Lee is building on 2013’s successful launch of Fusion by finding innovative new ways to connect the network with its audience. The interactive game “Bad Paper: The Debtor Game”—in partnership with New York Times Magazine—exemplifies his goals for the future. “It’s an example of how we are trying to engage people in different ways, and how we can work with other news or organizations,” Lee says. “One of the ways that the news can become viable economically is if news organizations partnered with each other to provide the things where they excel at, and stop doing the things that are commoditized or that are simply things that the company isn’t good at.”
What’s the definition of diversity in 2014, and how can the cable industry do better in the are of inclusiveness?
Often I think that in the media there is a flawed idea of what diversity is. I think many media executives think of diversity on the basis of skin color or ethnicity, and while yes, that’s part of it, it’s also important to promote a diversity of thought. In the U.S. Media there is a very narrow spectrum of acceptable perspectives. At Fusion, we try to promote diversity in a way that broadens that spectrum considerably.
What’s been your company’s biggest innovation this year?
We recently launched a very exciting interactive game on the murky world of debt collection agencies called “Bad Paper”. It was a project that Felix Salmon did for us in partnership with the New York Times Magazine. I think it’s an example of how we are trying to engage people in different ways, and how we can work with other news or organizations. I think that one of the ways that the news can become viable economically is if news organizations partnered with each other to provide the things where they excel at, and stop doing the things that are commoditized or that are simply things that the company isn’t good at.
What qualities do you look for when making a new hire?
I almost never look at a person’s resume. I’ve found that the prior achievements can be very deceiving. Someone once told me that the most important thing is a person’s character, and while that sounds like a banal cliche, I’ve found it to be an effective hiring practice.
Also, in terms of practical skills, the ability to write well is very important, as well as the person’s reading habits.
Name one emerging trend in cable we should all have our eyes on.
In terms of the news space, I think that as counter-intuitive as this sounds given all we hear about the the #ADDgeneration and things like that, we are going to see the news slow down rather than speed up. For a while I think that there was a general consensus that in order to keep people from getting bored you had to make everything on cable news shorter, more digestible, more “snackable”. I think we are going to see a reversal of that trend to more length, more depth, more nuance. I think that the internet and social media are where people go for their quick, snackable fix. They go to cable for more depth and understanding. Look at the success of John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” on HBO. He does 30 minutes a week, rather than constant daily shows, but he makes sure that his 17 minute segment on Net Neutrality (or whatever difficult topic he decides to tackle) is perfect, with depth, reporting, understanding, nuance, and of course humor. I think we’re going to see more of that, as well as things like what CNN is doing with shows like Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown”, over the typical talking heads debate format we so often see on cable news.