CNN president discusses broadcast journalism today, in future

Differentiating CNN from the other news stations is the goal of Jonathan Klein, president of CNN United States, who gave a speech at the School of Communication Tuesday night.

“What we are trying to do is to focus all the resources we have on fewer stories,” Klein said. “For us, the answer to being essential in people’s lives is to provide the depth that’s been missing for the last 26 years.”

“A lot of sameness” is what Klein said people have been seeing on their TV’s during this time, particularly on network news.

He said that CNN is different because they have such vast resources all over the world that not even another 24-hour cable channel, such as Fox News, can truly compete with them on a global scale.

“Fox is not our main competitor, and the reason I say that is because everything is our main competitor,” Klein said. “In some sense, our main competitor is ourselves.”

Furthermore, according to Klein, CNN’s coverage of the tsunami, Schiavo case and this year’s hurricanes showcase how their reporters are taking stories to the next level.

“If as a journalist you can get a viewer or a reader to stop and say, ‘I hadn’t thought of it in that way,’ that’s a huge success,” he said.

Klein also gave advice to students interested in a career in broadcast journalism.

“Be willing to do absolutely anything for absolutely no money,” he said. In the case of CNN, he added, “We’re looking for people who can do a lot of different things.”

One reason many people are attracted to broadcast journalism, Klein said, is because their interests change.

“TV news is a really fun business because it’s different everyday,” he said.

Something else Klein discussed was how the fields students are studying now will be affected by new technologies and the Internet.

“We’re trying to make sure the TV version compliments the live, digital version,” he said regarding relationship between CNN’s news channel and website.

Klein mentioned how advances in the way TV viewers are tracked will help determine content.

“In the future, we’ll know how many people are watching that story,” he said.

With this, Klein said, they will be able to see where they should send reporters. Along with this, they will judge which stories they will continue to cover and which to stop covering. He added that some stories will always be covered, even if they do not garner high ratings.

Klein’s visit came after an invite from Professor Samuel Roberts, Frances L. Wolfson Chair in Communications Studies, while Klein was in town on business.

The two first met at CBS when Roberts, as national editor, hired Klein in 1982 based on the recommendation of a writer.

Klein graduated from Brown University in 1980 with a degree in history. Although there was no journalism program, he said he gained experience from the different media outlets on campus.

He worked at CBS for almost 20 years, eventually becoming executive vice president. He left CBS to become to the president and CEO of “The FeedRoom,” a broadband internet video service in 1999. In November of 2004 Klein was named president of CNN.

Greg Linch can be contacted at

March 24, 2006


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