Job: International Desk Assignment Editor, CNN
SMC degree: Bachelor of Arts, Journalism, 2010
Current city: Atlanta, Ga.
A piece of advice: “Going to class is important, but it’s not everything. You learn so much more when you’re out in the world on your own.”
From her desk in Atlanta, Karen Smith covers the globe.
She’s one of CNN’s international desk assignment editors, one of its gatekeepers of the stories that shape the world.
Smith arrives to work each day not knowing what will cross her desk during the next eight hours, or even from what part of the world. The editors generally are assigned different regions, though Smith tends to focus on the Middle East.
When news breaks in her assigned region, it’s up to Smith to get an official on the phone or work with a correspondent on the ground to confirm the facts. “We always like to avoid going with a story that’s not confirmed first-hand.”
In addition to making sure stories come to fruition, Smith is also charged with the care of the correspondents, working with them to get live shots on the air and ensuring their safety.
During the most recent resurgence of violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians, she recalls, “hearing the bombs in the background on the phone. I’m responsible for feeling out the situation and knowing how it is talking to them. Sometimes we have to tell them to turn the camera off and go inside.”
The long-standing violence between these two factions is tough for Smith and her colleagues to cover, having to wade through the stacks of information – and misinformation.
“Both sides are full of propaganda and believe their side is right,” she says. “It’s going to have to come down to some sort of compromise, but I don’t know what that is. I am fearful that it’s going to repeat itself again and again.”
It started with an internship
Aside from the ever-changing hours Smith says she feels “incredibly lucky” to have attained her position at CNN at such a young age. But it wasn’t simply handed to her.
Smith entered Temple’s School of Media and Communication aspiring to become an international journalist.
“It’s always changing. There’s always something going on and there’s always something to learn,” she says. “Temple gave me a lot of insight on international relations.”
When an opportunity to network with a Temple graduate (and CNN employee) at an alumni event in Atlanta, Smith jumped on it. It’s through that initial conversation that she acquired the internship at CNN that led to her full-time job.
The editor will remain off-camera, but soon hopes to travel for her work.
“I would love to go overseas to cover a story…to get to know what it’s like to be on the other end of the line.”