Q&A with Christine Romans


Photo: Bryan Langfeldt/Iowa State Daily

CNN correspondent Christine Romans signs books after her lecture on globalization and the financial crisis in Howe Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 6. Romans, a former editor in chief of the Iowa State Daily, is sitting next to Jessica Opoien, current editor in chief of the Daily. Photo: Bryan Langfeldt/Iowa State Daily

Jessica Opoien

Christine Romans, an ISU alumna, returned to her alma mater to give a lecture Wednesday night (Oct. 6). She talked about everything from student debt to the American dream to what’s going on with China, drawing on all the knowledge she’s gleaned from her years as a business reporter for Reuters, Knight-Ridder Financial News and, most recently and famously, CNN. After the lecture, Christine signed copies of her new book, Smart is the New Rich: If You Can’t Afford It, Put it Down — and handed out promotional bookmarks she’s been given that are mini-cutouts in her likeness

During her time at Iowa State, Christine was editor in chief of the Iowa State Daily — a position I’m now proud to hold. She tells me I’m “borrowing” her office — a fact I have recognized by placing one of those “mini-Christine” cutouts on my (her?) desk. On the back, it says, “I was here first.”

Indeed, she was — and she’s given me some impressive shoes to fill. Christine now co-hosts CNN’s Your $$$$$ (the show I had the privilege to intern with over the summer), and is a featured correspondent for American Morning

Between her lecture and a small dinner with friends and family, I had the chance to ask Christine a few questions. 

Jessie Opoien: What are your best memories of Iowa State?

Christine Romans: All Daily. I mean, it’s everything. It’s Veishea, it’s Homecoming, it’s covering stories from the Daily. Covering those things for the Daily — that was the greatest thing about being a student journalist. Because you got to experience college life, but then you were also reporting on college life at the same time. That was where I really learned how to tell a story. I really learned how to tell a story at Iowa State.

Jessie Opoien: What’s the best part about giving lectures like this?

Christine Romans: Well, I — the worst part — I’ll change that question. You asked me the best part, I’ll answer you, the worst part is, I get nervous in front of a big group of people. Because you can see the feedback. And 50 minutes is a long time to talk and hold somebody’s attention. And sometimes I — you know, I’m kind of a people pleaser. I want everyone to walk away happy. And it’s kind of hard to make 300 people all happy. And there’s always one who asks a question to try to get you, you know? 

Jessie Opoien: What are the most important points to take away from your book, and your lecture?

Christine Romans: That you have it in your own hands to break the cycle and to move forward, whatever this economy’s gonna look like. In a world — the whole point of the book is that, in a world where everything is uncertain, whether it’s deflation or inflation, whether we’re going to create jobs or we don’t create jobs, whether it’s China’s century or America’s century — in a world where everything is uncertain, I wanted to find the things that people can control themselves, and to put some of the control back in the hands of Americans. Because it feels like for two years, for three years, things have happened to us. And I feel like people want to be able to do something — to improve their situation, or whatever, to prepare.

[We pause to carry her things into her hotel.]

So, the whole thing about the book is — there’s so much I have learned and talked about on TV over the past few years, that I felt like I needed to put it all in one place, for anybody, for a resource or a record. I really did have so much rattling around in my head, covering that financial crisis, that I felt would be useful to people. 

Jessie Opoien: What do you wish you would have known when you graduated from Iowa State?

Christine Romans: I wish I would have known not to worry about what was gonna come next. ‘Cause if you just put one foot in front of the other and you make smart moves, it’s all gonna work out. I was always afraid to spend too much money, or there were a couple of trips I didn’t go on. I was kind of a recession baby; I came out of college right after a recession, so we were all just so worried. I didn’t need to worry as much.

Jessie Opoien: What are your proudest accomplishments?

Christine Romans: Three of them. Their names are William, Finn and Edward. Those are my proudest accomplishments. I never would have, at the age of 20, at Iowa State — I never could have imagined, then — when I was in college, I thought that this was the best time. And I will tell you, I could never have imagined that anything could be so much more fun than college. But, you know, working out in the world, and having kids — it’s all fun. Every stage is really fun.

Will Arnett was asked in People magazine — and I have quoted him five times this week — he was asked, you know, he has a baby with Amy Poehler — and the interviewer was looking for a funny response from him — “What’s it like having a baby?” And he got dead serious, and he said, “The suckiest part of parenthood is better than the best part of regular life.” And I totally agree.

Jessie Opoien: What was the best thing about growing up in Iowa?

Christine Romans: I think people in Iowa have really open minds. They talk to everybody. They haven’t built up walls around themselves — and that’s good if you’re a storyteller. You can have an opinion and be proud or loyal to something, but people are really open minded in this state, I think. I love Iowa. I’m like an Iowa evangelist. I am. People always laugh at me, in New York, at what an evangelist I am about Iowa.

Jessie Opoien: It’s a good place.

Christine Romans: Ali Velshi makes fun of me. He’s like, “Oh, here she goes again, she’s gonna start talking about the diversified employment base of Iowa, and the education system of Iowa…”

Jessie Opoien: What are the coolest parts about your job?

Christine Romans: I’m interviewing Paula Deen the day after I leave here. I’m going from Howe Hall to interview Paula Deen. I just think that’s really fun.

Jessie Opoien: How many times have you interviewed her now?

Christine Romans: This will be the third time.

[We pause for an elevator ride.]

Jessie Opoien: We were talking about your job. You’re interviewing Paula Deen.

Christine Romans: I love to ask people questions. And one of the fun things about the book was, it’s got Joel Osteen, Deepak Chopra, Paula Deen, Timothy Geithner, Henry Paulson…

[We pause to deposit things in her room.]

So, wait — how are you putting the paper to bed tonight?

After all her success as a mother, reporter and author, she still thinks like a Daily editor in chief.