By Normita Fenn
As I write on a page of my notebook, I reflect on who among the journalists of today mirror the standards of a complete journalist that author, James Stovall, covers as the dogma on Becoming a Journalist: Prepare, Learn About the Field, Get Training, Go to Work, Get Started.
I dropped some names in a box: CNN’s Anderson Cooper who (even with his debonair Vanderbilt-looks) is so dedicated to his craft – always on top, CBS’s Scott Pelley for his professionalism, and NBC’s Brian Williams, with his experience.
If a student of journalism is finding someone of great interest, these individuals exemplify what Stovall enumerated in his dogma. Surely there are many more foreign journalists who meet these tenets and I regret if I miss to mention them.
I find that CNN’s Christiane Amanpour is among the many talented and highly respected journalists of today. Some of you might say that my example of Amanpour is subjective and not objective, but clearly I find that she stands out as a living example of Stovall’s concepts. She is someone who demonstrates a broad knowledge and skill in almost every aspect of journalism, domestic and international and who, in my opinion, is the quintessence of a journalist with the education, training, hands-on experience and knowledge of a wide range of subjects that Stovall pointed out.
She graduated summa cum laude at the University of Rhode Island in 1983. Prior to her current post with ABC, she worked for decades at CNN where she moved in the ranks as a foreign correspondent in countries covering conflicts and revolutions in many hotspots. As CNN’s chief international correspondent, she became one of the ‘most recognized international correspondents on American television, with a willingness to work in dangerous conflict zones’.
According to Amanpour’s bio, her first major work as a foreign correspondent dated back to the Gulf War and has since then covered wars, famine, genocide and natural disasters around the globe. I followed her work during the height of the Iraq war while she was imbedded with the U.S. military. In her reporting, she looked grounded, in part because of her familiarity with the country, understanding of the issues and a natural respect for the cultures and traditions. To her credit, among the world leaders she has interviewed were presidents and prime ministers in the Middle East to Europe to Africa and beyond, most of them exclusive.
Amanpour has won many awards and recognitions in her stellar career, among them the Edward R. Murrow Award for “commitment to excellence that exemplifies the career of Edward R. Murrow”. Another is the recognition by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for her “highly distinguished, innovative contribution” to the field of journalism.
However, even in the midst of accolades and honors, highly visible journalists like Amanpour is not without critics. She was criticized for being “Hard on Jews, soft on Islam”, that her reporting contained “bias, inaccuracies and false moral equivalence”. Some of her favorable remarks about politicians have been criticized by a conservative group.
In her work, Amanpour also recognized the life of a fellow journalist, Daniel Pearl, who was beheaded by his captors in Pakistan in January 2002 as a part of an investigation on Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, and Al Qaeda. Here’s one of the videos:Daniel Pearl Documentary ‘The Journalist And The Jihadi’
During her brief stint at ABC’s This Week, Amanpour interviewed Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and was released and aired on Sept. 19, 2010: This Week: Interview With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The years of hard work that a journalist gives bring credence to the field due to their continuing pursuit to learn, to give us information, to make us aware, to seek the truth, and to provide a fair assessment. The price that journalists pay in pursuit of their career cannot be measured in dollars and cents, and putting their lives in the front lines, being away from their families, missing their children’s baseball and soccer games, strike in the human heart of journalists.
The question is: Does any of the journalists of today, including myself, have the heart to pursue the path and be open to willingly give up the normalcy of life in the future? With that, another chapter will be written on a new page in Normita’s notebook.