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SPOTLIGHT: Kristie Lu Stout, '96, MA '97

The Frequent Flyers' Friend

Photo: CNN

CABLE GAL: Stout, here reporting from Shanghai, is seen in 200 countries on CNN shows.

By Theresa Johnston

She's a familiar morning face in more than 200 million hotel rooms and households across 200 countries. Recently she was named "best news presenter" at the Asian Television Awards. But when Kristie Lu Stout leaves her CNN Today anchor desk in Hong Kong for trips back to the United States, few of her fellow Americans—other than frequent business travelers—ever recognize her. "I'm sort of in this weird alternative dimension," Stout says with a laugh. "CNN International is not shown widely in the United States. There are a few million U.S. households that have it, but [our core market] really is a vast audience of global nomads."

Stout also serves as a CNN International technology correspondent, and on a recent trip to Stanford she was taping a panel discussion with five tech entrepreneurs about the future of online gaming and other virtual worlds. "What does your avatar look like?" she asked the first panelist, referring to his online gaming persona. "Why would real-world social norms apply to a virtual space?"

Stout, a yoga enthusiast and a former model, says she wasn't particularly interested in technology when she was growing up in Saratoga, Calif. That changed when she became a Stanford freshman. "When you have people living next to you in the same dorm who are electrical engineering majors or playing online games like The Sims or Doom or Warcraft, you just become technology-curious." Stout earned her bachelor's in social psychology and a master's in media studies, and then interned at Wired magazine. She moved to Beijing, where she helped launch the China-based search engine and wrote a technology column for the South China Morning Post—all while taking advanced courses in Mandarin, her mother's native tongue.

CNN International first noticed Stout in 1999, while she was being interviewed at the network's Asian regional headquarters in Hong Kong for a segment about the Internet in China. Producers asked if she would be interested in developing a new English-language technology program called Spark.

Now she hosts CNN Today each weekday morning, with co-anchor Hugh Riminton, plus Global Office, a half-hour monthly show that covers innovations in business and technology. "She's a pretty valuable asset, that's for sure," says Global Office producer Tom Hayes. "Probably the best-prepared presenter I've worked with."

Stout's daily schedule is demanding, even by Hong Kong standards. Waking at 4, she parts with her husband, attorney Seung Chong, and catches a 10-minute cab ride to the CNN studios. From 5 to 7 a.m. she prepares for interviews and works with producers on a rundown of the morning's biggest stories. CNN Today runs live from 7 to 10:30a.m. Then she's off to editorial meetings, tapings and teleconferences that may last into the early evening.

Yet despite the long hours and frequent jet lag, Stout insists there's no place she'd rather be. "Outside of a war zone, the biggest stories in the world for journalists, in my opinion, are on the rise of China and the rise of India," she notes. "Being based in Hong Kong, I can cover those stories. And that is a tremendous opportunity for me."


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