Media Moment: An Interview with Orest Mandzy
Managing Editor of Commercial Real Estate Direct
Orest Mandzy has been at the forefront of reporting financial news and information for more than 30 years. For 18 of those years, he’s been at the helm of one of commercial real estate’s top media outlets, Commercial Real Estate Direct. In that time, he’s seen the transformation of the media landscape firsthand and also has become one of the go-to resources for CRE insights.
However, Orest is much better at telling his story than we are, and we got the privilege of learning more about him through our recent interview. Without further ado, this week’s Media Monday:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your path to Commercial Real Estate Direct.
It’s funny, but I didn’t really study journalism in college. I have a business degree, but I’ve always loved writing, so when I was a sophomore in college (I went to Baruch College, which is part of the City University of New York), I figured I had to get involved with some organization or another. I joined the school newspaper and covered sports. I also took a couple, or three, journalism courses. As a junior, I got an internship with the American Banker newspaper, which was fortuitous because when I graduated, financial firms weren’t really in hiring mode, and American Banker offered me a job.
What’s interesting about the world of financial journalism is that few in journalism want to go into financial reporting. I’m completely baffled by that, but that worked in my favor. I was at the American Banker for a couple of years, when I got a call from Standard & Poor’s, which was staffing up a newswire. They were generous, so who was I to turn them down? But SPNS (Spins, for Standard & Poor’s News Service) was short-lived. I then moved to a McGraw-Hill newsletter that tracked the sales side of the bond and equity markets.
Providing proof that you should never burn bridges and always develop good relationships with everyone you meet, I got a call from two former American Banker colleagues who had left to launch a newsletter company. I joined Harrison Scott Publications, which at the time was publishing Thrift Liquidation Alert, a publication covering the savings and loan bailout.
I was with Harrison Scott for nearly 10 years when I got a call – it’s that “develop good relationships” thing again – from one of the founders of a startup that became Internet Publishing Group. They wanted to launch a commercial real estate news and information service that would be delivered with the internet. Few news organizations were doing that at the time, and I thought, “What a grand idea. Get on the ground floor of a startup.” So, I joined them, and we launched what today is Commercial Real Estate Direct. The rest, as some people say, is history. That was 18 years ago. We’re still going strong.
A few things happened on the way to now. Internet Publishing Group floundered along with hundreds of other dot-coms. I raised capital from friends and family and bought Commercial Real Estate Direct, becoming an entrepreneur. And four years ago, sold my publication business to Trepp LLC, a substantial player in the CMBS analytics business. We still publish Commercial Real Estate Direct, which I oversee, but our content is now integrated into their offering.
You’ve been a reporter for almost your entire career. What sparked your love for journalism?
I’ve always enjoyed learning about things and writing about them. Plus, I really enjoy getting substantial scoops. After 30 years of doing this, I still get a rush from them.
What are some of the changes you’ve seen in the media landscape that have impacted your career the most?
The quick adoption of electronically delivered news and information has been startling. Eighteen years ago, when we were developing Commercial Real Estate Direct, few in the commercial real estate industry would consider getting their news and information electronically – believe me, we faced challenges selling our product – everyone then still preferred their information on paper.
Things are 180 degrees different now. If you’re still publishing on paper, you’re a dinosaur. People want their information at their fingertips and at their beck and call. They want to know about Deal X and expect to be able to find information about it by doing a quick search.
What is your biggest PR pet peeve?
Not much really bothers me too much. Life’s too short to get upset about many things. But sometimes it’s annoying when a PR person emails with a story pitch and it’s clearly not in our wheelhouse. Our publication is Commercial Real Estate Direct, we really don’t care about how smoke-free cigarettes are being marketed and to whom. It’s also annoying when people call to ask if I received their press release. I did and ignored it.
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
Some people think I look like Brad Pitt…okay, that’s not true. I’m trilingual. My mother was from Colombia and my father was from Ukraine. At home, before we were old enough to go to school, we spoke primarily in Spanish. And we – my two brothers and sister – always spoke to our father in Ukrainian. I didn’t really start speaking English until I was maybe five years old. I no longer consider myself fluent in the other two languages but I’m still generally understandable in all three languages, English included.