This summer, we’re putting a spotlight on the industry’s top producers; getting the inside story about their shows, how they got to where they are, and advice they have for future TV journalists.
In 13 years at CNN, Susie Xu has risen from intern, to field reporter, to producer for “Larry King Live,” to her current role as executive producer of “Erin Burnett OutFront.” Xu was born in Tianjin, China, the second child in her family, born during China’s one-child policy. “From the beginning of my life, I was really not supposed to be born,” Xu tells us. “The government came down on my parents and said, ‘you’re not supposed to have a second child.’ But my parents defied them, and I think that’s shaped a lot of who I am.” Xu and her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was four. She grew up in Grove City, PA and graduated from Penn State.
TVNewser: You’ve risen up the ranks to an EP position pretty quickly. What helped you climb the ladder?
Xu: A lot of it was taking every opportunity that CNN gave me and just running with it. I don’t say this as someone who drinks the Kool-Aid of the company, but CNN has provided so many opportunities in terms of different skills that I can gain, different jobs that I can do. I started out doing show producing, running prompter, running scripts to Wolf Blitzer. Suddenly, there was an opportunity in New York and be part of the live production. I jumped on that opportunity. Within, not even two years, an opportunity opened up in the Beijing bureau to field and package produce. I had never been on the newsgathering side of things, but because I’m fluent in Chinese, and because I have that interest and that drive, my boss at the time at CNNI gave me a chance. From there, producing for Larry King just fell into my lap, and they called me when I was just coming home from Beijing, and said, “we need you to go film a special about transvestites in Miami… I knew nothing about that, but I just thought, ‘well, that’s really interesting, I’ll jump on a plane and go do it.’ A lot of it is just throwing caution to the wind and jumping in head first and figuring out as you go.
TVNewser: What was it like for you producing in the Beijing bureau?
Xu: I found it to be more difficult to acclimate than I thought, because I do know the language and have family there. I’ve been to China many times to visit family, so I thought this was going to be a piece of cake. But operating as journalist in a country that’s so restrictive will always take some getting used to. You know you’re going into a communist country; you know they’re going to censor you, but at the same time it’s always shocking what you’re being censored for. We did a story on a really crippling drought in Western China, and that to me was a weather story, and how it affected the country economically. But the local government really saw that as a threat, and got really paranoid, and followed us around to every single shoot. Every single location, there was a