Published: April 10, 2024

American journalist and CU alum Carl Quintanilla Carl Quintanilla (PolSci’93) knows the news. Currently co-anchor of CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” and “Money Movers,” Quintanilla has journalistic experience that spans 24 years of award-winning broadcast and print reporting — starting with a political science degree at CU Boulder. 

During his tenure as a newscaster, Quintanilla has covered everything from the Olympic Games to presidential elections to Hurricane Katrina and has earned numerous accolades in his field, including a national Emmy Award and broadcast’s highest honor, a Peabody Award. 

As he heads to campus this week to speak at CU’s Conference on World Affairs, Carl told us about his storied career as a journalist, his lasting memories from CU Boulder and why CNBC is featuring Denver and Boulder in their new special, “Cities of Success."

How did you get to where you are today?

I went into college already knowing I wanted to be in journalism. It was never a question to me what I was going to do. I was very focused. During my school career, I was a DJ at Colorado Public Radio, and I interned at local papers. Those were all hugely helpful experiences.

I started working for the Wall Street Journal after graduation in 1993. The economy was on fire, there was a peace dividend, Clinton was president. Companies were hiring en masse and the Wall Street Journal was taking lots of chances on young kids. 

I spent six years at the Wall Street Journal, and then slowly cable television became ascendant. They started putting cameras in our bureau. I had never really considered broadcast, but it was clearly where the industry was going. So I went to CNBC and NBC News in 1999. It’s been almost a quarter century. It’s gone by so fast. 

How did CU Boulder play a role in bolstering your dream of being a journalist? 

I can’t overstate how much CU Boulder was an important dynamic in my growth. When it came to academics, they really delivered the mail. The professors were engaged and attentive. They really wanted us to learn. CU taught me how to think critically. It’s one of the many things from CU Boulder that I still carry with me. 

CNBC "Squawk on the Street" anchors on setWhat memories stand out from your time in Boulder?

My freshman year, I was in Williams Village, which is its own kind of community. I remember our study groups would always go to Perkins for pie and coffee. There was a very, very special kind of home life among people who were in “Will Vill.”

I also marched in the marching band for a couple of years. I remember playing my alto sax on Folsom Field for hours, going to every game. That kind of cadence was a joy — being at the stadium every Saturday morning, playing as loud as I could when they scored a touchdown. Things like that are my most vivid memories of CU Boulder.

How is it being back on campus for the Conference of World Affairs? 

I love being back on campus. There’s something very visceral about being back at Old Main or Macky or the UMC. The campus has changed quite a bit, but it’s still the same at heart. The atmosphere of the campus and the town are just so amazing. It’s just fun to go back and soak it all up again.

What’s your favorite thing about what you do? 

Carl Quintanilla interviewing Denver Mayor Mike Johnston I’m a news junkie at heart. I always joke with my wife that on my days off, I still get up at the same time and read the same stories. So I do like being paid to read and be informed and process as much about this crazy world as I can. 

Being an anchor is different from being a reporter — a reporter has a beat, and there’s pressure to break news. The thing about being an anchor is you’re really almost a curator, trying to pick the best stories and organize them in a linear fashion for someone who’s watching, along with the help of your producers and your editorial staff. I think that there is real reward in helping someone who is maybe just waking up get their news diet and just process daily life.

Are there any career highlights that stand out for you? 

A lot of my work that has been most recognized was probably during Hurricane Katrina. I was with the Today Show and NBC Nightly News. I remember when we realized it was going to be a much bigger story than the weather, with societal impacts and cultural impacts. Reporting on that story was hugely rewarding. 

Tell me about “Cities of Success” — and why you’re excited to include Denver and Boulder on the list?

It’s truly all in the name. CNBC judged a host of cities on a variety of qualities and selected a few standout areas to feature. The pairing of strength between Denver and Boulder just really stood out. 

On a personal level, I have the benefit of seeing the Mountain West from a prior era. Industry was very concentrated when I lived here — it was telecom, energy and aerospace, period. When I go back now, I see life sciences and biotech and quantum computing. These cities have an amazing, self-sustaining workforce. That is really the reason companies are moving here. It’s not just because of the lifestyle or the sunshine anymore. It’s because that’s where other successful businesses are and other smart people are. I am just really proud of Colorado. It’s an amazing thing to see. 

You can watch CNBC’s one-hour primetime special “Cities of Success: Denver & Boulder,” on Thursday, April 11 at 8 p.m. MT. 

Interview condensed and edited.

Photos courtesy Carl Quintanilla