Financier Roger Hertog Speaks
On the Media and Education
Chancellor Goldstein: People associate the name Roger Hertog with the world of finance, but you are also interested in policy and ideas.
Roger Hertog: Wall Street is really a world of ideas. You can learn a lot about economics, about policy, about math there. You can also learn about psychology, and you can learn a lot about people.
Q: You are part-owner of the city’s newest daily newspaper, the New York Sun. Why did you venture on a start-up newspaper?
A: We wanted a newspaper that would be focused on New York City, with stories about education, about housing, about crime—about every aspect of public policy. Also, it would offer an alternative point of view to the New York Times, which is a great, important, and dominant newspaper. But we are hoping to be different from the Times.
Q: You have also invested in The New Republic, an influential magazine of political commentary that has been around for a long time. Why?
A: I remember reading The New Republic when I was in City College. It’s a magazine of political discourse, as well as arts and culture. I would say it is more center left than it would be center right, but it has an honest voice and it’s a challenging magazine. It has a circulation of about 70,000 or so, and it tries to provide the reader with a view just not available in a newspaper.
Q: What is your involvement in editorial policy as chairman of The New Republic?
A: Very little. There are many extremely talented young people there, and they’re far more gifted at writing and creating editorial policy than I would be.
Q: You’re a great philanthropist, a trustee of the New York Public Library. You’ve also helped the CUNY Honors College. When you make judgments about institutions you want to support, what goes through your mind?
A: I’m interested in leverage. Philanthropy typically is attracted to great museums, great opera companies, great academic institutions. But with less glamorous institutions, a dollar of philanthropy can impact a very large number of people.
Q: You’re a very busy guy. How do you relax?
A: I like to read. If I had to choose between going to a party or reading, I’d end up doing more reading.
Q: Do you worry about the future of the city and the state in terms of its financial underpinnings?
A: Not really. We have many short-term problems, but this is a great city filled with diverse people. And most of them, given their chance at an opportunity, will make a success out of it. This is a city of constant regeneration; each decade produces new winners, new people trying to challenge the old system.
Q: Our audience here today is composed of students from the new CUNY Honors College. They could have gone to more elite colleges if they wished, but they chose City University. They are motivated, serious students. How would you advise them to be successful—to be, perhaps, the next Roger Hertog?
A: I don't think it’s hard. I think it simply comes down to people’s inner drive to find meaning and personal growth in their lives. There’s nothing more significant than your God-given talents. After that, it’s working hard and trying to figure out where you have a comparative advantage: what do you do better than most people? Not necessarily the best—but better.
If you can marry comparative advantage and passion, you’re very likely to have as much success as you want. The opportunities before us today are great. We just have to seize them.