Interview: CNN’s John King Looks Forward To Compelling, Contextual Reporting

By Brian 

CNN’s new “chief national correspondent” is ready for something “new and different.” In an interview with TVNewser today, King said he’s ready to present viewers with the much-needed context behind big D.C. stories.

Covering the tsunami from Banda Aceh, Indonesia in January was an eye-opener for King. “It was a completely new area for me. It was a sad story” — he called it the saddest thing he had ever seen — “but it was a wonderful challenge. It convinced me that…I could broaden my horizon,” he said.

While covering the disaster, King recognized a challenge he hadn’t faced as often on the White House lawn: Effectively writing to the video. He said covering the aftermath revealed his “shortcomings as a writer.”

What better way to improve than to dive in? Part of King’s mandate is to bring more context to stories.

“We’re very good at telling what happens, and showing people while it happens…But sometimes television fails to take the time to say ‘Why did it happen? What does it mean?’ — To step back a little bit.”

It’s not surprising that King sounds a bit like CNN chief Jon Klein.

“I agree with Jon when he says that one of the things we should do is find more personal, compelling, interesting ways — choose your word — to get across the news,” King said. For instance: “There’s a lot that happens in Washington and government and policy that’s very important, that we have failed to present in a compelling way. One of my new challenges will be to jump up and down and explain [those stories] in a compelling way.”

King said leaving the White House was a tough decision, and one that he had been thinking about for a long time. “It’s a great beat, but sometimes you’re a hostage to the president,” King said. He will still be covering the president from time to time, but with a different perspective. (King will most likely go on Bush’s next international trip.) He hopes to “step back a little bit” and take a broader view of the president’s efforts to promote democracy around the world. He also wants to explore the perception of America in the global space.