CNN vice president speaks to Annenberg students

Senior Vice President of CNN US Andrew Morse visited Wallis Annenberg Hall Wednesday evening for an open discussion about CNN logistics and the shift in journalism to online.

Led by Annenberg Director Willow Bay and Erna Smith, professor of journalism, the talk hosted Morse and alumna Wendy Brundige, CNN supervising producer. Each contributed to the hour-long conversation and took questions from students enrolled in JOUR 201: History of News in Modern America afterward.

Morse opened up the discussion by stressing how a career in journalism differs from a conventional job.

“The irony of this business, quite frankly, is that you spend often times the bulk of your career learning different skills,” Morse said. “You learn how to shoot … edit … write … produce … [and] report. With each skill set that you get, often times … that opens up different opportunities for you throughout your career. Your career often times takes turns you never expected and that’s largely happened to me. In any given day now, it’s actually impossible for me to give you a sense … [of what my] day looks like, because truly … every day is different.”

According to Morse, the slow shift from TV to online has helped CNN stay true to its focus on news coverage.

“CNN in it’s DNA is about the news,” Morse said. “It’s why when something happens in the world people come to us on air or online. We don’t want to be in the political chat channel -— we want to be a news channel.”

No one knows the path journalism is taking online, according to Morse, but he said CNN is dedicated to combining digital and broadcast.

“Fundamentally one of the things we are doing … is, in a really meaningful way, trying to put all of our resources together so that we’re approaching every day and every story from a holistic view on every platform so that digital and television work hand in hand,” Morse said. “It’s hard. Anybody who tells you they have all the answers is lying, because they don’t, because we’re figuring it out as we go, but what we’re finding is we want the most reporting resources we can have.”

In response to a rise in citizen journalists, Morse said CNN uses social media to see criticism and get a sense of their audiences’ opinions and voices.

“It’s a great early warning listening device,” Morse said. “It’s still our responsibility journalistically to sift through what we’re seeing.”

To better use resources, Brundige said CNN’s website is being used to tap into homes and provide a new one-on-one experience for the audience by changing their reporting style.

“I think [news is] much more personal than it’s ever been,” Brundige said. “Anyone who tries to come though my group to try to do an original video that I’m going to put online [should not be] coming across like a TV reporter doing a traditional stand-up telling me what’s happening. That’s not what I want at all. If you think about the experience … you may be watching [news] on a desktop, but you are also probably watching it on a tablet or phone. If you’re watching it on your iPhone, you’re holding your phone. It’s a one-on-one experience. So people telling you what’s happening needs to be sharing it like they’re your friends and that’s a hard thing to do.”

CNN’s primary goal is to inform even when attempting a new broadcast style online, according to Brundige.

“Think about what people want,” Brundige said. “Think about what you can give them that’s different from what they can read or see on TV. Think about how to make it personal and connect, and use all of the journalism.”

James Ortiz, a junior majoring in communication, agreed that online platforms will aid the future of journalism.

“All of [the speakers], even some students, brought up the point of how there’s a huge trend moving towards more online digital platforms and how that’s probably the next big step towards evolution in the news industry,” Ortiz said. “It’s not so much typical broadcast. Now, it’s how can we use different platforms and leverage them for different audiences and age groups.”