University of Texas alumnus Chris Berend said he co-founded “Great Big Story” to change the way viewers see the world by discovering untold stories through compassion, understanding and unique perspectives.
“I would call myself an accidental journalist,” said Berend, who doubles as CNN’s senior vice president of global video. “I sort of stumbled through my academic and the early phases of my professional career.”
Berend shared his story with Moody College of Communication students when he visited campus during the fall semester as part of the Media Industry Conversations series organized by the Department of Radio-Television-Film.
The series gives Moody College students opportunities to engage with a wide-range of industry professionals — including many alumni — from around the nation and world to discuss the media industry and get tips on how they can launch careers.
In the short video clip below (1:19), Berend reveals the secrets of what makes amazing video resonate with viewers.
Berend said he left the Forty Acres a few hours short of graduation to work at Esquire Magazine in New York City, where he initially fetched coffee for editors with the full intention of going back to complete his degree in English.
After breaking in at Esquire and performing various editorial roles for almost a decade, Berend worked in print at ESPN The Magazine before he pivoted to video and digital as a deputy editor for ESPN’s Insider online. He also worked six years as senior director of content development at ESPN. He then became head of video for Bloomberg Media Group and is currently a senior vice president at CNN in charge of online global video.
“I didn’t see more jobs coming into print so when I got a job at ESPN I did so with the intention of learning other things,” said Berend, who earned his degree in 2007. “I got into other formats like creating apps and Internet subscription products before eventually getting into video products. That stage of my life was about becoming a Swiss Army knife in terms of storytelling.”
In partnership with Genesis, “Great Big Story” recently sponsored M.F.A. student Ed Hancox and his work on “The Castle That Melts,” a seven-minute documentary about a massive ice castle in New Hampshire that artists and engineers construct to celebrate the freedom of creating art.
In addition to speaking at the Media Industry Conversation series, Berend was able to meet Hancox on his visit to Austin.
“I absolutely love the university and am so happy to be back and able to share the things I’ve learned,” said Berend. “Learning to survive here and navigating this place prepared me for a lot more adversity down the road.”