Former CNN executive emphasizes power of digitalization in modern media

By Michael Sugerman

Ex-president of CNN Jon Klein discussed the increasing presence of technology in journalism with the third period Chronicle class on April 19.

Over Klein’s six-year tenure at CNN, he helped usher the news broadcasting company into the digital age, live-streaming the Obama inaugural address on Facebook and introducing CNN’s “magic wall,” an interactive touch screen that enhances the network’s news presentation.

Klein also dispatched Anderson Cooper to cover the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, eventually granting him a 10 p.m show slot in 2005. By 2008, Cooper’s newscast skyrocketed to the number one rated broadcast among adults 25 to 54. Before his executive role at CNN, Klein served 16 years as the Executive Vice President of CBS’ news division, overseeing “60 Minutes.”

Klein endorsed well-roundedness in all writing and broadcasting endeavors, citing his recent exploration into coding, despite the fact that he was a history major at Brown University.

“The ticket to a successful career is being really good at what you do,” he said. “But don’t be a specialist. You have to force yourself out of your comfort zone.”

Klein emphasized the importance of broadening horizons.

He found his passion for journalism after quitting his college newspaper to work at the radio station. There, he worked as a writer and producer in the news department.

“The cameras, lights, reporters and trucks with the station name on it…it was just exciting,” he said.

Klein said it was essential to spread the excitement of a story outside of the professional realm, allowing viewers and readers to give their input on breaking stories.

“The audience expects a two-way process,” he said. “The better you get at inviting them in, the better you will be.”

Klein also referred to journalists as “generalists,” relying on other experts to sharpen articles and hone in essential information.

He said even civilians are valuable news resources, citing social networking outlets like Twitter and Facebook as viable sources for both attaining and spreading information. Klein advocated “crowdsourcing,” or getting news from the community to augment media wires like the Associated Press.

“People can enlighten us,” he said. “There’s a greater appetite than ever for information.”

CNN has increasingly made moves to satisfy this demand, especially by incorporating iReport contributions, Klein said. iReport allows any person to contribute blog posts and videos to CNN, some of which are selected for nightly broadcasts.

He cited the Kony 2012 movement as an example of this, “activating” people with cell phones to spread awareness. Klein speculated that print publications will increasingly find a home in the digital category with more multi-faceted coverage.