Brett Graff’s Mixed Company

MSNBC executive editor and vice president Yvette Miley

This is the second in a continuing series of interviews conducted by financial reporter Brett Graff, who under her trademark “The Home Economist” covers money, power and the economic forces affecting real people. A former U.S. government economist, her work has appeared in The Miami Herald, Maxim, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook,,, and more. She’s been quoted by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Fiscal Policy Institute, Women’s Health, Yahoo! Finance, Cosmopolitan and Wikipedia and has made appearances on CNN, CNBC, PBS and Headline News.

Yvette Miley visits The Greater Mount Pleasant Afrian Methodist Eposcopal Church in Hollywood.
Back when she was enrolled at University of Florida, MSNBC executive editor and vice president Yvette Miley knew she’d be a journalist. So when police trudged up the stairs of her Gainesville apartment building, Miley piped up to investigate — learning quickly the cops were looking for her. “Call your mother,” instructed one of the officers, who had apparently been receiving orders from outside his jurisdiction that day.

Miley may not have picked up the hallway pay phone as often as her mother may have liked. But today she credits her family’s matriarch for managing not only to oversee the efforts of law enforcement but also Miley’s professional accomplishments — and there’s a long list of those. In her 21-year career at NBC Universal, Miley has won two Emmy awards, a Dupont Award, a Peabody award and four (yes, that’s four) Associated Press Awards.

In a nod to community pride, Miami’s been the backdrop for much of Miley’s career, as she’s had two major stints at NBC 6 — most recently as vice president and news director, during which time she was named the Corporate Executive of the Year by the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce.

Today Miley works for MSNBC on the national level in New York, responsible for several shows including News Nation with Tamron Hall and The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd and Martin Bashir. She’s also responsible for developing new programming, and will in February introduce a show hosted by political science professor Melissa Harris-Perry. This past weekend – just before MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan arrived in Miami to film his daily 4 p.m. show and kick off his “Get the Money Out” of politics tour — Miley served as the Speaker of the Hour at the Greater Mount Pleasant African Methodist Episcopal Church. We caught up with her just before services to get her advice on making it big while everyone is watching.

Brett Graff: Your network often covers government and business — what’s the secret to taking a dry topic and making it exciting?
Yvette Miley: Remember always you’re telling a story. There are winners and losers, there is drama. When you’re talking about how votes are acquired or how government works, there are always personalities involved.

B.G. You made it big while millions (and millions) of people were watching. I think employees across all industries — from accounting to consulting to hospitality — feel as though they’re in a fishbowl. How can we feel less self-conscious?
Y.M. Sometimes being self-aware is important. You can survive whatever external forces you’re facing if you’re grounded and confident. The world is tough and you can be shaken by a ‘No.’ Be prepared, work hard, and surround yourself with people who help you believe in your dreams.

B.G. You spent a good deal of your career in Miami but you made it big in New York — the biggest pond of all. What are the challenges and secrets to going national?
Y.M. The challenges lie in that you’re not speaking every day to the community you’re covering. But I do think there is zero difference whether you’re local or national in area of performance and preparation. We say all the time, “If you’re good where you are, you’ll be good where ever you go.” It’s not necessary for every career to pass through New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco for the person to say “I’ve made it.” We each find our own corners of the world – make an impact where you are.

NBC6’s Roxanne Vargas, Danny Rodriguez, and Jose Suarez in attendance at Yvette Miley lecture.

B.G. What you do seems effortless, though we know it’s not. How do you do it?
Y.M. Again, it’s passion and preparation. They’re connected: if you love what you do you’ll work hard to be prepared. Effortlessness is like a duck on a pond — serene above the water but paddling like mad underneath.

B.G. What’s the one thing you wish every American knew about politics?
Y.M. It’s your country, so participate in the process. Hold the powerful and the elected accountable, by voting, going to local council meetings and school board hearings. And get your information from a variety of sources.

B.G. What’s the best advice you ever got?
Y.M. That hard work does speak for you — but not loud enough. You have to speak for yourself.

B.G. I have to ask: What’s the worst advice you ever got?
Y.M. That it doesn’t matter what people say about you. Sure it’s partially true. But really, we each have an image of ourselves and sometimes it’s distorted. Look closely at those words and maybe you’ll find a kernel of truth, and if so, you can use it for self improvement.

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