Mike Klein Online

45 Engaging Minutes with Christiane Amanpour of ABC News

When the announcement was made this spring that Christiane Amanpour would leave CNN for ABC News my initial reaction was, there goes someone else out CNN’s spinning door.  But it’s way more than that.  Amanpour is among a select group of the most respected international broadcast journalists of the past quarter century and you could mount a convincing case that she is the best of her generation.

This August, Amanpour will slip into the Sunday morning chair at ABC “This Week,” the network’s premier public affairs program whose lineage traces back to the legendary David Brinkley.  She will be the first journalist of this kind – international boots constantly on the ground – to hold serve on Sunday.

Amanpour began her distinguished CNN career 27 years ago as a do-everything production assistant.  Now she laughs about early reporting efforts which she says were fairly dismal.   Not one to stay put, Amanpour moved from Atlanta to New York where there were better assignments, higher visibility and a better path toward her goal to become an international journalist, an understandable goal for someone born in London and raised in Iran.

Amanpour was in Atlanta recently to deliver Georgia State University‘s commencement address and participate in an Atlanta Press Club mid-morning brunch.  Edited excerpts below are entirely from the Press Club event where she was, as always, uniquely engaging during 45 high-spirited minutes.

About Traveling the World to Bring Back Its Stories

“My mission has been to travel the world, and to try to bring the news, the perspective, the views, what is happening there around the world to an American audience, because that is what CNN’s first audience was, and then to a global audience when CNN went International.

“It’s something that I have felt more and more strongly about the more time progresses because it does actually somewhat amaze me, the lack of exposure to international events, to international perspectives and to different perspectives in this country.  I do not think it’s because people do not want to know or are not interested.

“I do think it’s unfortunately, a systemic structural problem in our news organizations.  It is very expensive to cover international news.  It is not like just throwing up a talking head who can blather for any given time for virtually nothing.  It costs money, effort (and) human capital.  Increasingly in many of the danger zones we go to, it comes at a great risk.

“So it is not easy to do that but it is vital to keep telling the stories of the world because we live in an increasingly and irrevocably globalized world.  It is no longer sufficient, it is no longer safe simply to look inwards and stay behind closed doors, or behind this window, no matter what a huge and powerful window the United States is.

“We might think two or three weeks ago, why do we need to talk about the economic meltdown in Greece?  Why do we need to talk about that in the United States?  The reason we need to talk about it is because in today’s world what happens in Greece will somehow affect what happens in Atlanta, in New York, in San Francisco and in the middle of this country.”

About the Second War with Iraq

“We should have asked stronger, more rigorous questions all the way up to declaration of war.  We all know it was, I would say, a class action failure.   People took the party line, the government line.  But it wasn’t just the press.  It was Congress.  It was the people.  That was a particular moment in American history where America had been attacked for the first time since Pearl Harbor and the reaction was what it was.

“People confused patriotism with dissent, confused asking questions with being out of step with their own country.  I do also think the notion that you’re either with us or with them had a chilling effect on journalists.  It doesn’t mean the outcome would have been different but we should have asked a lot more questions.  Those of us who did were either ignored or we were out of step with the times.”

About the Tap Dance between Washington and Moscow

“(Moscow) is trying to not be swept up into NATO, trying to hold onto what is considered its own sphere of influence which was the former Soviet republics which then got spun off as independent countries and republics.  If you look at Ukraine where a pro-Moscow president has been elected after several years of a more pro-NATO, more pro-West president, Moscow is playing that game very skillfully.  Moscow is trying to play its power cards wherever it can.”

About Coverage of Africa – The Troubled Continent

“Most journalism about Africa has focused on the very negative whether it’s famine in Somalia, whether it’s genocide in Rwanda, whether it’s civil war here, there or anywhere but there are a lot of issues that need to be covered about Africa because for some reason, unlike many other blocs in the world, Africa has failed to pull itself up, so far, as a whole continent.  There needs to be some kind of greater experience, greater involvement, greater media reporting in different ways about Africa to show the world what’s really happening. There are some success stories.”

About the Explosion of Social Media and Blogs

“A lot of people say the explosion of platforms and blogs democratized information.  I’m not sure of that.  It’s very useful, it makes information viable but it also can narrow people’s avenues because a lot of people are tempted to go to areas where they feel more comfortable and just stay there.   That is what I don’t like.  It silos people and it causes more division.”

About Why Great Journalism Really Matters

“We are in the city of Dr. Martin Luther King. This is a city of the Civil War and Civil Rights.  It was great journalists who worked at the Atlanta Journal, now the Constitution, who with their writings and their essays in the Sixties wrote the kinds of stories that explained what was going on, that exposed segregation and in this city, at least, managed to keep a moderate, peaceful system going through the massive upheavals of Civil Rights.

“Thomas Jefferson said there is no such thing as a robust democracy or a strong civil society without a strong and informed citizenry.  When we have this kind of platform we have to use it responsibly.  We have to be the eyes and ears of our viewers, our listeners, our readers and whoever else puts their trust in us.”

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

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May 23, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,

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