No, it's not as if the Hampton, N.H., native did it the old-fashioned way by starting out in a market like Dubuque before climbing the ladder to CNBC, a unit of General Electric . And it isn't her Exeter/Ivy education, her former reign as Miss New Hampshire or her summer work at Goldman Sachs .
I'm talking about her training as an opera singer. She studied at the New England Conservatory and spent a summer in Graz, Austria, at the American Institute of Musical Studies.
Regan, you see, put in the time to be an opera singer because she loved the craft.
"It's not like I wanted to be Britney Spears," she said. "Maria Callas was another story."
The same principle has held true in her pursuit of a career in media.
"Everything I do, I do 100%, classical music or poring over earnings or interviewing someone," she told me. "It consumes me. I can zero in on something and be completely focused."
Not a Pollyanna
CNBC's ranks are filled with accomplished and ambitious journalists. But perhaps more than anyone else at the network, Regan seems to enjoy the work as much as the fame, money, influence and glamour. Each time I quoted her for this column, I could easily have ended all of her sentences with an exclamation point.
"I hate to sound like Pollyanna," she said a mite self-consciously, "but I really love what I'm doing."
That matters to viewers. TV news is largely a commodity -- similar stories appear on all of the networks, whether the subject is Iraq, the presidential race or the economy. Plus, in our YouTube-driven society, viewers now have countless choices when it comes to obtaining news, ranging from cable TV to the Internet.
The field of TV business news became more competitive last October when News Corp. launched the Fox Business Network. (News Corp. also owns MarketWatch, the publisher of this column, as well as other assets.)
Regardless of where viewers get their news, the audience still notices a journalist like Regan, who has the eagerness, expertise and talent for telling a good story.
"She walked in the door and immediately had five great pitches for the magazine show," said Josh Howard, CNBC's vice president for long form programming.
That doesn't surprise me. I noticed her enthusiasm for her work back when she reported for Bloomberg, MarketWatch, CBS News and, yes, even Viacom's Spike channel. (Full disclosure: Regan and I worked together at CBSMarketWatch a few years ago.)
Regan is emerging as valuable component in CNBC's goal to become a round-the-clock network, not merely daytime programming for stock-market junkies.
"She'll do a two-minute hard news piece, then anchor, and then write a beautiful script for 12 minutes," Howard observed. "She is in demand here, and is helping us [as] a full-service financial network."
According to Jonathan Wald, CNBC's senior vice president of business news, the network jumped at the chance to hire her.
"What we look for, in Trish's case, is someone who could report for us during the day and do long-form reporting, and who could do network reporting on [NBC's] 'Nightly News' and 'Today' shows, to provide biz news for all of the platforms of NBC Universal," he said.
For example, earlier this week, Regan's report on retailers' hopes that consumers will spend their government rebate checks led Brian Williams' show.
She's also covered international topics, such as the tri-border region of South America, an area known for drug trafficking and arms smuggling that is located at the intersection of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. First for CBS News in 2006 and then for CNBC in 2007, Regan reported on how the multibillion-dollar business of counterfeit goods there helps to fund terorists.
"I read about it in an Argentine newspaper when I was working at CBS," she said. "First, I was shocked when I heard about this tiny area ... It struck me as an unbelievable story and one that people needed to know about. ... I thought, I've got to get down there and I've got to do this story. It was an opportunity to follow the money."
When I mentioned to Regan that she has certainly encountered many forks in the road, she agreed and said, "I think of that a lot."
Who knows, for example, what path her career might have taken if she had become Miss America? Regan noted that she entered the Miss New Hampshire pageant "as a one-shot thing to earn money for school, and it turned out I won."
Regan could have tried to be the next Abby Joseph Cohen on Wall Street or Maria Callas in opera houses. But her current job seems to suit her perfectly.
"There is nothing I like better than taking a complicated subject and teaching the viewers about it," she said. "Opera is also an intimidating art form, but I wanted to bring it to a level that everyone could appreciate and understand. Business news can seem like another language, too; it's our job to make sure people appreciate it."
Naturally, I had to ask Regan, who is married to an investment banker, what she wanted to do next.
"What do I want to do?" she mused. "I want to get the next big story."
What do you like or dislike about Trish Regan or CNBC?
"What Times Is It?" by Brian Williams (The Daily Nightly, April 28): The anchor and managing of NBC's nightly news show raises some tough but fair criticisms of the New York Times . "It's tough to figure out exactly what readers the paper is speaking to, or seeking," he wrote. Sadly, I know a lot of people who agree with Williams. .
to about Time Warner :
"As a long-suffering stockholder ... I couldn't agree with you more. But I look at the entire media sector and wonder where is the growth? My guess is that they need someone outside the industry to run Time Warner a different way."
-- Brett Harwood
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By Jon Friedman