"There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because when you are neutral you are an accomplice. Objectivity doesn't mean treating all sides equally. It means giving each side a hearing." [Christiane Amanpour, in response to criticism over her emotional reporting during the Siege of Sarajevo]
She ranks #74 among the top 100 most powerful women according to Forbes magazine. She's given entree where other reporters are neither welcomed nor allowed. She's an authority on Islam with extensive Middle East connections. Access and humanity both distinguish her form other journalists. Christiane Amanpour, CNN Chief International Correspondent, spoke to a sold out audience at the Philadelphia Speakers' Series Monday night.
Amanpour worked her way up through every level. She was a writer, a producer, a field producer, a reporter. She and her colleagues thrived on the pioneer spirit of CNN. They adored being the little network that could. It was called Chicken Noodle News, they thought that was cute, that was funny, loved that fact. And they loved the fact that they were mocked as they kicked ass all over the world.
They were part thrilled and part privileged to be participating in a revolution, because Ted Turner changed the world with CNN. Not only did he create 24-hour news, and all that that has meant, but he truly created the global village. And nothing has been the same since. Youthful exuberance and high-faulting dreams, nothing really prepared Amanpour for the intensity of the work that she took on and that she has done over the past 17 years.
She is now lamenting how news corporations are using focus groups to play to shareholders. Those groups say that Americans don't care about the presidential election, they don't care about foreign news, all they care about is contemplating their own navels. What do you say to that? The blogosphere has also been accused of doing some serious navel gazing of its own. Are we? Amanpour doesn't seem to like the recent developments online. To her, TV news is a uniting experience, while it is much more difficult to mobilize people on the Web. I can see why she would think that.
Yet, if you think about it, no new media has killed off another one. It's the age of information and social media -- newspapers, radio and television are all still here. Yet there is one group that can drive the news organizations into extinction, and that is the news organizations themselves. They can do that if they continue to be irrelevant. Entertaining when they should inform.
I'm attuned to stories of going from rags to riches, because I can identify with them. When I came to the US, I had one suitcase and a dream with very little cash and no connections but a will to make it happen. In Amanpour's case, she went from riches, to rags, to fame again. As she shared in an address to University of Michigan Spring Commencement last year
So, I think that we all, you all, are given special gifts and talents and it is, whether we make the most of it that counts. And today, as I look out at you, my most fervent hope for you is that you find something that sets you on fire, that gives you passion and joy, something that you love and believe in so much that it makes you want to work all day and all night, something that will make you willing to sacrifice, something that instills in you a deep sense of commitment and a sense of mission, something that will eventually demand your courage, your physical, your moral, your emotional courage. And you won't know when and you don't yet know how, but you will be called upon to take a stand, to be very brave at least once, maybe several times on the road that you take ahead.
That's what happened to me. I came from what you might call a privileged background. I grew up in Iran very comfortably, very safely, surrounded by a warm and loving family, fabulous friends, great schools and great fun.
And then, when I was about 20, a revolution hit my country and overnight we were strangers in our own homeland. We lost everything...home, possessions and people. We watched in horror as our friends and family members were arrested, jailed, tortured and some even executed. My world and my worldview turned upside down.
But I quickly decided to turn loss and failure into my driving force. And I would say, never be afraid of failure or loss. Use it.
[...] self-absorbed is so "yesterday." It's out. "Cool" is now to be a citizen of our world, not just an inhabitant.
I forgot how many times I heard "no" as well. If you have time, do read the full address or listen to it (15 min. 32 sec.), it's very inspiring.
When asked why does she still do it? Why does she risk her life in war zones? "I do it because I remain convinced that good journalism still matters. If the storytellers don't do this, then the bad guys win. We live in a society after all, not in a marketplace, and in a society people are the software." Words do have consequence. Amen to that.