CNN journalist works to serve the world through story-telling

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CNN journalist works to serve the world through story-telling


Kristie Lu Stout, CNN anchor and correspondent

In commemoration of the JoongAng Media Conference, which marks the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the JoongAng Media Network, the Korea JoongAng Daily is running a series of interviews with major players in the media industry. The Know Way Out media conference will be attended by worldclass experts in the media industry, including those interviewed beforehand. The conference, which will take place Monday at Dongdaemun Design Plaza Art Hall, will address the crises the media industry currently faces and suggest a
new path for the years ahead. -Ed.

Kristie Lu Stout, an award-winning American journalist and CNN anchor, said that to be a journalist, it is necessary to be “insanely curious about the world ... have the drive to report” and be able to “ask stupid questions.”

In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo in Hong Kong, the host for CNN’s flagship program, “News Stream,” said that while she works as a news anchor, she also has the title of correspondent because actively taking part in the news-gathering and presentation process is critical to the job. But most importantly, Stout said, her work reminds her of her mission to serve.

Below is an edited excerpt from the interview.

Q. I can see that there’s a lot of collaboration among team members in broadcasting. You need the skills necessary to work with others.

A. Yes, it’s very team-based. There’s someone behind the camera, you have the team that’s putting together the graphics, a team putting together the scripts or planning producers booking guests. It’s definitely teamwork.

How much work do you have as an anchor and a journalist?

At CNN International, if you look at the cards, they says anchor/correspondent. CNN anchors do not just present the news but are also actively part of the news-gathering and news presentation process. If we are not involved, and if we make mistake, we hurt our individual credibility and, more importantly, the credibility of the network.

Why do you think viewers like you as a journalist?

I hope that is true (laughs). ... This may sound silly, but I remind myself that I am here to serve. I am hear to tell a story. I am here to convey the facts that our teams gathered and to present it to our audience in a timely and accurate and compelling fashion. Everybody gets a little bit nervous, especially when you are doing live TV. What helps me lose the nervousness is to think about the service that’s on the way. At the end of the day, it’s not about me. It’s not about the journalist. It is not even about the show; it’s about the audience and making sure that you give the respect the story needs in order to get the story told to our audience around the world.

You were around a lot of tech-savvy people in university, but you didn’t end up at Google or Yahoo. You chose to be in media. Why?

I think there was a bit of a struggle early on. I started my career, how do I say... I wanted to be journalist. And I came of age experiencing the dot-com boom both at Silicon Valley as well as in China.

When I was in China, I was working for a very successful dot-com company as one of its first hires while writing about and talking about the development of the Internet in China at the same time.

So there was this interesting tension. I was working inside the company, but I felt I was also a journalist inside the company. I think at the end of the day, I felt I had to be true to myself. I figured out the best way to serve the world was as a storyteller as opposed to dealmaker. And it was through a speech I was giving when I was working for the business side. I talked at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in 2000 about the Internet in China, and a senior producer from CNN saw me and invited me to come on CNN as a guest. I appeared as a guest and then eventually was offered to join CNN. And I am still happy to have that opportunity.

Journalists’ credibility is declining in some ways. How do you think a real press journalist should be? How do we regain our audience’s trust?

I think first, we should have a zerotolerance policy. We have to meticulously edit all our scripts and make sure you are working with the smartest people around you. And, of course, make sure you’re not making any errors. I think it is also important when a mistake does take place, then you acknowledge the mistake and then you vow to your audience that it won’t ever happen again. But really just go out of
your way — just be extremely careful. CNN is such an amazing brand. I feel that we aspire to be deserving of the brand as opposed to just to resting on the brand name. This is why people come to us.

Journalists should always be plugged in or else they will be out of the equation. It could also make news softer. There are differences
between CNN and Buzzfeed in terms of news content and style. What’s your view?

I think to be a compelling news program, you have to have a mixture of lights and shade. There will be those moments when it is a very dark hour. There is nothing else to talk about but the disaster in Nepal or the disaster in the Philippines. But then there are also these other moments to bring people in through the show. You start hitting with the heavy topics, but you also want to bring in the lighter topics
somehow that are relevant to what’s happening in the world today. I think what I like about the technology story is that, yes, there is a dark side to technology. I did a lot of reporting on cyberbullying, on trolling, harassment of women, about a lack of responsive social media platforms, in particular.

But there’s also a positive side. In a world where there is so much destruction, because of climate change, because of war, because of poverty and disasters, there are also these generative qualities, these constructive qualities, thanks to new applications that are coming from technology. And that’s something I find very inspiring.


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