She’s one of the most influential women in Spanish media. Cynthia Hudson, SVP & GM CNNE, is all about having a team that matches her diverse audience.
Cynthia Hudson decided very early on in her career that she wanted to make the decisions about what stories got told, by whom and how. She quickly realized that in order to have that kind of power, it wasn’t enough to be in front of a camera. That it was even more important to be behind it. Since those very early days as a journalist she has had an impressive career as an executive in media organizations such as SBS, Mega TV Cosmopolitan Television (a Hearst Entertainment and Syndication Group division) and other influential networks. Hudson has won 8 regional Emmy Awards, been named as one of People en Español‘s most powerful women, as well as one of the most powerful Hispanics in Poder, Hispanic Target and other influential publications.
For her relentless work towards inclusion in the newsroom, we honor Cynthia Hudson with this year’s Hall of Fame.
Red Shoe Movement — You started your career as a news producer and reporter in Univision 23 in Miami and quickly decided that you rather be behind the camera calling the shots. Do you remember how you arrived at that decision?
Cynthia Hudson—I wanted to have an impact on the story choices and on the ‘gate keeping” process that is part of journalism. I understood that great shows, news and any form of content is already cooked way before the first camera starts rolling and I wanted to be the master Chef in that kitchen.
RSM— What tools have you developed to deal with a job that constantly faces you with the unexpected, the unpredictable?
CH—I have learned that expecting change is a given in our field and trying to anticipate the impact of change is a much-needed skill for a leader. Sometimes, it is knowing how to react to a news event but in other cases, it is being able to anticipate the huge impact of technology changes, new media and audience habits that really affect the job of a leader. I am always trying to understand how our audience is engaging with our content and where we need to be to stay connected with our audience.
Cynthia Hudson’s advice on negotiation
RSM— What have been some of your most powerful tools when negotiating budgets or other major issues with your board?
CH—Although I don’t deal with a board directly at CNN as I have done at other businesses I have managed, I do deal with a complex and layered business units within one of the most important communication businesses today. I feel that Transparency and being able to see opportunities for growth are important. Negotiating a budget is asking for the trust of leadership and that means that you need to be able to understand the wider business needs and how your unit needs to deliver to help reach key goals. Sometimes, it is about growth and sometimes it is about timing and knowing how to maneuver your overall business opportunities. Being able to manage risks is critical to overall success. I have faced challenges that required my walking away from a project or plan I believed in, but knew that the timing wouldn’t work with the larger business needs. At that point you simply have to bite the bullet, but doing it with grace is a sign of management maturity.
RSM— Would you share with us how you navigated one of the many crises your team has faced in the past few years?
CH— In 2017 we had back to back natural disasters with hurricanes and the Mexico earthquake. Our teams were stretched thin trying to give thorough coverage of these important Human catastrophes and they were working day and night to ensure that CNN en Español was leading the coverage in our region. This was also a big hit on our budgets. I needed to inspire my teams to persist even when they were all very tired. I had to evaluate upcoming planned expenses and cut down so as to ensure that the human and financial resources would be prioritized where we needed them most. That is a constant in the world of news but you can’t be afraid to say NO to the projects that don’t have the big overall impact while pursuing others.
Ismael Cala's show was a success under Cynthia Hudson's leadership.
RSM— In terms of leadership lessons, what have you learned from your mistakes?
CH—Mistakes are the best university of life. Unfortunately, many people feel that if they make a mistake they have failed and they give up or pull back and that is when you have to push yourself forward, own it, and move on. You will learn only if you understand what went wrong and evaluate how you might do it differently next time. As I have gotten older, I am more aware of the impact that decisions have on all aspects of the business, but you can’t let that damper your sense of risk if the potential reward could positively affect your business.