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Credible News Organisations To Thrive In Fake News Era: Ellana Lee, Senior Vice President of CNN International

Ellana Lee, Senior Vice President of CNN International, and Head of CNN Vision, talks to Priyaankaa Mathur about fake news, women empowerment, and the channel’s plans for the Indian market. Excerpts:

Photo Credit : Umesh Goswami


How has fake news added to the complexity of media narrative?
I think what is important is that we need to define what fake news is. Fake news is that which is incorrect and it has a motivation behind it. Fake news has happened since centuries. But there is a lot of news that is correct but if President Trump doesn’t like it and calls it fake, then that’s an issue, and that’s where we need to have a difference. But, I think fake news has created a whole lot of opportunity (for credible news organisations). It’s really about developing the credibility of your media organisation.
What challenges do media houses face today and how is CNN coping with those challenges?
I think there are challenges but there are more opportunities too. So first, as more and more people want the content, so you get to know the consumer behaviour. Second, the technology today works for you instead of being against you. That’s why you see the whole spectrum of OTTs, apps, social media platforms. That requires most of the traditional media companies to change the business model and how we deliver the content.

The challenge is that the older model is always getting disrupted, but there is always an opportunity too. For example, Ted Turner created CNN because he did not want to watch the news at 6 and so he created a channel that gave news 24 hours, and that was the first disruption. Then we entered the digital websites before anyone else, and we are constantly exploring opportunities. So it’s the consumer who chooses which media he wants to use, be it TV, OTT, websites, mobile or iPad, we just need to update ourselves constantly.
What is CNN’s strategy for the Indian market?
India is at a key stage in its social and economic development. It has a 300-million-strong middle class which is yearning for change. It has the world’s largest youth population with more than half of its 1.3 billion population aged 25 or under. CNN’s ‘India Now’ strategy plans to tell the story of India through people, business, disruption, innovation and technology and bring into focus content with superior storytelling. We will have India Now’s Talk Asia with people in the fields of arts, politics, sports and business. We will feature varied content surrounding future women, power of performance -- tech and sport in India, the Indian dreams and Bollywood.
Tell us about your own journey at CNN and your role as a woman leader in empowering women?

When I joined in the Asia Pacific in 2007, I had the opportunity to run the region, but I wanted a few more years for myself. My previous boss, who was an inspiring and a very supportive woman, gave me the confidence. I think CNN is a great platform to encourage women and it’s heartening that half of our executive committee in Atlanta is filled with women — all very creative, strong and diversified.