited about those.

Bret Kugelmass
No, go for it.

Bret Kugelmass
That's awesome. Well, I really appreciate you coming on the show. I would love to have you back. Anytime you come out with a cool article, and you just want to chat about the content, I think it'd be a blast to have you as a regular on our program.

Cat Clifford
Oh, my gosh, I'm honored. Well, it's so funny, because I always feel so- like, I am the one doing the interviewing. I'm always the one who's asking the questions, so, I'm like, what do you want to ask me about? I definitely - and this is the kind of stuff that I'm thinking and talking and all about all the time right now - so, I'm happy to anytime that you want. Sure.

Bret Kugelmass
Awesome. Well, Cat Clifford, that's all folks.

Cat Clifford
All right. Thank you.

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