As opposed to lecturing the class, Lowe opened the floor for a laid back and more personal discussion. She started using digital media lingo to describe the details of her site and the "verticals" on several pages as well as teases and ceases. That was the first time I was hearing some of those phrases, but then thought it could be CNN lingo since other sites may call the top stories "banners."
Lowe then asked the class how many people go on CNN's website for news and the conclusion was most of the class ends up on the site "once in a blue moon." I voiced my thoughts that I usually go to local beat reporters and news sites on stories as they start to develop. In a case like the Sandy Hook shooting, I tracked updates from reporters at the Stamford Advocate before larger outlets like CNN and NBC arrive on the scene.
CNN uses the This Just In Blog to update their audience on breaking news stories. Also on the site's homepage is a link to trending news stories. This part of the site brings in other media outlets and their coverage of a big story happening at the moment. I asked about that particular section because as the Oscar Pistorius shooting news broke on February 14, I sat at my computer and created a timeline of updates for Flotrack. My editor sent me a screenshot after realizing on Chartbeat, an analytics website, that traffic was coming to the site from CNN since my story was linked on the trending page.
The attention shifted to looking at different ways a story can be told. Lowe showed the class "The Gift of Charles" as an example of the type of work that drew her to CNN. The story was of a family and their last week with their adopted son with brain cancer. The video was eight minutes long, but Lowe noted if a story is compelling enough, it can go on as long as it has to. With one final project waiting in the wings, her advice was to consider the elements of the bigger package and see how you can translate them into our three minute stories.
When the discussion was nearing its end, I asked about a typical work day at CNN. To my surprise, Lowe's day did not begin with Wolf Blitzer opening the door to her building and no lunch or coffee breaks with Anderson Cooper. Meetings dominate Lowe's schedule with everyone making sure they are on task and on the same page. The takeaway from this is how important people skills are in the communication industry. Teamwork is big, especially when a breaking news story may call for all hands on deck.
Lowe shared a lot of advice with my class and it was a pleasure listening to her speak.