Amanpour to Anchor a Nightly Show on CNN International
Amanpour to Anchor a Nightly Show on CNN International
By ELIZABETH JENSEN
In her 25 years at CNN, Christiane Amanpour has hopscotched the world, the very model of a foreign correspondent, turning up at seemingly every war, genocide, famine and natural disaster, slipping through previously closed borders and interviewing even the most recalcitrant of foreign leaders.
But there is one thing she has never done: anchored her own daily news show.
That will change next year, when she starts a nightly program on CNN International, which is retooling its lineup. An edited version of Ms. Amanpour’s show is expected to be shown on the weekends on CNN’s United States channel.
No start date for either version has been set, and the new program does not yet have a title, producer or much of a format, at least not one that executives are ready to talk about. But in her office in the Time Warner building, with its sweeping view over Columbus Circle and Central Park in Manhattan, Ms. Amanpour said she would continue to travel with the program, “because I’m a field person at heart, in my bones and in my DNA.”
“I think that’s massively important,” she said, “because you can’t just sit back and opine about the news; you have to actually go out there and cover it and report it.”
Tony Maddox, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International, said: “Our thinking was we wanted a big, the biggest, name to hub our international prime time, and when it comes to global international superstars that list pretty much begins and ends with Christiane Amanpour.”
Ms. Amanpour’s program will go after big interviews but also include reporting and round- table discussions, he said. It will begin in the second quarter of 2009, joining several other new programs that the network — which reaches about 240 million households worldwide — has already started to show in the noon to 6 p.m. Eastern time period, which is prime time for much of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. “BackStory,” with Michael Holmes as anchor, began in October; other programs, planned for early 2009, are in the pilot phase.
There had never been talk of Ms. Amanpour, 50, doing a daily program; she never had much desire, she said, because she was too busy running around to the world’s hot spots. But in recent years, after the birth of her son, Darius, now 8, Ms. Amanpour has put more energy into documentaries, including “In the Footsteps of Bin Laden”; last year’s six-hour “God’s Warriors,” which won a Peabody Award; and the coming “Scream Bloody Murder,” about genocide, which will be broadcast on Dec. 4.
In January, Ms. Amanpour, who was raised in Iran and is a British citizen, moved back to the United States for the first time since she left for Germany (later followed by home bases in Paris and most recently, London) nearly two decades ago. Her husband, James Rubin, the former Clinton administration official who is an adjunct professor of foreign policy at Columbia, wanted to return to New York in an election year. “I’d always said when it was his turn we’d come back to the United States,” she added.
A serious, occasionally fierce defender of the place of international reporting in an American television news diet, Ms. Amanpour has over the years, often while accepting honors for her work, made public, pointed barbs at her own bosses, when she thought entertainment fluff threatened to overwhelm more substantive topics. But these days, she says, she’s “hopeful that we’re up to the task.”
“The American people,” she said, “spoke loudly. The majority of the American people in the run-up to this election said they believe that the next president, one of his most important priorities should be restoring America’s position in the world. That to me says it all: That means that there is an openness, that there is a desire, a hunger to know about the world, and to know about where America is and fits into the world.”
Programming executives seemingly agree. In June, CNN added a one-hour international news program hosted by Newsweek International’s editor, Fareed Zakaria, to its Sunday afternoon lineup; Ms. Amanpour is a frequent guest.
Elsewhere, CBS’s “60 Minutes,” for which Ms. Amanpour was a contributor for nine years until 2005, has thrived this season with a steady component of international reporting, and BBC America continues to invest in news programming for the United States. In October, the public television stations WLIW and WNET in New York began producing a half-hour daily international news program for public television stations nationwide, anchored by Martin Savidge, Ms. Amanpour’s former CNN colleague.
In the coming documentary, Ms. Amanpour highlights the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide with a look at a century of genocidal campaigns, from the Holocaust to Rwanda to Darfur today. The stories are told, she said, through the perspective of people “who in each case knew what they were seeing and tried to scream bloody murder to stop it.”
Fittingly, however, one example where public attention eventually worked was in Bosnia, the first big story of Ms. Amanpour’s career. “I didn’t fully know what it was until I’d spent weeks and months understanding what it was. It wasn’t just two sides battling it out, it was genocide, and when we said that we were taking an enormous risk,” she recalled.
That war, she said, shaped her outlook on her chosen profession. “When we’re not there, when we’re not there in a critical mass and we don’t tell the story and we don’t put our eyewitness testimony in the public sphere, then the most unspeakable evil can happen.”