Wednesday, May 14, 2008


CNN’s Hala Gorani: Stern On Air, Charming Off-Air.
The Monitor (Kampala) September 16, 2004
By Simon Kasyate

She wakes you up with morning news on CNN highlighting the day’s business and other key stories on the CNN Today show, sometimes co-hosting with the bespectacled witty Richard Quest. Our Reporter Simon Kasyate caught up with this News anchor at her London office late last month, immediately after her bulletin and below are the excerpts of their ’chat’.

Who is Hala Gorani?
Well, that’s a difficult question (laughs), primarily as far as this interview is concerned; I am a journalist and reporter for CNN International. I host a variety of shows, the morning programmes on CNN International from London, and also Inside the Middle East which is a monthly programme looking at features away from the day to day news coming from that region which is so much in the headlines for all the negative violence stories. We go a little bit beyond that and look at cultural stories, social stories and bring those to the public. Because there might not be a word if there is a whole of their lives in that region that is not necessarily related to war all the time.

I and my readers are still interested to know who the gorgeous face is that wakes them to world news every morning; when she was born, where and to who?
[Laughter and raises voice] Thanks very much for the compliment; that’s a good start to a question for any woman; or a man actually. Well, I was born in 1970, I am 34 years, I haven’t reached the age where I have to start lying bout my age (laughs). I was born in Seattle Washington and very quickly after that I moved to Algeria for a couple of years where my father worked. After that my parents separated and I moved with my mother to France and lived there for 18 years. I got educated in France almost my entire life and I consider Paris to be my hometown more than any other city even though my citizenship is US.
Studied journalism at College or university?
I never studied journalism. And I have nothing against studying journalism but I never ever thought that was the right thing to do and the reason for that is that really journalism is something you can learn on the job. Maybe I could be saying the wrong thing here because people consider it as something they did. But I can spend the four years studying History and economics and political science and I can go for internships and learn the craft of journalism. And it has taken me so long to get to a point when I am actually happy with my work, but I thought I could not learn that in college anyway. At least I learned while getting paid [laughs].
We share that in common; but if you didn’t study journalism anyone would be tempted to ask how you ascended CNN as an Anchorwoman and reporter.
Because I started as an intern in Newspapers; first I worked for a newspaper in the north of France for about nine months where I worked for the economic pages. Then I worked for Agence France Presse as a stringer/ intern/whatever so anything that needed to be written or translated I would do that. Then little by little you sort of accumulate experience. From then on I started working at a French cable network called Paris Premiere for a few months and from then on I got a job with Bloomberg Television in London as a financial anchor for three years. From that job I got my current job at CNN six years ago.

Waoh! You are a lady going places, so where do you see yourself say five years from today?
Well, (laughs), to be honest with you I don’t know, but I would like to be at CNN. I enjoy working here a lot. So most importantly I want to look back five years and say to myself that I told good stories and I did the best I could do and I told stories that mattered and I told them as well as I could with all the tools at my disposal. If I am writing for print, I told them with all the tools, if am using TV, that medium, I used the sound, I used the pictures, I used the elements as well as I could; and that’s what I wanna be doing in five years. Look back and be happy!

You look and sound like you enjoy every single day of your stay at CNN, any challenges?
[Laughs] you know honestly waking up at night is very challenging, if you are really passionate about your work you can tell if you are willing to wake up at 2 am. Now I am taking a bit of a breather, I am gonna be working more during the day and doing some travelling and things like that. I have been working for a few years on a shift that’s been a bit difficult but now I am away from that. So hopefully I will be doing weekends, travelling and hopefully more reporting.
Hala Gorani will with effect from September move to the CNN centre in Atlanta under the same portfolio anchoring weekend morning shows and Inside the Middle East.
No doubt you have a huge fan club; do you ever get to meet any of your fans?
No, I don’t!
No? You never pass by somewhere and get a few heads turned or better still arouse ecstatic screams of ’hi Hala!’ from a crowd?
No, no; it doesn’t happen a lot, I can tell you for two reasons; first of all I don’t think I have that many fans and secondly when I am outside of work I wear glasses and I wear no make up so I don’t think I look as much as I appear on the screen. Sometimes you look a bit different, perhaps my other colleagues like the indomitable Richard Quest who I co-host with in the morning, looks exactly off-air as he does on-air, so I think he is the kind of guy who might get more of that attention. But I don’t get that much attention, I get that occasional stare from someone and without saying a word walks away possible asking himself/herself ’Could I have met this person anywhere? I find some of the attention a bit odd to me, it’s very difficult to deal with somebody who says to you Hey I see you on TV! It’s very flattering though, don’t get me wrong.
Your private life; mind talking about it?
No I don’t mind talking about it in superficial terms but in great detail, no.
Married, dating; what is your status?
Dating yeah, hopefully I will be married in the next few years (laughs) if all goes well. [Laughs more] apart from that, there are many other things I enjoy to do in my private life. I really love travelling especially for holiday to ’switch-off’. For example I am going to France for a week’s
holiday, switch off my phone and won’t check my mail for a week and I am happy I will take a book. You know your work becomes better when you return from such a trip.

As an anchor, do you ever find yourself on the set in a situation where the story is so touching that you ’loose it’ on-air?
No, loosing it would be a little bit too much, but yeah it does happen to me a couple of times when I get a bit teary but I can control it when I am on air. I must say that when I did a story in Egypt about Sudanese refugees, I had a moment when I really did have a tear. I was interviewing a man from Darfur who was showing me the only thing he got out of Darfur was a picture of his family, that’s all he had! When I saw that, I could almost not control myself, and he was crying, and I was crying and my producer was crying. I mean things like that really happen, but you are a bit further removed when you are anchoring you are not there, you are not looking into somebody’s eyes and it’s a bit different. It did happen to me once or twice and sometimes on unexpected stories where you wouldn’t think that it touches you especially on days when you are possibly more tired, perhaps more emotional for whatever reasons. But once I was reading a story on a German couple’s son who was kidnapped and killed, finding out a week later that despite the fact that they had paid the ransom that they had been asked. And when I was reading that I was imagining the parents; I had to go for a break immediately because it was incredibly sad! But you know what? We are human and sometimes we think of the horrible misery that people go through and part of our job is reading that misery everyday, we do get hardened into it. But every once in a while it’s just too much and you get kind of all worked up!

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