Mitra Kalita’s resume reads like a wish list of media powerhouses: the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Newsday, and the Associated Press, among others. She was a founding editor of Mint, a business newspaper based in New Delhi, and helped launch Indian and African editions for Atlantic Media’s Quartz.
She’s also written two books: Suburban Sahibs, on immigration’s impact on American suburbia, and My Two Indias, a meditation on globalization as well as the economy of Kalita’s home state of Assam.
Now, Kalita has arguably the most wide-ranging and visible role of her career as senior vice president for news, opinion, and programming for CNN Digital. Not only does she lead the national news desk—she oversees efforts to get that news shared and disseminated beyond CNN itself, across social media and any other platform or medium within reach.
“Our news agenda is no longer set in secret or isolation,” says Kalita. “Between what’s going viral and the removal of obstacles to tweet, post, draft letters, or otherwise reach us, audiences play a major role in determining what the news is and in shaping our coverage. That’s democratized our industry immensely and opened us up to so many perspectives.”
In a media landscape driven by technology, working and living in public can be a challenge, but Kalita thinks it’s a worthy one. “The accessibility of journalists is largely a good thing. It allows people to offer feedback on our work, forces journalism and engagement to continue beyond publication, and on a very basic level makes for better story ideas and a broader news agenda.”
CNN holds a dominant position in the news consciousness of America and the world at large—a responsibility Kalita does not take lightly. “I always try to remember that my role is to represent the public, to capture nuance, and to seek and disseminate truth. CNN truly puts facts first, and this feels like the right time to begin stories, narrative, and history with the truth. I also think about our role during times of national crisis—audiences turn to us to understand what is going on. That transcends our identities and has a unique ability to unite us.”
An avid user of social media herself, Kalita mentions as an example something she tweeted to help get through a rough week. “I think many journalists, especially of color, are struggling with the limits of our profession. But think of the newsroom without you. What stories would not get done? What headlines would not be tweaked? What angles go uncovered? Stay. Speak. Challenge. You make a difference.”
Not surprisingly, she firmly believes in the mission of CNN and journalism at large. “We are needed more than ever.”