CNN’s Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner on Educating Non-Bloggers, Responding to Critics - and Unmasking Tatton’s Biggest Fan

Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner

Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner have co-hosted the “Inside the Blogs” segment on CNN’s “Inside Politics” since the segment’s launch in February 2005. Tatton, a political producer and Internet correspondent, joined CNN in 2000. She coordinated production for CNN’s mobile newsroom during the 2004 presidential election, and helped produce several political debates and coverage of the 9/11 attacks. Schechner joined CNN in 2005 as one of the network’s first Internet correspondents. Prior to joining CNN, she covered the 2000 election for, was an associate sports producer for WSVN-7 in Miami and the morning sports anchor at NBC-25 in Hagerstown, Md. The duo recently conversed electronically with CJR Daily, filtered through CNN’s public relations department.

Liz Cox Barrett: Describe the target audience for “Inside the Blogs.” To whom is the segment meant to appeal? Devoted blog readers? Bloggers themselves? People who know nothing about blogs?

Jacki Schechner: Right now, it’s for anyone interested in what’s going on in the world. “Inside the Blogs” airs during a political program, so we have a particular emphasis on political blogs, but we have plans to expand as the segment becomes part of the broader program, “The Situation Room,” which launches August 8. We know there are many out there who know nothing about blogs, so we often describe basic blog terms or introduce aggregators or tools to help people wade through the massive amount of information available. And we also keep in mind that there are bloggers in our audience and make sure we include news and information that is relevant to them. For example, we have kept a close watch on Federal Election Commission developments and how any ruling may affect political activism online.

LCB: “Inside the Blogs” has its detractors. My colleague described it as “recycled punditry.” Another blogger wrote that it is “almost as entertaining as watching Don Imus do his radio show.” What do you believe CNN viewers gain from “Inside the Blogs”? More specifically, what do viewers gain from a segment highlighting a little-known blogger’s opinion on the news of the day that they might not gain from a segment highlighting, say, a well-known newspaper columnist’s opinion on the news of the day?

Abbi Tatton: There is a huge amount of value in these “little-known bloggers’ opinions,” as you call them. When the Supreme Court affirmed in Kelo vs. New London the government’s right to seize property, was it not valuable to monitor how bloggers across America — and for bloggers, you can read “people, homeowners, citizens” — were reacting? When a group of Navy SEALs were lost recently in Afghanistan, was it not valuable to follow the story being pieced together in a military blog run and read by members of the tightly-knit SEAL community? In the London bombings, with cell phones down and the Internet a vital form of communication, are the eyewitness accounts, photos and information shared by bloggers not important?

Now we could stick solely to well-known newspaper columnists to comment on Kelo, Afghanistan and the London bombings. To me, though, a blogger/homeowner in New London, Conn., a blogger/former SEAL returned from Afghanistan, and a blogger/Tube rider who survived a terrorist attack all have a fairly obvious news value. Their stories strike me as anything but “recycled punditry.”

LCB: Your segment runs during “Inside Politics.” What is the thinking behind that? Do poliblogs make for more interesting TV than other sorts of blogs, or just better lend themselves to the sound-bite-driven cable new show format?

JS: Blogs have played such an interesting and increasingly influential role in politics in the past few years that bringing a blog segment to a show like “Inside Politics” seemed like a no-brainer. It’s not a matter of something making for “more interesting TV.” It’s a matter of taking a look at where blogs are having an influence on society’s landscape and making the obvious connection. Again, we plan to expand this segment to include politics, international and domestic security, which will give us the opportunity to access more news of the day and report on what’s happening on the blogs and beyond. The blog segment will appear regularly on “The Situation Room,” anchored by Wolf Blitzer, beginning next week.

LCB: What sort of feedback have you received from bloggers, beyond the self-promotional, hey-talk-about-me emails that I’m guessing you see from time to time?

JS: We don’t get a lot of self-promotional emails. We do get a lot of suggestions and story ideas. Bloggers themselves are starting to recognize the value of a segment dedicated to their collective voice.

LCB: And finally, your thoughts on iluveabbitatton, the blog “dedicated to spreading the word on and enumerating the charms of one Abbi Tatton, CNN Producer and Sweetheart of the Blogosphere”?

JS: Abbi — this one is all you.

AT: What can I tell you? I guess my Mum has a lot of time on her hands.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.