CNN’s Head of Social News Sam Barry, Editor-in-Chief Meredith Artley and Editorial Director Manuel Perez accepting the Missouri Honor Medal. (Photo by Lizz Cardwell)
Dean David Kurpius, of the Missouri School of Journalism, awards CNN Digital Editor-in-Chief Meredith Artley the Missouri Medal on behalf of CNN. (Photo by Lizz Cardwell)

Twenty-one years ago, Meredith Artley was assigned to escort Molly Ivins around the University of Missouri's campus. Ivins, then a reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, was there to receive a Missouri Honor Medal. At dinner, Artley, then a student, asked Ivins if she'd like to go out for drinks after.

Ivins said yes.

"It was just like a crazy night with Molly Ivins," said Artley, now CNN Digital's editor in chief.

On Monday night, Artley headed back to MU, this time to accept the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism on behalf of CNN Digital. On Friday, she spoke with Poynter about her first year at the helm, new faces at CNN and making all of CNN journalists digital-first.

"I knew immediately it was going to be a year of transition," said Artley, who is also president of the Online News Association. "A year ago, we had some changes in the leadership at CNN Digital, so I knew I had to question assumptions in terms of how the place worked and question legacy habits."

Those habits include how CNN thinks about domestic versus international coverage, Artley said, and bringing those teams together as one cohesive digital team.

Five months ago, CNN Digital launched a new global vertical, CNN Style, which included collaboration across international, domestic, education and sales teams. Forty four percent of traffic comes to Style from social, Artley said.

"So in terms of a vertical, it is our most social vertical."

Some hires that have happened in Artley's first year: Andrew Demaria, vice president and managing editor and Inga Thordar, editorial and programming director at CNN International Digital; CNN Politics added Ed O’Keefe, vice president of Money and Politics; Rachel Smolkin, executive editor of CNN Politics, and CNN Politics doubled in size with 40 new hires.

"I'm really proud of the diversity we have here in the broadest sense of the terms," Artley said. "It's not perfect, but it's pretty good when I look across news organizations and I just think about where we've come."

The toughest part of her first year in this position has been finding balance, Artley said.

"You have to balance, as always, this need and desire to do everything and know when you're going too fast," she said. "But honestly, I just think that's a constant conversation, especially in a big major global news organization, I don't know if there's ever a rainbow with a pot of gold."

What's important is constantly questioning the balance of the workload, she said, "and thinking about where you put your time and your energy and where you're going to have the biggest impact."

Three big priorities for her second year, which CNN's Andrew Morse has laid out, are global, mobile and video. She's interested in taking advantage of CNN's global footprint in a more creative way for CNN Worldwide. She'd like to see more mobile programming and storytelling, and she'd like to see video, which is at CNN's core, used in a multitude of ways.

"We have a secret mission to make every single journalist here a digital journalist," Artley said, "and I think we've made some good progress on that."