Say hello to CNN.com’s Managing Editor Meredith Artley. Today we’ve abandoned the traditional Fishbowl interview for a relatively more serious peek into a major network’s online world. Artley was in town recently for a journalism conference. We met up with her at Founding Farmers to drink bacon martinis and yak about a range of topics that included how journos ingest their news these days, which news sites are must reads and whether it’s goofy or chic for couples to sit on the same side of a booth in this country (she thinks it’s making a comeback).
How long have you been at CNN? Two years and change.
What was your first job in journalism? Intern at Cox Broadcasting on North Capitol!
Living in Atlanta. Blessing or a curse? I love it here. The people, parks and pace are all great. Atlanta has this real funky, creative side that I never heard about til I moved here.
What is something fun and something tedious about your job? Email.
What’s your New Year’s resolution for CNN.com? We have a lot of content pulsing through our site every day. We don’t need more, we need to make what we have as good as it can possibly be. So a big theme of the year, as the whole CNN Digital team knows from our staff huddles, is that we are focusing on craftsmanship of every piece of journalism we do. It’s all about the storytelling.
I understand that Opinion is one of the fastest growing sections on your site. For a network that prides itself in staying center, do you find it odd that your readers are gravitating toward that section? I don’t find it odd that audiences are flocking to intelligent perspectives on some of the hottest topics of the day. Our opinion section is not only one of our fastest-growing sections, but it’s our most social in terms of shares and retweets. And that’s saying a lot, since CNN has more followers and friends than any news org out there.
There’s been a recent debate in online media circles about the censorship of comment sections. Where do you stand on the issue and how do you address inappropriate commenters on your site? Open it up, baby. It’s a community moderated world. We trust our audiences, and we use every piece of technology we can to give a space for our smart commenters to tell the trolls to buzz off. We fight the good fight to create a fast-flowing discussion on nearly every piece of content we generate. We often join in those conversations as CNN staff. And every day, the best of those comments become content in their own right, via our daily “Overheard” column.
What is one thing you want Washington to know about CNN.com? CNN.com, and all of CNN for that matter, is not just your mama’s breaking news organization. We do breaking news well, but we’ve expanded beyond that. We’ve launched beats around passionate topics that often align with the news: race and identity, religion, education, food, geek culture, national security, etc. And we give great context — the “Explain it to Me” video series, daily analysis and opinions from amazing brains like David Gergen, LZ Granderson and our own audiences via iReport. We have an enterprise team that is doing off-the-hook work, the kind you might find on the cover of your favorite magazines. We’re doing more visual journalism than ever, which may sound odd coming from CNN — but check out cnn.com/photos to see what we are doing with still photography. Our Election Center drips with data and interactivity.
Who are your competitors? How do you differentiate CNN.com from the competition? Everyone and no one, in a sense. It really depends on what you are looking at — for scale, it’s Yahoo. For cool interactives and opinion, it’s NYT. There’s a different answer for each beat and discipline. And more than ever, when it comes to swiftly and thoughtfully covering these fascinating moments and times we are living though in a variety of formats across multiple platforms worldwide, CNN is in a class of its own.
How do you differentiate CNN.com from CNN TV? They are increasingly similar — we are more aligned across our platforms than ever before. We have a daily cross platform news meeting where we all talk about the big stories of the day and the angles we’re going after. We collaborate like mad on “in-depths” and other projects. More video that originates from CNN.com shooters ends up on air than ever before, and more TV producers and editors are blogging. With TV everywhere, you can see our air across many devices. So convergence is unfolding at the fastest pace I’ve ever witnessed, and it’s a huge rush to see that.
What’s your overall coverage goal for this election season? Months ago I wrote an internal memo about our editorial approach for these elections, describing it as “Not left, not right, but Up” and listing 10 things that CNN brings to this season that no one else can (our names, our global presence, domination on mobile and social, etc). There’s a lot of noise and repetition in politics and political journalism and we work every minute of every day to transcend that. We believe that our audiences are intelligent, curious and open. And we assign, report, edit, produce and publish our stories with that in mind.
How do you handle hate mail (if you receive it)? If it’s a real good one, we print it out and put it on a wall. Alternatively, I will forward it to my mom and say “This is why you shouldn’t have given me all of those southern guilt trips.” But I honestly don’t get a ton of it.