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CNN Anchor-Turned-Author To Discuss Evolution Of News For GCJD Presentation

Oct. 3, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
Story By: Connor Hyde

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Pilgrim walking down the street in a foreign country
Like Jon Stewart's satirical "Daily Show," Pilgrim's novels blur the lines between reality and fiction, taking her characters around the globe, just as her career at CNN took her to locations like Russia, China, Cuba, the Middle East and South Africa. She will discuss the evolution of news on Oct. 22 as a speaker for SHSU's Global Center for Journalism and Democracy. —Submitted photo

More people tuned in to hear Jon Stewart’s opinion on the Syrian conflict than tuned into any traditional news show, according to Nielson ratings.

In fact, studies have shown Stewart has been ranked among the most respected news anchors and journalists in the United States, sitting with Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Anderson Cooper.

But Stewart is not a journalist; he’s a comedian.

Cue the journalistic outrage. Except that not all journalists think this is a bad thing.

Kitty Pilgrim, former CNN anchor-turned-author, is among them.

Pilgrim will share her perspective—that news as entertainment can be just as effective at informing the public as any other venue—with the Bearkat and area communities on Oct. 22, as part of a Sam Houston State University Global Center for Journalism and Democracy presentation.

Her talk, “That’s Entertainment: The Reshaping of News,” during which she will discuss the evolution of journalism, will begin at 7 p.m. in the Gaertner Performing Arts Center Concert Hall.

The author of The Explorer’s Code and the The Stolen Chalice, Pilgrim has made a similar journey; she spent 24 years at CNN tackling hard news, and now educates readers through romance novels.

“We’re in a really interesting transition right now because a lot of our information is coming through an entertainment product,” Pilgrim said. “The human capacity for curiosity continues, and people will self-select how they get their information; and I don’t think that’s a problem.”

Pilgrim launched her career with CNN in 1986 after seeing the news network in the U.S. Embassy cafeteria in Belgium. She returned to New York and “banged on the door until they would talk to me and demanded a job.”

After landing a job as a production assistant, Pilgrim worked her way up the ladder to become a news correspondent. She also filled in as an anchor on the award-winning show “Moneyline.”

The Columbia University graduate said through her journey with CNN, the newsroom’s culture helped mold her writing and editorial style.

“When you worked with people, you worked with the entire organization,” she said. “You didn’t work with Lou Dobbs or Wolf Blitzer or Larry King. You worked with the entire organization.”

Pilgrim won Emmy, Peabody, DuPont and Overseas Press awards, as well as others, during her time at CNN.

Since her departure from CNN in 2009, Pilgrim has published two novels centering on the exploits of a world famous archaeologist and his love interest, who is an oceanographer.

Pilgrim conceived The Explorer’s Code on her subway trips home from work during her final year at CNN. After seven months, the initial manuscript was completed when she sent her copy to book agent Morton Janklow.

“I told him ‘tell me if it’s garbage or not,’” she said. “He said, ‘I think you should quit your job at CNN and start your career as a novelist.’”

As a fiction writer, Pilgrim goes into the field much as she did as a reporter, asking tough questions and turning to experts when accuracy counts to create “fact-based fiction.”

For example, for The Stolen Chalice, she interviewed world health experts to find out how they would respond to a biochemical attack.

“I put it in a thriller plot line, and it’s the same information (that would be in a news package),” she said. “Now if people learn all of that in a thriller or in a news package what’s the difference?”

Pilgrim said despite the decline of traditional news viewers, there are so many other ways to remain informed, and that’s the key.

“I think news as entertainment, and entertainment as news, has the same number of eyeballs looking at information sources, but the same number of people are going somewhere else to find out what’s going on in the world,” she said. “I think you can find something to suit your taste.”

Pilgrim's lecture is free and open to the public.




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