Speaking Up, Effectively

Debating well a key to success: Jautz '78
Monday, November 9, 2015

Plan A: Become a lawyer.

Plan B: Become a print journalist.

Plan C: Join CNN, work abroad for 17 years, become a network executive.

Speaking with students at ILR this fall, Ken Jautz ’78 recommended that aspiring professionals have not just one career plan, but two backups, like he did.

Although Jautz did not take any TV courses as a graduate student at Columbia’s School of Journalism, he went into the broadcasting industry network and is now CNN executive vice president for all U.S. operations and business affairs.

Flexibility helped him adapt to 17 years of living overseas, and to editorial and business positions at CNN. The network produces 450 hours of live television across multiple channels every week and has more bureaus around the world than any other English-language news organization.

Now based at Columbus Circle in New York City, Jautz encouraged students who want to work in journalism and other fields to “shoot high” in their careers.

“The more passionate you are, the better off you are … Knock on doors. Be persistent. Be determined,” said Jautz, who spoke in an ILR “Argumentation and Debate” class. He also met informally with students.

ILR taught him to be analytical and to communicate precisely and concisely, Jautz said. The school introduced him to the concept and value of worker voice, individually and collectively, and that has served him throughout his career.

Captivated as a student by the histories of labor-management practices, Jautz said he was particularly influenced at ILR by Professor John Windmuller.

“Negotiation, compromise, organizational behavior and culture – all of it is important in every field and it’s all taught here,” he said, referring to ILR.

In a video interview, Jautz elaborated on what he learned at the school and how it has impacted his work.

Jautz said a highlight of his career was working as the Berlin news bureau chief when the Berlin Wall fell. He recalls thinking, “They’re paying me to be here?”

“One of the great things about journalism is it gives you an excuse to nose into all kinds of worlds. It gives you a front row seat.”

In Senior Lecturer Sam Nelson’s “Argumentation and Debate” class, Jautz told students that arguing effectively is an essential skill for a successful career.

If you want to get noticed and move up in whatever organization, you have to speak up and do it without making people angry, he said.

Keying off an in-class debate over whether the American media has failed the public, Jautz said, “I would be wary of a society that does not have media outlets with contrasting points of view.”

“I think choice is a good thing. I know this dates me, but when I was a kid, there were three television news shows,” Jautz said.

“They were a half hour each and they ran at about the same time. They were comprised of about the same stories and those stories were from relatively the same angle. Those stories were decided by white middle-aged men that lived in New York City who had a New York-centric elitist sensibility.”

Viewers of CNN often see debate between on-air pundits, but debate occurs throughout the network, he said.

“Debates take place all the time off channel and every day at all levels of the organization, including entry-level positions,” Jautz said.

“It matters because they impact what people see and view from the news that they consume. Things like ‘should this story be in our newscast? Should that story go to the Facebook newsfeed? Should this video be restored? Is it legal and ethical to name that person or not?’”

Related Destination

Ken Jautz, ILR '78 speaks about his career and how ILR prepared him