CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout on media and technology


Kristie Lu Stout presents the CNN Today program from Hong Kong on mornings. Prior to that Stout was CNN’s technology correspondent and host of the daily Tech Watch.

Stout has conducted interviews with Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Eric Schmidt (Google) and Jeff Bezos (, amongst others.

Stout was also one of the first employees of and worked for Reuters’ new media division in China.

Danwei talked to the popular anchor about using Twitter live on her show, and her view of technology’s use in the media.

Danwei: Why did you choose technology as your focus (at SCMP etc) before becoming the current affairs anchor on CNN?

Kristie Lu Stout: Growing up in Silicon Valley, I was constantly surrounded by technology. At my elementary school, which neighbored an Apple campus in Cupertino, I toyed with the Apple IIe. Fast forward to my years at Stanford University, I used email as a freshman in 1993. By my sophomore year, I was surfing the Web from a dorm located next to the very campus trailers where David Filo and Jerry Yang were building Yahoo. And yes, the Google Guys were there as well.

Though my early adventures in reporting focused on the “arts and culture” beat for radio and print, a chance internship at Wired magazine in 1996 brought me right into the heart of technology and early Web journalism. I’m very grateful to Mark Frauenfelder, best known as the founder of the amazing blog Boing Boing, who gave me that opportunity… and the confidence to believe I could make a career out of it.

Danwei: How do you feel about the Facebook page dedicated to you, the “Kristie Lu Stout Idealization Society” and the Kristie Lu Stout page? Apart from Social Networking Site users showing their devotion, this video from Youtube user “marceloknust” is one of the first things I see when I search for your name on the site. Does this much worship, especially using Internet technology, creep you out? What do you think about it?

KLS: Yes, colleagues and friends have pointed out the fan sites to me. And honestly, I don’t find them creepy at all… just a tad embarrassing. A few years ago, one of my producers surprised me during a live broadcast by playing that very YouTube clip. I don’t think my studio makeup was thick enough to cover my blushing face!

DanweiYou are Twittering live as you host the CNN Today program from Hong Kong in the mornings. Why are you interacting with your audience in this way rather than via email or text messaging?

KLS: Unlike email or text messaging, Twitter is a communications tool that can be both one-to-one and one-to-many. And with it, I can alert viewers about breaking news, live events, and big upcoming interviews.

I also use it to plug into an audience that knows more than I do. For example, while I was covering the Chinese Premier’s live address at the National People’s Congress, a Beijing-based viewer passed along a just-released article from Chinese media about his speech.

Viewers throughout China have also told me through Twitter when they can or can not see CNN on-air reports… including the times they were surprised to see a Dalai Lama interview sneaking past the censors.

This is the great Twitter takeaway for me – it extends the CNN newsroom here in Hong Kong to across China, the region and world.

Danwei: Would you use Twitter in your daily life, not just work? How do you feel about Twitter?

KLS: I’m a big fan of Twitter, but I don’t want to use it as an egocasting device. I use Twitter to inform and to be informed. That’s it. And when I stray with a self-indulgent tweet or two, I’ve had “followers” nudge me back to the right place. It’s a philosophy I would put to use even if I wasn’t twittering as a CNN anchor.

Another Twitter advantage – I like how it gives me a chance to tap into an instant focus group of viewers around the world. I’m connected to viewers in Shanghai, Tokyo, KL, Manila, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco and elsewhere, and thus have a good sense of what they’re reading, doing and thinking.

For example, I recently got an inkling through Twitter that there was major appetite out there for more news from the Shanghai Auto Show. So, we requested more material from our team in the field. They delivered. We aired it. And in the end, CNN’s Shanghai Auto Show coverage attracted significant online traffic.

Danwei: What do you think about new media in general (as someone who has worked at Reuters new media division in China and also

KLS: With the World Wide Web now over 15 years old, I think we’ve moved beyond using the term “new media.” But my main beef with so-called new media applications like Twitter is this – blind enthusiasm for the technology and shameless egocasting. This has been lampooned brilliantly by Jon Stewart, Gary Trudeau and others. I’m still waiting for South Park’s take.

Danwei: What about new media and its relationship to Asia, and China?

KLS: It may be yesterday’s headline but it’s still very significant - China is home to the most Internet users in the world. This fact has raised a host of fascinating issues: How do regional leaders adapt to lead increasingly wired citizens? Will efforts to censor online content and conversations succeed? When will “cyber-nationalists” strike again? And could the next Twitter come from Asia?

An interesting side note: China’s clocked in 16 billion page views during the Beijing Olympics, while America’s had 1.2 billion. Where did I learn that? Twitter, of course!

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