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A day in the life of a multi-platform journalist
corresponding with CNN Asia's technology correspondent Kristie Lu Stout

April 1 - April 30, 2001 | BY CORPORATE Ubiquity Staff

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Corresponding with CNN Asia's technology correspondent Kristie Lu Stout

Kristie Lu Stout is technology correspondent for CNN Asia (and reports in two separate formats -- Internet and broadcast). She previously worked at the Reuters new media division in the region, Reuterspace Asia, and in the China Internet industry at the popular China portal Sohu.com. Stout has written extensively on the Internet and IT scene in China, and her articles have been published in Wired, Wired.com, and eCompany Now, as well as in the South China Morning Post where she founded and wrote the "Beijing Byte" column. Prior to her experience in China, Ms. Stout was a consultant at the Stanford University multimedia lab and an editorial staffer at Wired.com. She attended Stanford University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree and, later, a Masters of Arts degree in Media Studies. A student of Mandarin Chinese, she is also an alumnus of Beijing's Qinghua University.


UBIQUITY: More and more frequently, reporters are being asked (as you've been asked) to provide content for the whole spectrum of news outlets: print, Internet, and video. Various questions come immediately to mind. Does this development come as a shock to a journalist's system? Are journalists doing a good job at this kind of juggling act? Are they being trained for this? What kinds of problems have you run into as you try to work simultaneously in more than one medium?

STOUT: There are critics who say multi-platform journalists -- or journalists who gather news in and for different formats ranging from SMS to Internet and to broadcast -- are actually over-burdened hacks being asked to do two or even three jobs concurrently. Some people doubt that journalists can successfully integrate the many newsgathering tasks at hand into one single position -- but I disagree. Perhaps being a child of a multilingual environment (I'm half Chinese and speak Mandarin) and a multicultural landscape (I am an American who has lived in China for the last 4 years and am engaged to a Malaysian), I'm predisposed to feel at ease juggling multi-platform journalism.

UBIQUITY: What about journalists who don't possess your special kinds of skills and background?

STOUT: The same principle applies. All of us now are living in a multi-tasking world where doing a variety of seemingly unrelated endeavors is becoming more and more the norm. Nicholas Negroponte, for example, is a professor, an angel investor, a corporate advisor and a novelist. Brenda Laurel is a researcher, an inventor, an entrepreneur -- and her heart is in the two ostensibly contrasting worlds of English literature and software design.

UBIQUITY: So this kind of multitasking is natural?

STOUT: For the most part, yes. And of course a lot of this kind of multitasking is facilitated by new technologies. Using today's software packages, the average computer user can cycle through spreadsheets, a photo editing suite, a word processing document and a personal finance Web site -- with just clicks of the mouse, becoming an accountant, an artist, a writer and even a day trader.

UBIQUITY: It sounds easy.

STOUT: Easy enough. The one problem of course, is spreading oneself too thin. How can anyone achieve virtuosity in anything if you try to dabble in everything? It takes focus. What I'm doing at CNN.com Asia, for instance, is focusing on the technology beat, while writing and reporting for both Internet and broadcast. But of course that doesn't immediately turn me into a virtuoso of anything. . . . It also requires training opportunities. Mere access to a home video editing software doesn't make someone a Martin Scorcese. You have to learn how to use it and how to employ it to reach a desired end. And that's the challenge for me. I'm used to the print and Web world, but am new to the visual language of television news.

UBIQUITY: So how do you approach it?

STOUT: Fortunately, I am receiving a lot of support from my colleagues who are TV producers, correspondents, cameramen and editors -- but am also taking the initiative to read up, watch and study the art of writing news for broadcast.

UBIQUITY: There are different schools of thought about news reporting. One believes that news is news, regardless of which news medium presents it (TV, Web, newspapers, radio and so forth). The other -- let's call it the McLuhan school in honor of the famous communications theorist -- believes that different media actually (and inevitably) skew the news in certain ways that have nothing to do with normal (mostly political or cultural) bias issues. As someone who regularly reports in different media, do you see differences between the way a particular story plays out in different kinds of news outlets?

STOUT: I definitely adhere to the McLuhan school of thought where the medium dictates the message. Journalists should be very sensitive about this and aware that, yes, Web journalism facilitates fast, quick and more casual writing. On a personal/anecdotal level, I for one make it a point never to send electronic greetings to loved ones on birthdays or holidays -- somehow, card stock and a handwritten note exudes an intimacy that can not be replicated on bluemountainarts.com. Without a doubt, television journalism facilitates a visual expression that can send powerful messages to mass audiences. But, tech journalism is especially difficult to do using a visual medium, which is why most tech TV shows write voice overs to screen shots of user-friendly Web sites -- explaining Yahoo! is easier to do than explaining bio-informatics on the tube. Ideally, journalists should think in terms of the "generative constraint," to first recognize the constraints of the medium and then explore how to push the limits of the medium to create something truly remarkable. But many do not however, and understandably so -- there's just not enough time to research stories, break them, edit them and then dabble in new media R&D! Fortunately, that's what today's media artists are here to do. The Financial Times recently reported on an amazing example of a news organization (Reuters) sponsoring what today seems like a high-brow novelty, but is something that could very well become the next interface for stock market reporting and replace the CNBC ticker tape.

UBIQUITY: How does it work?

STOUT: Artists chart markets through a digital sky in a "stock market planetarium" that describes international share-trading activity on a computer-generated night sky scene projected onto a domed ceiling. The "stars" in the sky represent more than 4,000 companies listed on major international exchanges such as Nasdaq, London and Tokyo, and the bigger the company's market capitalization the bigger its celestial body. As shares are traded around the world, the stars flicker and glow, with the brightest representing the most actively traded stock. Any general market disturbance will have an impact on the sky, creating new star systems or breaking up existing ones. And so forth. Think of the future of news, as techniques like these are further refined. And think of how a reporter's role will change from what it's like now.

UBIQUITY: On that point, tell us what it's like now. Describe for us your typical day.

STOUT: Okay. A typical day? Here's a rundown:

8:00 a.m.
In office, with South China Morning Post in hand. Hit the computer and check email, the wires, the Web, check out the main sites: Reuters, FT.com, WSJ, NewsScan, Wired, Nikkei, Xinhua, BBC, AP, Slashdot . . . .

8:10 a.m.
Nonfat latte. Realize I've forgotten both PDA and cell phone at home. Shrug it off.

8:30 a.m.
Teleconference with remote editor (think: "Charlie's Angels") Geoff Hiscock. Plan the game plan for business and tech coverage for CNN.com Asia for the day. I get three stories.

8:45 a.m.
Throw on makeup.

9:50 a.m.
Grab notes and step on Asia Business Morning set with anchor Andrew Stevens. Do informed adlib on some interactive stories written the previous day: L-Mode launch delay in Japan (yes, that's L-Mode), DoCoMo standing firm on 3G schedule, etc. Somehow manage to incorporate words "silver surfer."

10:00 a.m.
Write first story: Nintendo's Game Boy Upgrade. Research. Make calls. Talk to a Tokyo-based "gaming software analyst" and fashion a mental list of "top dream jobs in the world" during the interview.

10:36 a.m.
In light of the time difference, attempt to make contact with Deepak Chopra's daughter in La Jolla for possible eBiz Asia "soft" feature on her alternative health Web site MyPotential. To no avail. (see 3:00 p.m.)

11:16 a.m.
Watch first edit of my CNN eBiz Asia TV package with editor on "China B2B: where business to business must be face to face," a discussion on how e-commerce is a tough sell in a country that places a premium on human relationships and contacts. Looks good, minor changes. Almost ready for air on Saturday.

11:45 a.m.
Phone schmooze local analysts to get word on the street.

12:00 noon
Publish story with graphic, pull quote, subheadings, related stories list, related sites menu.

12:15 p.m.
White peony tea. Banana muffin. Cigarette.

12:30 p.m.
Start NIIT issues profit warning story. Call up Indian software analysts. Refer to Indian papers.

1:29 p.m.
Publish story with graphic, pull quote, subheadings, related stories list, related sites menu.

1:30 p.m.
Phone interview with Lycos Asia COO to discuss Asia strategy, acquisition of China portal MyRice, attitudes towards Yahoo! as a competitor in light of executive departures and tumbling stock prices, etc.

2:00 p.m.
Analyst interviews, review wires for additional story leads and coordinate with dotcom team over who will cover what.

2:47 p.m.
Lunch first course: quiche lorraine by special delivery.

3:00 p.m.
Publish story with graphic, pull quote, subheadings, related stories list, related sites menu.

3:30 p.m.
Hunt Reuters Business Briefing, contacts, folder marked "cool stories," and the Internet for ideas on next week's eBizAsia program dedicated on healthcare.

4:15 p.m.
Contact a traditional Chinese medicine professor offering an online course at a local university. Talk with local alternative health Web sites. Write notes for TV story. Look into doing a possible "porn as tech driver" story for TV.

5:00 p.m.
Lunch second course: mixed salad.

5:14 p.m.
"Webbify" B2B China story.

5:50 p.m.
Take tapes to grab screen shots for use on the Web site.

6:32 p.m.
Catch up on email, personal admin. Look over Web site, wires. An email from mom reads: "Don't forget to go to the bathroom."

7:00 p.m.
Force myself to leave. Out to hit Wanchai for a hit of reflexology.

UBIQUITY: When you fashioned your list of "top dream jobs" for your interview with the Tokyo-based gaming software analyst, what did you come up with? Did CNN technology correspondent for CNN make the list? Have your interviews with so many people in the technology industry changed your ideas of what a dream job is?

STOUT: The gaming software analyst fits as a "dream job" since it ostensibly looks like the perfect combination of work and play -- which it could very well be! Other candidates on my list would be New Yorker staff writer, gourmet chef, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, jazz vocalist, Chief Yahoo! (even now), human computer interface designer, Asian art curator and Elsa Klench, who did fashion commentary for CNN for many years, and clearly loved doing it.

UBIQUITY: You didn't include your own job.

STOUT: No, only because I'm doing it and living it right now, so I don't need to fantasize about it. But it has been a dream job of mine in the past without a doubt! "Dream jobs" require a level of fantasy, and a measure of distance from the ups and downs characteristic of that occupation.

UBIQUITY: Did you plan your career, or have you been surprised by it? How did it come about?

STOUT: As a teenager, I worked as a professional model (at 13, I was already 5'10" at 115 lbs.) after being "discovered" by a top agent in New York. To my peers at the time, it seemed like a dream job. But after the initial thrills of the work, the regular grind of primping, preening and posing was not able to sustain an interest. One of the upsides of the tech boom is that it made it socially acceptable for talented individuals to leave the security of well-established firms and career paths to go after their "dream job." In the last three years, the stigma for an Ivy League student to not join a Goldman, a Merrill or a BCG upon graduation gave way to the "cool factor" of going into the tech sector and become what they've always wanted to be: a writer, a fashion retailer, a music producer, an entrepreneur . . . .

UBIQUITY: Would you expect that to change now that the economy's in a downturn? Will the "cool factor" be last-year's fashion?

STOUT: It will be, unfortunately. But the true entrepreneurs-at-heart who had a taste of running their own business or crafting their own product from scratch won't slump back to the MNCs so fast with their tails between their legs.

UBIQUITY: On the subject of predictions, make a prediction about television news. CNN seems to be struggling right now, as a result of heated competition that's developed over the last few years from other cable networks. Without giving away company secrets, how will CNN mount a successful response to the challenges of the current competitive environment?

STOUT: Call me a CNN cheerleader, but I don't think CNN is struggling ­ especially in terms of global coverage. When there is a major international breaking news event, people tune into CNN. Without a doubt, the company has burned key world news events into the collective unconscious: the lone man in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square, the frightening pyrotechnics of the Gulf War, and (most recently) the unearthed, scarred victims of the Indian earthquake. CNN has recognized that this is their strength and is making efforts to further flex that muscle.

UBIQUITY: A final question. What about your personal future. What do you expect to be doing five years from now?

STOUT: I'll be either back in the Mainland, living and working in Shanghai, or back at Stanford studying documentary film. No need to consult the local psychic to confirm which path it is, though. I like surprise endings.

Related Sites:

CNN.com Asia
asia.cnn.com/tech

Ebiz Asia (CNN International Program)
cnn.com/ebizasia

Persona (a personal project from Kristie's days at the Stanford multimedia lab)
ht tp://www.filmson.com/CDA/Summary/StandardSummary/1,1318,1134~0,00.html

February ECompany Now: Hitting the scene in high-tech Hong Kong
http://www.e company.com/articles/mag/0,1640,9027,00.html

COMMENTS

My name is Michelle Dauphinee. I am interested in becoming a Journalist

— michelledauphinee, Wed, 13 Feb 2013 17:07:06 UTC

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