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Friday, August 31, 2007

i-Report: CNN's Citizen Journalists

CNN launched I-Reports just over a year ago in August, 2006. A press release announced the new citizen journalism initiative with:

With the explosion of cell phone and digital cameras enabling people to capture powerful images of interesting news events, CNN today expanded its ability to showcase such material with the launch of "I-Report." An I-Report allows a CNN viewer who captures compelling content with a personal cell phone, camera or other device to be a part of telling the world what is happening where they are through the unsurpassed reach of CNN.

In a August 21, 2007 press release, CNN congratulated it's i-Reporters for their contributions. Below is an excerpt:

When CNN first invited its global audience to submit their own pictures and video of the news of the day via cell phones, cameras and other devices, the first i-Reports offered included a photograph of bomb damage in Israel, a portrait of a U.S. soldier in Iraq and an image of a squirrel coping with a heat wave in the U.S. Midwest.

One year later, CNN’s i-Report has garnered more than 50,000 submissions from 189 countries and territories around the world, ranging from compelling to light-hearted to tragic to amazing. CNN’s citizen journalism initiative now pulls in an average of about 7,000 i-Reports each month.

“With i-Report, CNN tapped into the needs and desires of its audience to express a deeper connection to the news they get from our networks and services each and every day,” said Susan M. Bunda, executive vice president of content development and strategy for CNN Worldwide. “Our i-Reporters have exceeded our expectations in regards to the sheer number and quality of submissions.”

Launched in August 2006, CNN’s i-Reports experienced tremendous growth within the first few months as both on-air and online audiences found a new way to express themselves and to share their own observations about CNN news coverage and events around the world. Hundreds submitted i-Reports after Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin died in September 2006. Later that month, when a coup in Thailand attempted to halt the flow of information with the shutdown of the national media, i-Reports ensured that photographs and text were seen by the rest of the world.

CNN’s i-Report created a remarkable impression upon viewers on the morning of the Virginia Tech shooting tragedy in April, particularly when graduate student Jamal Albarghouti captured dramatic video on his cell phone. CNN received about 420 submissions within 24 hours of the incident, and more than 600 in total.

More recently, users shared their video, images and thoughts after the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minn., on Wednesday, Aug. 1. To date, CNN has received more than 600 i-Reports related to that incident.

Viewers submit i-Report material through a “Send Your i-Report” link at or by e-mail at Submitted material undergoes the same extensive vetting process CNN employs for all content that goes on air or online.

Of course, a year ago, not everyone thought that i-Reports would be a success.


Other networks have since decided that user generated content has potential and have started their own initiatives.

To celebrate i-Reports first anniversary, Anderson Cooper filed a report that's available online reviewing how far this concept has come over the last year and where CNN is hoping to take it in the future.

Go behind the scenes with the i-Report team in this week's CNN All Access Podcast. The podcast is available for download through iTunes, CNN's website, or this link.


Mystery Journalist

Stare into this journalist eyes and then take your best guess.

Can you name this CNN journalist?

Let us know who you think this journalist is in the comments. Other than bragging rights, there are no prizes for being right, but we won't throw anything at you if you're wrong, either. The identity of the Mystery Journalist will be revealed in Sunday night's post.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Busy Day in the CNN World

It is a busy day in the CNN world so let's get it started!!!!!!!!!!

Kyra Phillips Interview

(screen caps courtsey of Book Asylum)

So since the Michael Vick story is hopefully taking a break until December when sentencing will happen, the big story on CNN this week is the arrest of Idaho Senator Larry Craig for laud behaviour in a Minneapolis airport washroom. On yesterday’s Newsroom, Kyra Phillips interviewed Dan Popkey, a reporter with the Idaho Statesman that has been covering the controversy surrounding Senator Larry Craig. Popkey has been covering this story for several months and was recently singled out by the Senator in a news conference. Below is part of the CNN transcript of the interview:
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The White House says it's disappointed by Senator Larry Craig's arrest in an airport sex sting. Craig, however, insists he did nothing wrong. And even though he pleaded guilty, he says he shouldn't have. Either way, the rumors that surround Craig's personal life are not new. In fact, "The Idaho Statesman" was investigating allegations about Craig at the time of his arrest. The senator accuses the paper of conducting a witch-hunt. Dan Popkey is a reporter for "The Statesman." He joins me from Boise. And just to set it up, Dan, it is your article and your months of investigating that has triggered a lot of the controversy, a lot of the talk right now. The senator even mentioning your newspaper yesterday in the news conference.
PHILLIPS: So, Dan, let me ask you. Are you or anyone there at the newspaper on a witch-hunt?
DAN POPKEY, REPORTER, IDAHO STATESMAN: No, we have been careful, cautious, thorough, courteous from the start. We did not, in October when the blogger first published this claim about the senator having sex with men, we didn't report that. We took a pass on that because we didn't want to rely on somebody else's anonymous sources. Instead, we invested about five months now of reporting time on this story. It concluded -- go ahead. I'm sorry.
PHILLIPS: No, no, no. Go ahead, Dan. Go ahead.
POPKEY: Well, we finished the job essentially, we suspended the inquiry, if you will, after we interviewed the senator on May 14th, and we had decided that, based on his very firm denial of any homosexual conduct ever in his life, that a man of his credibility, of his -- a man who had served Idaho for a very long time with distinction, that we weren't going to use three anonymous sources to hang a story on. But we were going to wait and see if there were further developments in the story, if there was new evidence. That new evidence came on Monday when roll call broke the story of the senator's guilty plea.
For the full transcript, click here (it starts midway down the page)

A big thank you to CNN for sending this our way to share with our readers!!!


Ali Velshi Examines Today’s Volatile Marketplace for CNN Radio Special

Amid today’s marketplace woes and uncertainties, CNN’s senior business correspondent Ali Velshi and CNN Radio offers affiliates “Making Sense of the Markets,” a frank, straight-to-the-point discussion of the stock market and the mortgage crisis. This hour-long program, produced by CNN Radio supervising producer Sherri Maksin, will be available to affiliates on Friday, Aug. 31. “Making Sense of the Markets” will focus on Wall Street and explain what volatile swings in the Dow really mean, while avoiding the financial jargon. Velshi will introduce his “Huh? Say What?” segment where he will decipher the expert speak and give listeners financial language everyone can understand. Velshi will also discuss the mortgage mess and how Americans are handling loan issues as well as how the situation affects the rest of the economy. Guests will include David Reed, author of Mortgage Confidential, and Jim Awad, chairman of WP Stewart Asset Management

“Making Sense of the Markets” also will be available on’s podcasting page, and at CNN’s dedicated space on iTunes. Additionally, CNN Radio programming, including long-form programs, can also be heard via a link on the Web site.



Tomorrow (August 31st) is the one and only Mr. John King’s 43rd birthday. Everyone at ATC would like to send our warmest birthday wishes to Mr. King!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


A New and Exciting Feature to All Things CNN

Well from the title of my post and everything contained in it you can see that it is certainly a busy time at CNN but here's the is ALWAYS a busy time at CNN. So the ladies of ATC though it would be good to try and have a place where we could keep track of everything we are finding out about CNN so our amazing, terrific readers would be in the know as well (a la the Anderson Cooper Event Calendar through our sister blog ATA). I am happy to introduce the All Things CNN Event Calender. The calendar will included birthdays of CNN and Headline News personalities, Show Anniversaries, Book Releases, Meet and Greets and big events happening at CNN (and there is alot :P) . We would also encourage everyone to send us any information that might be important for the calendar. You can send you ideas, thoughts, stories, pictures or general ideas of things you would like to see on All Things CNN to us at

Due to a layout issue I can't get the whole calendar up but you can see the full version of the calendar here

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Children of the Storm

I came across an article By Dave Walker that talks about the Special Investigation Unit: Children of the Storm with Soledad O’Brien and Spike Lee that aired tonight as part of CNN's coverage for the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I pulled out some bits of the article that caught my eye.

With an assist from filmmaker Spike Lee, CNN's Soledad O'Brien took a chance on some amateurs in hopes of getting fresh perspectives on New Orleans' recovery at K+2.
"Honestly, it was, 'How do we tell the (second) anniversary story?'" O'Brien said. "We'd just come off the first anniversary, and I thought, 'How are we going to tell the story next year?' You just can't go back and stand in front of collapsed buildings and stand in front of a levee and do it again. We might be doing that for the next 10 to 15 years. How are we going to tell the story in a way that's going to capture people and make them understand what the progress is or isn't?
"We just decided to hand out cameras to young people. I, literally one night, woke up in the middle of the night and said to my husband, 'Oh my God, I've got it. We can hand out cameras.' "
About 30 kids made the first cut for the project, O'Brien said, and that number was whittled down to the 11 who got cameras. Four -- Deshawn Dabney, Brandon Franklin, Amanda Hill and Shantia Reneau -- get the spotlight Wednesday. "We picked the right age. They were old enough to be self-reflective and young enough to be very natural. "The one thing that amazed me most of all was that they were so positive," she said. "It was a real sense of hope and future in New Orleans as opposed to, 'We're going to put on a brave face and be hopeful.'

To read the full article with Soledad click here

I found this special to be so well done. Probably one of the best Special Investigation Units done for CNN to date. Here are screen caps from tonight's show. A big thanks to Book Asylum for the caps.

You can see more videos on from tonight's SIU

In case you did not catch it tonight, SIU: Children of the Storm will be airing again Saturday and Sunday nights at 8:00PM

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Romans Lecture & Aqui Online

Christine Romans will be giving a lecture at Iowa State University on November 6, 2007 at 6:30pm as part of their Technology, Globalization, and Culture Series and part of the Iowa State 150th Anniversary Alumni Lecture Series.

The ISU Lectures Program is a collaborative effort between the Government of the Student Body and the Office of the Provost. The program works to bring to campus a broad spectrum of stimulating lectures, political debates, and academic forums; cultural events, including musical performances and art and dance programs; and entertainment, such as film and comedy. All lectures are free and open to the public. (from ISU's website)

More information can be found on the ISU website:

Romans is not the first CNN anchor to participate in the university's lecture program.. In October 2005, Soledad O'Brien presented Women and Leadership: Mentoring the Next Generation.


In a CNN Press Release, CNN announced that Reggie Aqui will become a anchor. An excerpt from the release appears below:

As a anchor, Aqui will guide users through news reports and breaking news coverage on the site’s live video service and will anchor “Now in the News,” a fast-paced hourly Web- and wireless-exclusive news update. He will also provide updates on CNN/U.S. and Headline News about the most popular stories on

“As the most popular gateway to news on the Web, stands as the only news site offering multiple live video streams as well as full-time anchors,” [Sandy Malcolm, executive producer of video] said. “The addition of Reggie helps us to continue to grow a well-rounded team of journalists for, enabling us to give our users the news they want, how they want it and when they want it.”

"Now in the News" is available through the CNN Podcast website or through iTunes.

Erica Hill and Dr.Sanjay Gupta

From Kelly:
My question is why did you move from Tech Journalism to more mainstream journalism? Were there not a lot of opportunities in the tech media world, or was it time for a change and career move?

EH: I had a great time covering technology. Being in the thick of it during the tech boom was exciting, educational and very rewarding, but I got to a point where I was ready for a change. Interestingly, I think many of the tech issues and stories I covered are now more mainstream stories.

From Book Asylum:
Can you tell us a little bit about the work that you did at TechTV? Are you a technical savvy computer user? Do you prefer Macs or PCs?

EH: During the 4+ years I was at ZDTV/TechTV, I wore a lot of different hats. I started out working on the website in the very exciting job of digitizing video. When ZDTV Radio was launched, I was part of the team, and also wrote and anchored the morning news show. After that, I became a writer for the ZDTV News, then I produced the 1pm news show, then I was a reporter… and finally became an anchor/reporter. It was a fantastic place to work because we were all encouraged to learn every position in the newsroom. I had incredible teachers – news directors and reporters with decades of journalism experience to share. It also gave me a great understanding of how the news “machine” works, which is an asset to this day.

As for the “Mac or PC” question, I use a PC but admit to some serious Mac envy.

From Cactuskid:
Thanks Erica for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions. I really like watching you on TV and think, also, that you and Anderson have great chemistry on air! My question is more of a personal one. Now that you are a mother how do you balance having a family and work?

EH: Hi, Cactuskid – thanks for the nice compliment. I have a great time with Anderson.

As for balance, I’m sure most parents would agree, “balance” depends on the day.
I also think balance is different for every parent, but for me, I like to focus on the positives. I’m very lucky that my schedule lets me spend the mornings with my son, and, for now at least, he is still up when I get home so I can also put him to bed.

I know that my son is very well cared for when we are at work. I also know that I enjoy working, and that having a job I am passionate about makes me a better mother. It helps me to appreciate the time with Weston… and having the world’s greatest baby waiting for me at home pushes me to be better at my job. I want to get it done well, get it right, and do all that on the first try, so that I can get home to my little guy.

It’s been easier than I thought it would be. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss my son during the day, or that there aren’t days I feel like I should spend more time at my desk, but I try not to dwell on those moments.

From Purple Tie: I really enjoy watching Prime News and I love that you are so down to earth and that you are just yourself. Where do you see your career in 5 years? Do you think you'd like to move over to CNN and do a prime time show there or do you see yourself doing something different within the same field?

EH: Hi, Purple Tie. I’m so happy to hear you’re a Prime News fan!

I love the job I have right now. We tackle a lot of topics and stories other shows aren’t doing – it’s nice to be different. I would like to do more reporting, however. Ideally, I’d love to bring Prime News on the road.

In five years, I hope that wherever I am, I am happy in my job -- otherwise, it’s not worth it! I also hope that I am still growing and honing my skills. This format offers endless opportunities to grow as a journalist, and so my main hope is that in five years, I am better than I am today. I hope that I use the professional and personal experiences still to come to make me a better listener, better interviewer, and better storyteller.

I always thought a morning show would be a good fit for me. I like the mix of news and features, the fact that you can have a little fun, and the opportunity to anchor and report. As for moving to CNN, never say never! What’s most important to me is what I’m doing – I want it to be a show I am involved in, passionate about and proud of – no matter what time of day!

From Sheryn:
Erica, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions! I really enjoy Prime News and appreciate the way you deliver the news with a hipper vibe than most at 5pm! I’m curious, did you have one major influence in your life or someone you admire greatly that help shaped the woman you are today? By the way, you were missed during last year’s AC360 New Year’s Eve coverage. Please say you will be back this year!

EH: Hi, Sheryn

What a beautiful name! Thanks for the compliment.

I’ve been very fortunate to have a number of great influences – from teachers to family. I think the most important people, though, are my parents. They are both very strong, intelligent, funny, hard-working and down-to-earth. We laugh a lot in my family, which is essential.

They always encouraged me and my sister to follow our dreams, no matter how outrageous they seemed. For as long as I can remember, they treated us as people capable of making our own decisions, and dealing with the consequences that come with our choices. They respected our choices, even if they didn’t always agree with them.

I first left home at 16, and the older I get, the more I realize how hard it must have been for my parents to let me go (I was an exchange student in France for the year), and how important it was for me go. They knew this would be an amazing education I could not get anywhere else, and they knew I could handle it. Their confidence in me then and now has made me the person I am today.

As for New Year’s, the AC folks haven’t asked me, but the two years I was in Times Square with Anderson were a blast. I’d definitely do it again.

From Brenda in Canada:
Could you give us a bit of a "behind the scenes" look at your work by describing your typical work week? Thanks very much

EH: Hi, Brenda.

So glad you’re watching in Canada. I have been bugging my husband for a couple of years now to take a Canadian vacation. Although, considering ,my list of places I want to visit spans the entire country, we may need to schedule more than one!

As you probably know, there’s not a lot of “typical” in TV news. Things can change in an instant, which is one of the reasons I love this job. It keeps you on your toes, is constantly evolving, and doesn’t offer much of an opportunity to get bored.

That being said, there is a rough schedule I follow every day.

My day begins at 5:30a when I get up to get breakfeast ready for my son, and to make my lunch and dinner to bring to work. If Weston sleeps long enough, I may even get through most of the paper… but I can’t count on it.

When he goes down for his morning nap, I scan as many news sites as I can and do a lot of channel surfing to make sure I am up-to-speed on the day’s news. I look for stories other major news outlets aren’t covering, so Prime News can continue to set itself apart.

I call into our daily news meeting around 10:45am; it lasts for about 30 minutes. We discuss the plan for the day’s show, talk about guests and segments we are working on, angles we need to cover, questions we need to ask. We flush out ideas other writers and producers bring to the meeting.

I am in the office by noon, and from the minute I log on, I am working. I begin by “reading in” – reading through all of the stories we are working on for the show, hopefully from more than one source, making notes on what I think are the most important details and noting any questions I have.

I do the same thing in the guest file, to see who has been booked and what we are working on, and add my questions to the mix.

From 12:30-1:15p I am in makeup, but when I get back to my desk, it’s back to work.

Most of the afternoon is then spent refining segments – meeting with producers to plan out an interview segment, deciding on elements (broll, soundbites, full-screen graphics we want to make, quotes and statements we want to incorporate), fine-tuning the focus of the interview and the questions.

Some days, I will also pretape an interview or two in the afternoon.

By 3:30p, I need to be in the rundown going through scripts, but I admit I usually get a bit of a late start. We have a fantastic team of very talented writers on Prime News, and they know my voice well, but I always want to make sure I am comfortable with scripts before we hit air.

Throughout the day, I am also constantly listening to my TV and checking the wires to make sure I have the most current information on the stories we are covering. This also helps me when I need to cover developing stories and when we throw out the rundown 30 seconds before air to go with breaking news.

Our show airs from 5-7pm. At 7pm, I go through interviews and segments from the show to see what I need to work on, how I could have done things better. If we have segments slated for the following day, I work on them to get a head-start.

I also go through the headlines I’m covering for Anderson’s show and check out the “What Were They Thinking” and “The Shot” segments.

After doing my cut-ins with AC, it’s home to my family.

From Phebe:
Since you’re a new mom you probably don’t have a lot of free time, but when you do have a spare minute do you have any hobbies? What’s the last book you read, DVD you rented, great meal you cooked, must see television program?

EH: I just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows while on a “break” from Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. It is heartbreaking but so important.

The last movie I watched (on HBO maybe?) was Munich.

I LOVE to cook and try to make Sunday dinner every week. It’s a little esier to do in the winter, though. Right now, my Sunday cooking involves a lot of baby food. This past week I made a chicken casserole, chicken with sweet potatoes and grapes, and a lentil-vegetable dish for the little guy.

As for non-news TV viewing, can’t wait for Lost to start again – February seems very far off! I also like to watch Deadliest Catch, Boston Legal (the writing is phenomenal and so timely), House Hunters, Big Love and Entourage – which really should be an hour instead of 30 minutes.

From Judi in Brooklyn, MI:
Can you explain the "It" factor from the media perspective and do the "suits" consider "It" when choosing on air TV personalities? Do their marketing departments take "It" seriously?

EH: I wish I could explain it to you, Judi. I hear about the “it” factor, but I think each person – including each “suit” – has their own idea of what that “it” is. People I enjoy watching on TV are smart, know what they’re talking about, and are real. I don’t like watching people who seem like they are acting or trying too hard.

I’m not sure how the “it” favor figures into the marketing department, but I would imagine the powers that be encourage marketing and PR to focus on the people they are putting their money behind….the ones the execs see as having “it”.

I’m not sure that was much of an answer for you, Judi, but I hope it helped a little!

From Leigh:
About all of the witty banter with Anderson, do you ever wish you were in the same studio or would that change the dynamics?

EH: Wow – I’ve never thought about it! That’s a great question, Leigh. It would be great to be in the same studio. I’m not sure if it would change the dynamics. We’ll have to try it next time AC in the ATL.

From Candy in New Mexico:
Congratulations on the new addition to your family! Has motherhood had a significant impact on your career thus far?

EH: Hi, Candy – and thank you! Motherhood is the best thing I have ever done. I’m not sure it’s had a major impact on my career thus far… but that may change as my son gets older. One thing I have noticed is that stories get to me even more than they used to. I’ve always had a tough time digesting certain stories, especially those involving abuse and cruelty to children and animals. Since becoming a mom, they affect me on a deeper level – I can feel them in my gut. They also make me want to get home as soon as I can to hug my family, and make me realize how lucky I am.

From Evelyn:
In a field that was not too long ago dominated by men, women are often degraded to being just lip glossed pretty faces who don't actually know anything. How do you show that you can be beautiful and smart, and also an objective journalist and what advice do you have for an aspiring journalist like myself? Thanks Erica!

EH: My advice is to follow your dreams and your gut, Evelyn. Hold your ground at work and don’t settle for the “lip gloss” role. I am involved in my show from start to finish everyday, and am very vocal. I speak up to push for a story, and to push for not doing a story.

Like any journalist, you also need to do your homework, to make sure you are well-informed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is something I struggle with sometimes. There is always that fear that someone will think you didn’t do your homework or that you’re really just there to be on TV. That someone with decades more experience will cast you aside as an ill-informed little girl. Don’t let them win. I’m getting better at putting that aside. I know the most important thing I can do is to ask a question when I need clarification, and this proves I am not just a talking-head; I care too much about what goes on the air and what comes out of my mouth to not ask that question, even if someone else thinks it’s silly.

From Blade:
Who comes up with the "What Were They Thinking"photos?

EH: It’s a group effort. Anyone can submit a suggestion, but usually it’s Jenny Blanco, one of the producers, who finds the winner – and she definitely picks some winners!

From Maria:
What is your favorite part of your workday and why? Thank you for putting a happy face on news. :)

EH: Hi, Maria. I think my favorite part of the day is my prep time. I love doing the show, but I really enjoy hashing out a segment with producers, making sure we are covering all the angles (to borrow a line from a certain CNN anchor!), getting the elements together… even the last minute scramble to get more information or reaction.

Inevitably, our conversations get off-track, but I enjoy that, too, because my coworkers are also my friends, and I love catching up with them and cracking jokes.

From Velvetandlace:
Just wondering what you thought of entertainment reporters/anchors such as Giuliana DePandi? Is entertainment an area of the industry you ever really considered, and do you think that sort of avenue is more "expected" of women and therefore easier to work in than news?

EH: I think Giuliana DePandi is fantastic. She is clearly a very intelligent women, and she is great at her job. I especially like watching her cover live events.

While I do indulge in the latest celebrity gossip now and then, I have never considered covering entertainment. I don’t think it’s expected of women, but I think a lot of young women are attracted to the idea of covering entertainment. However, I’m not sure they’re interested for the right reasons.

The past two summers, I’ve come across some female interns who were completely star-struck by the idea of covering celebrities. The more I spoke to them, it became clear these women weren’t interested in covering the story, they were interested in becoming the story. They saw the job of entertainment reporter as a way to achieve fame and to be friends with the celebrities they would be covering.

Of course, that’s not really how the job works. Giuliami DiPandi, and closer to home, CNN’s Brooke Anderson, are perfect examples of the smarts and tough work ethic you need to do the job of entertainment correspondent. I have worked with Brooke for nearly five years, and she is a true journalist. She works her butt off, she is intelligent, fair, and not after a personal mention in the latest gossip mag. I hope anyone interested in covering entertainment looks to Brooke as an example.

I also want to stress that for all the girls wanting to be the story, there are plenty who want to cover the story. Two of our interns this summer, Nicole and Sara, are definitely in the latter camp. These young women are entering their senior year in college and they are fantastic. They have a passion for journalism; they are smart, fun, and engaging. They are already great writers, they are eager to learn and have excelled at everything they have tried this summer. They will go far.

From Copperfish:
Being a woman and have a successful career in the media and family life as well, what can you say or your take about the growing number of violence/aggression against women not only in America but in the world as well. How can women draw the line if they are bound by traditions and culture?

EH: That is a tough question, Copperfish and a delicate one. The violence sickens me even more since I became a Mom. I know a lot of parents who say they, too, are more affected by stories of abuse and cruelty since having kids.

You’re right that in many areas – both in the US and outside this country – tradition and culture leave women feeling as if they are helpless. I’d like to see this as a call for those of us who can to step in and help. Of course, this is where it gets tricky. I don’t believe it’s right to push your culture, tradition and views on others, to tell them they are wrong because they’re different, but I also don’t believe it’s right to sit back and do nothing when you know an atrocity is taking place. It’s like that saying about the Nazis and WWII where they come for everyone but the person doesn’t speak up because he’s not a Jew, Gyspsy, Catholic, etc. until one day he’s the only person left, and there is no one to stand up for him. I think we all need to start small, because one person can change the world. Saving one women allows her to be an inspiration to others, to save others herself, to share her story and wake people up, and that is how we make change… frustratingly slow as the process may be.

From Debbie Darby:
I've noticed that you are always extremely poised and composed. Has there ever been a story you've reported on that caused you to lose that composure or come close to losing it?

EH: Hi, Debbie – that’s very kind of you. There were more than a few times the week of September 11th – especially that Friday, September 14th, that I was too choked up to get my words out, and that I wasn’t always able to keep the tears from flowing. It’s tough to lose that control, but I suppose it’s part of being human. I would be concerned if stories didn’t get to me, because I would worry I had finally become too jaded. When that day comes, it is time for me to leave news or to take a very long break.

From Aruna:
Erica, thank you for taking the time to do this, it is much appreciated! I am a graduate in engineering and understand the situations of being a woman in a field that is still heavily male-dominated. While journalism may be different in some ways, a few prominent female figures (like Barbara Walters) seemed to pave the way for aspiring women journalists to take a place in the anchor seat. I'm wondering if you had any interesting experiences in the once heavily male-dominated journalistic world and if you have any role models that you can attribute to your success as a leading anchor with a successful show.

EH: Yes, my Mom. Growing up, my parents never let us believe we were limited to certain careers because of our sex. My sister and I were encouraged to follow our hearts and our dreams.

I remember my Mom telling me that when she was in school, your career choices as a woman were secretary, nurse and teacher – a career you’d likely give up once you became a Mom. I had never imagined limits like that!

My Mom is an incredible teacher (now a Guidance Counselor) who loves her job, but I realized at one point that she may have chosen a different path if she felt more doors were open to her. I think that’s one reason she and my Dad brought us up to believe everything was open to us, and that confidence has helped me get to where I am today.

From Nage:
If the news isn't that exciting (peaches rolled out onto the highway), you still make the story more fun than how the person preceding you reported it (made for one heck of a cobbler). Are the side remarks you make included on the prompter (for instance, when I first saw you on air, you were talking about someone who purchased a winning lottery ticket with a stolen credit card, and remarked 'stupid!' and how the person won't be getting the winnings) or do you make them up as you go?

EH: Hi, Nage. Those comments aren’t usually in the script. My producers tend to build a little extra time into the show so that I can throw things in.

From Em:
I am always impressed with your professionalism and competence when anchoring Headline News. I also really enjoy the humor and sense of fun you bring to your reports for AC360. I think you would be an excellent co-host for a daytime talk show. Have you or would you consider working on a daytime talk show such as the View or a Regis and Kelly type program?

EH: Thanks for the lovely compliment, Em. I don’t know that The View would be my speed, but Live with Regis and Kelly would be a blast. I think I would miss the news, though.

From Megan:
I am a huge fan of yours. I love your style of journalism and your winning personality; it just shines right through the television screen. My question for you is:
What is the funniest thing Weston has said or done so far?

EH: Wow – that’s a tough question! He does so many wonderful, sweet, funny things it’s tough to choose. I am a big fan of the faces he makes when he’s eating. We’re trying a lot of new foods, and he is starting to feed himself – well, he’s learning to feed himself. There is nothing like seeing that sweet face covered in avocado or banana with a grin poking through. If I smile back, he starts to giggle and you can’t help but laugh along.

From Kim:
Hi Erica! You and I have something in common. We both went/go to BU and COM students. (I'm going to be a senior this fall.) While you were in college what types of internships did you have? What types of on campus activities did you do? Did your involvement in those activities help your career?

EH: Hi, Kim – love that you are in COM! In college, I interned at CBS News in New York the summer before my senior year. I worked in what was the future CBS New Media department, where we did a lot of research and worked on a website.

First semester senior year I interned with the Software Publishers Association Europe in Paris. I helped redesign their site and also worked on the planning for their annual conference in Cannes.I went back to work at the conference as a conference coordinator the summer I graduated.

Second semester senior year I interned at PC Week for PC Week Radio, which was their streaming department. I traveled around and did webcasting, and also worked on the mini tech newscast they did – I would help write, occasionally anchor, and edit the newscast.

On campus, I didn’t do a ton. I was very involved in activities in high school and by the time I got to BU, I was burnt out. Sophomore year I joined a sorority (AEPhi) where I held a couple of positions. Looking back, I would have loved to work at the Freep or done some radio.

I think some of the best experience came from my classes in COM. I loved shooting stories and putting them together, and out professors really pushed us. To this day, one of my favorite stories I have ever done was one I did junior year with my friend, Paul Tritter, on vendors at Fenway. I still get a kick out of watching it!

From ACAnderfan:
Erica, if you could go back in time and live during any time period which time period would you choose and why?

EH: Hmmm… it’s tough to pick just one. I wish time travel were possible because there are so many I’d like to check out. I think either the 60’s or World War II. I read a lot of WWII-era books – fiction and non-fiction – and for some reason, I am really drawn to that time. I feel a strange connection to a lot of the personal stories. I also think we need to keep learning about the atrocities that happened, to keep them from being repeated… though I worry that message is being lost in places like Darfur.

From a Viewer in Virginia:
How do you like living in the South?

EH: The South has really grown on this Yankee. I love the pace of life and people’s kindness; Southern hospitality is a wonderful thing! I’ve also become a huge fan of grits – who knew?! We live in a wonderful neighborhood with a rich history and a very strong sense of community.

But I must admit, it was definitely an adjustment at first – especially coming from San Francisco. I miss the diversity of SF, and am still surprised at how segregated certain areas can be. I miss living near the water – this is the first time I’ve been so far from the coast.

All in all, though, Atlanta has been very good to us.

From Sapphire:
Hi Erica
I thought I would play a mini version of 20 Questions and ask questions that I would want to ask a best friend since I am a huge fan of yours. So here we go:
1.What is you favourite memory?
2.What is your guilty pleasure?
3.Where is your favourite place in the entire world?
Thank again so much Erica for taking the time to talk with us and please know we are watching you on Prime Time News and AC 360 every day.

EH: Hi, Saphire – thank you for watching.

My favorite memory is the moment I met my son… my eyes well up when I think about it. I couldn’t believe he was finally here, couldn’t believe we’d made it through labor. It was even more magical – and yet oddly surreal – the first time I was able to hold him and look into his eyes (I ended up having an emergency C-section so I couldn’t hold him right away).

My guilty pleasure… hmm, it depends on my mood! One of my current guilty pleasures is a nap with my son on a weekend afternoon. I know I won’t be able to do it for much longer, so I have to take advantage of it now. The laundry can wait.

My favorite place in the entire world is where my family is. There are a lot of places I love – the beach, the Northern California coast, the garden at my host family’s in a tiny village in the Puy-de-Dome in France – but those places are really wonderful when the people I love most in the world are there with me.

From Lisa:
I really enjoyed the few reports you did from the field during Hurricane Katrina. Would you like do to more field reporting or do you prefer being in the studio?

EH: Thanks, Lisa. I would love to spend more time in the field. I am constantly bugging my bosses to let me go… I think I am starting to wear them down.

From Mandy:
I was watching your show again today, and though you probably report in the most interesting way at CNN, I can't help but wonder, with all that crime news, you're show isn't ‘just another Nancy Grace’. My question is, with your ability to report with humor and creativity (as seen in the 360 bulletin), why be limited with constant reports on the latest abduction or abuse charges when you can focus on other major headlines? Thanks.

EH: Hi, Mandy. At Prime News, We do try to expand beyond what most news shows are covering, and lately we’re trying to work in more human stories. Sometimes it’s tough to avoid those abduction and abuse stories, and I wouldn’t always want to. As painful as some of those stories may be, there is always the chance that someone will see that abduction story and a missing person will be found. As for abuse, I also have to hope that it will stop someone from hurting another person, or will compel someone to get help for themselves or someone they love.

I’d much rather cover the gruesome dog fighting charges against Michael Vick than the Paris Hilton jail drama. If by covering those horrific charges I can get one person to understand just how wrong animal cruelty is, then it’s worth having to read that indictment and talk about the gory details.

Our deepest thanks to Erica Hill for taking time out of her very busy schedule to answer our questions.

On Friday, August 24, 2007, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joined Atlanta’s mayor Shirley Franklin for her monthly book club featuring his new book, Chasing Life. Once a month Mayor Franklin selects a particular book and invites the author in for discussion. Dr. Gupta spoke to a crowd of about 60 city employees.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Growing Up Diana

This past week has been filled with so much new programming on CNN, it would have been easy to miss the Soledad O'Brien's Special Investigations Unit program Growing Up Diana.

It's hard for me to fathom that its been 10 years since the princess' tragic death. I remember watching the fairy tale wedding on television~ the assumption was that a fairy tale would end with happily ever after.

The program focuses on her up bringing, her courtship with Prince Charles, the royal wedding, and the early years of her marriage. Did you know that she had a school girl crush on Prince Charles? She first met her prince when she was only 16. They didn't start dating until she was 18 (and he was 31).

Soledad O'Brien does an excellent job presenting this story without it becoming tabloid. She talks to the princess' nanny, a woman that employed the princess as a nanny, and a few other life long friends.

I never realized that she had a secret speech writer, who was a long time friend of hers. The program gives the impression that the princess was thrown into the deep end of the pool without any assistance- sink or swim.


Mystery Journalist

This week's Mystery Journalist: CNN's Chief National Correspondent John King

This screen cap comes from a July 23, 2007 live shot from the Citadel on American Morning.

How did you do this week? I'll post another Mystery Journalist clue in Friday's post.


And finally tonight, a happy birthday to Americam Morning anchor Kiran Chetry. She celebrated her birthday today (August 26).

Amanour blogger questions and Roberts 5 Questions

I've got a couple of things for everyone tonight.

From Tvnewser: 5 questions answered by John Roberts.

1. TV Newser: The biggest difference between TV news in Canada and the U.S.:

Roberts: On the network level, probably the way that regional stories receive national attention. For example, a story about the fisheries might get a lot of play in New England, but wouldn't necessarily make the radar nationally. In Canada, there are a lot of regional issues that play on the national stage - fishing and lumber, for example. There used to be a big difference in presentation. Newscasts in Canada were, for the most part formal and stiff. Nowadays, you can't really tell the two apart. That is, until the anchor utters the words 'about' or 'boat'.

2. TV Newser: Becoming an American citizen in 2001..

Roberts: It was a very moving experience. I became a citizen two weeks after September 11th. There were people in the room from more than 100 countries. I remember the judge was about to give the oath of citizenship, which requires that you swear to bear arms for the United States. She said that in light of recent events, she would understand if people might be uncomfortable with that and want to bow out. Not a single person did. We were all proud to become a part of the American experience.

3. TV Newser: Covering the war in Iraq (last year for CNN) was..

Roberts: An amazing experience. To live alongside Marines from the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance battalion was an honor and a challenge. We shared everything from danger to food. We dug holes every night to sleep in. And to a person — we all observed that there were enough troops in Iraq to win the war, but not the peace.

4. TV Newser: Best music video of all-time:

Roberts: I'd say the uncut version of Duran Duran's "Girls On Film", but people would think I was succumbing to base instincts. So I'll say Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer". That was a real paradigm-breaker.

5. TV Newser: Driving a Harley is... Roberts: Liberating, stimulating and patriotic. Particularly the annual Rolling Thunder Ride To The Wall. You really wear your patriotism on your sleeve that day. The very essence of what it means to be an American.

**By the way, I've seen the full length version of "Girls on Film"! It's, uh, very naughty. LOL

We wanted to tell you about an exciting event that All Things Anderson and All Things CNN were invited to participate in last week. CNN sent out invitations to various bloggers to pre-screen three acts of God's Warriors and then participate in an online blogger conference with Christiane Amanpour. Of course, we were thrilled to participate. Below is the transcript with our questions and Ms. Amanpours answers highlighted.

We would like to thank CNN again for this wonderful opportunity! Blogger Conference
Moderator: Melissa Long
Guest: Christiane Amanpour, Chief International Correspondent, CNN
August 21, 2007

MELISSA LONG, CNN.COM: Hello and welcome. I’m Melissa Long here at, and welcome to our blogger conference. We are focusing on religion, power and politics.

And to do that, we’re turning to Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour. We’re delighted to have her with us to focus on her six-hour documentary series, “God’s Warriors.”

Christiane, thanks so much.


LONG: Well, we have so many questions to try to get through, so let’s try to get through them in the next half an hour.

Let’s start with a very basic question about the core of your documentary on the faith, the Jewish faith, the Christian faith, and the Muslim faith.

A question from a blogger at is that, “What is the ultimate vision of the three groups?”

AMANPOUR: Well the vision of the segments of the three groups that we have chosen – and when we say three groups, these are the three main monotheistic states, the three main Abrahamic states. They all have the same patriarch. They all have their holy sites in Jerusalem, and their holy books.

What – the vision of these particular people, God’s warriors, is that the word of God, literally, as stated down, either in the Koran, the Torah or the Bible, should not just be consigned to private religious discussion, but should be part of political life, should be brought not just into the various places of worship, but into the seat of power. And that’s the basic glue that they all share.

LONG: OK. Let me ask you a question and break this down a little bit more now. This is from a blogger from CNN Reporter (ph), and this blogger asks, “What did you do to make sure that you get a real view of Christianity worldwide and not just the United States?”

AMANPOUR: Well, we didn’t, because we actually focused on Christianity in the United States as a political force. So, we focused on the religious right, or conservative Christians here in the United States.

Of course, we could have gone all over the world. We could have done the Roman Catholic Church. We could have done some of the spin-off Christian cult movements. We could have – there’s an enormous number of elements that we could have chosen.

But we tried to keep the whole documentary away from being what I would call sort of the freak show, the fringe freak show of weirdoes that just, you know, are fascinating to ogle. We wanted to keep it to reality, to what is a real present impact and influence on all of our cultures today, because that’s what makes it important to our – to our viewers and to the people who are listening and watching, to show how this very significant group within each religion is impacting our daily lives, and I think – and our political lives and our cultures.

I think that – look, in the Western and in the developed world, perhaps here in the 21st century we would have expected secularism and governance and politics to be what governs our daily lives. We would not have expected, and perhaps we still don’t expect, religion to play such a real, present role in our daily lives, politics, and culture. And it does, and it’s also having a resurgence, all three of the religions.

LONG: That was a question about Christianity in the U.S. So, let’s continue to focus on the U.S. with this next question from a blogger at All Things CNN and All Things Anderson. This blogger says, “I greatly enjoyed previewing the ‘God’s Warriors’ series, and my question concerns the Islamic warrior segment.” This blogger says, “You profile a young Muslim American from Long Island. Did you find her truly sincere in her dedication to living a fundamental Islamic lifestyle?”

AMANPOUR: Yes, we found her sincere. And I think that what was interesting is that we profiled this young woman who grew up in the United States, whose parents have come here as immigrants, and who has decided, for her own religious, and perhaps even nationalistic or political reasons, reasons of identity, personal identity, to take the veil and live a strict Islamic life, a traditional Islamic life.

Having said that, she is part of American society and culture. She has a job. She interacts with her friends and does things that many of us, and many of you, would consider totally traditional, normal things. But faith, for her, is central, and we wanted to show that.

We also show the other extreme, of course, which is the violent extreme. But I think what’s important, and what we hope will come across in the Muslim segment, is that the violent Muslims are a tiny fringe of the whole group. And particularly in the United States, Muslim Americans are highly assimilated. They are moderate in their views. They are – have an earning power which matches that of the average American, if not sometimes somewhat higher. And they’re very assimilated in American life.

LONG: Speaking of American life, there’s a blogger who writes for CNN SAN (ph) who cite a definition from Wikipedia about being born again, and then asks, “Historically speaking, and politely asked, when was evangelism founded?”

AMANPOUR: Well, we are looking at not when the whole movement was founded. We’re looking at how it became transcendent in American culture today and in American politics.

And we go back as far as Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority, around that time, because what we found was that, in all three religions, the rise of political religion, if you like, happened sort of around the end of the ‘70s and became a real force to be reckoned with then.

LONG: OK, all right. I want to move on to a little bit of a different topic that we have yet to discuss yet, Christiane, and this is from a blogger at iTWire. This blogger says, “Will you also go into the Palestinian question in depth, specifically the cult of the suicide bomber, and organizations such as Hamas?”

AMANPOUR: The answer is no, not in depth, but yes, we do profile a suicide bomber, or a suicide – somebody who committed a suicide attack. It wasn’t actually a bombing, this one, but it involved guns.

But, no, we don’t, in this case, examine Hamas or the whole Palestinian question because we have done that, and I specifically have done that many, many times before. We actually wanted to broaden it out a bit to show other parts of the Islamic world where Islam, and not violent Islam, is being used in the democratic process and is the way many of these Muslim countries are trying to move forward at the moment.

LONG: OK. There’s another question from a blogger at, and that is, “Will the Internet strengthen religious radicalism or lead to its demise?”

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, that’s a very, very good question. Any number of studies show that you can be radicalized by the Internet and by all sorts of video messages, that there is a very sophisticated how-to system and network of radicalization on the Internet, particularly in the Islamic fundamentalism and the Islamic extremism and those groups, the Al-Qaeda kind of groups who espouse violence.

And to me, this is – this is very worrying, because in the Internet age, this kind of ideology spreads like wildfire.

But again, we have to make it clear that there is a difference between the extreme, violent fringe and the vast majority of Muslims who are nonetheless committed Muslims, but, you know, through a completely different method of legitimacy and legality.

LONG: We’re going to talk about that violent fringe in just a few moments, and we have a couple of questions about that, but I want to continue to focus on the Internet and the power of blogging. And this question from a blogger at Muslims for Progressive Values. This blogger asks, Christiane, “What do you think the role and the responsibility of media, including blogs, is in trying to learn for ourselves what the full and the big picture really is?”

AMANPOUR: Well, the responsibility is to really seek the facts and the reality, and I think to be able to discern what is fact, what is real, and what is false prophecy, and what is a twisted version of religion.

It’s difficult. There’s so much volume out there, and it’s not all of high or accurate quality. And, therefore, the responsibility of individuals and of those who seek to do more than just read, but seek to try to provide information, is to make sure we are really getting to the heart of the matter and getting the facts.

LONG: I had mentioned a moment ago that we wanted to talk a little bit about the violence and the volatility, and this question is about that, and this is from a blogger at It focuses on the volatility, and the question is this, and I directly quote, “It’s very obvious to those of us who look at these groups from the outside that none of them seem to understand the critical need to coexist.” The question goes on to say, “But do they recognize something that was very evident in each of the previous segments, which is that fundamentalism, no matter what stripe, will always lead to conflict?”

AMANPOUR: Well, let’s take the first – the first bit about coexistence. That person is correct, particularly when you talk about the violent fringe.

Al-Qaeda – let’s focus on Al-Qaeda for the moment, since 9/11 has become the all-encompassing challenge that we all face. Al-Qaeda has decided to go to war against parts of the West, but it’s also now going to war against its own, against Muslims. There is, right now, a civil war within Islam in which Al-Qaeda believes that it is legitimately allowed to go after what it calls infidels – in other words, all those Muslims who don’t believe exactly what they believe.

And this is a – not just a religious struggle, this is a political power play. It’s going after the very heart and the very ability to control and define Islam. And I think that is something that we have to really keep our eyes on right now and see how that plays out, because it is an internal battle as well as one that Al-Qaeda is directing against America, and against Europeans as well.

Fundamentalism doesn’t always lead to conflict, but it can, and unfortunately, we have seen the fact that it does.

LONG: A moment ago you talked about the political power play, and I want to talk about the power of money with this next question, which was from a blogger at CNN Reporter (ph). The question, how great a role does the drive of capitalism play in the growth of extremist religious groups?

AMANPOUR: Well, what we find is that a lot of the extremist groups, a lot of the religious groups, tend to have a sort of a negative feeling towards unbridled capitalism, materialism, and what they feel is just a purely money-valued society.

But, you know, lot of people have that opinion. There are, you know, any number of people who feel that our modern world has become too materialistic. I don’t really think that is what drives them.

LONG: I want to ask a question posted by a blogger on Evangelist Outpost (ph), and this comes from somebody who watched some of your clips from the documentary online and offers a bit of criticism and has a bit of a concern. This blogger says that “The clips of the Jewish and the Muslim warriors both focused on extremists who committed murder, while the Christian warrior clip was of the late Reverend Jerry Falwell. So what was the intent,” this blogger asks, “of the producers when choosing these particular video clips?”

AMANPOUR: All right. You know, he has a – he has a point. I don’t know how those individual clips were chosen and put out, but all I ask is that people look at the totality of each two-hour documentary, because clearly there’s going to be the spectrum from the violent to the legitimate.

I would say that we’re trying not to focus just on violence, because we feel that has been done over and over again in legitimate daily news coverage and many documentaries before. What we’re trying to show is the way religion is experiencing a real surge as a political tool and as a political outlet, and how religion is impacting our cultures in the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian worlds.

LONG: A blogger from Jaywalking and DK blog (ph) is concerned and curious about the moral equivalents in the actions of all of God’s warriors and wonders, do you see that?

AMANPOUR: Well, I don’t know what moral equivalents he’s talking about, because we do not draw a moral equivalence. We don’t address that issue, and we don’t draw it, and nor do we believe that there is a more equivalent, certainly not in the tactics used. All we’re saying is, look at these people. They exist. They are a fact.

We decided to explore all the major Abrahamic faiths, the monotheistic faiths, which have so much in common and so much that overlaps and intertwines. But there is no equivalence drawn in how they react and what they do in their tactics.

LONG: As we talk about the tactics, talk about the violence, there are concerns from a CNN Reporter (ph) blogger who says, “Should the international organizations handle the spread of religious violence – of radical religious violence, or should the nations just take it upon themselves to protect against extremist groups?”

AMANPOUR: I think both. I think each and every nation needs to be vigilant and needs to have a proper political, social, and cultural answer to violence.

I think that it’s also international concern, and therefore, as much help and working together as each country can give to the other in terms of cooperation, whether it be intelligence, or otherwise, is extremely important.

But I do believe that all nations need to be vigilant about the rise of any kind of dogma and any kind of extremism.

LONG: Christiane, with a few of the questions I am able to shorten them a bit, but with this I really need to read the question in its entirety. And this comes from Midwest Christian Outreach Incorporated, and a blogger there.

And this blogger says, “Not having the benefit of seeing the whole production, but only the three short acts,” this blogger says, “there seems to be a moral equivalency,” once again, back to that, “being expressed between radical Islam, who are waging a war by terrorism,” citing 9/11 and in the incident in Britain, “and Liberty University, training their students to know what they believe, and be able to challenge culture with sound reason and argumentation in order to persuade legislation to reflect those views.”

This blogger states that and then goes on to say, “Is it your view, then, wouldn’t it be the case that, for those who press for legalizing abortion, for example, were terrorists?”

AMANPOUR: First and foremost, there is no moral equivalency. I’ll said this before, and I’ll say it again. We did not go out to do that, or we didn’t seek to that.

In terms of the last question, regarding abortion, as you know, there have been terrorists acts directed at abortion clinics back in the ‘80s. A number of people were killed, and it had a very chilling effect on doctors and on women. But that is only a part of what we went out to talk about.

What – the truth of the matter is that we knew there would be controversy about the name “God’s Warriors,” and about the fact that we are doing all three religions. We know also that we didn’t get all the people we wanted to talk to us, precisely because of the concern that that blogger raises. However, I believe I am being honest in saying that, and acknowledging that.

When you see the three acts, you’ll see what we are talking about. We are not drawing equivalencies. We are simply saying, each religion has a fundamental and committed wing that believes in impacting the political and cultural life.

I separate Al-Qaeda from all of this. They are not political actors. They are violent murderers. I separate them from this. We are not focusing on our Al-Qaeda-ism. What we’re focusing on is the committed religious believers who struggle in their own ways to bring religion to the heart and to the center of daily life, politics and power.

LONG: Another question from a CNN blogger, CNN Reporter (ph) blogger, and this person asks, “Do you feel it’s possible that a holy war could break out between Christian and Muslim groups in the Middle East?”

AMANPOUR: There are people who think that there is a clash of cultures and civilizations right now.

Look, there is a definite cultural clash post-9/11 between Islam and the West. Islam, in its Al-Qaeda form, decided to attack the United States. The United States reacted by going to war in Afghanistan, which was entirely legitimate, to get at the base of those terrorist organizations, and to put Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban on the run.

Unfortunately, that job has not been completed.

But as this situation persists, more and more people are sitting back and trying to figure out how best to confront and to challenge and to turn back this clash of civilizations, because there are many, many religious people in both the Christian West and the Muslim Middle East who believe in politics, dialogue, tolerance, and that kind of system to move forward. And that’s really what we have to focus on and see whether there’s any light and any hope to be to go in that direction.

LONG: There’s so much to learn in the two hours, actually six-hour documentary series. And this is a question about that. This comes from a blogger at All Things Anderson, and All Things CNN, and the blogger says, “From ‘In the Footsteps of bin Laden’ to ‘The War Within,’ and now your massive documentary ‘God’s Warriors,’ I applaud you for your outstanding investigative reporting.”

After that compliment, this person goes on to say “ ‘God’s Warriors’ is such an extensive look into the current and past religious and political battles and the soldiers who fight them.” So this blogger wants to know, “Does CNN have any plans to bring the documentary into U.S. classrooms?”

AMANPOUR: Good question, and I will ask that question. I know that we have it on DVD, and it will be available on DVD. And it might very well be a really good and useful tool in classrooms.

Certainly, previous programs we have done on other historic challenges and realities have, in some cases, been taught in various classrooms, whether it be in the schools or in the college level. But it’s a good question.

LONG: In that same vein, along with the nature of the stories that you are discussing of the topics that you’re discussing, what age groups do you think would be appropriate for this? At the college level?

AMANPOUR: Perhaps younger. Perhaps at the high school level, I do think. I think that it’s never too early to learn. And I do, unfortunately, believe that not enough serious discussion of serious topics is devoted in the United States. And I think that the press doesn’t often do it, although there are many notable exceptions, and I think we need to do more of it.

And there needs to be more of this kind of thing, I think, taught in schools and throughout the educational process.

LONG: We have a series of questions that are more personal in nature, Christiane, as well, about your research, and about your own personal beliefs. This question from a blogger at All Things Anderson, and All Things CNN, and the blogger says, “I want to know if having a government minder in some locations prohibited you from getting the stories you really wanted?”

AMANPOUR: Not really, and we almost never did, so that’s the short answer to that. In fact, I’m trying to think whether we did at all.

Not really. No.

LONG: OK. All right. And in that same vein, I actually have…

AMANPOUR: Certainly nothing – there was nothing dictated to us, no script seen by anybody, not that kind of surveillance at all.

LONG: In that same vein, I have a question, and then I’ll go back to the blogger questions. You produced a six-hour documentary. You traveled the world. You had an (ph) extensive cruise (ph). And somehow you’ve been able to whittle it down to six hours. I can’t imagine that was easy for you.

AMANPOUR: Difficult. And actually, do you know what? We could start again and do a whole follow-up to all of this. I believe that this is the beginning of trying to explain. There’s so much more depth. There’s so much more to talk about. And I think, most particularly in the Middle East, where there’s so much at stake. But also, you know, here in the United States, where there is so much at stake.

The United States faces a major crossroads right now – how to regain its footing in the international arena, how to regain its credibility, its influence, and the soft power that made it such a strong and important influence around the world. And I think all of these issues bear scrutiny and continued investigation, because it impacts each and every one of us.

LONG: You’ve mentioned this a bit, but I want to talk about it a little bit more, just to focus on the question from a blogger who asks, “Why did you want to make this documentary?”

AMANPOUR: Well, this was a CNN idea, a CNN proposal. It followed on from a very successful two-hour documentary on bin Laden that we did this time last year. And I guess the reason is because so many people are interested and because it is one of the signature issues of our time – this clash of culture, this rise of religion, God and politics.

And it’s everywhere we look. And I think that, you know, we are responsible journalists and we realize that people are really interested in it. There is a lot of fear out there, a lot of misunderstanding, and, I think, a great desire for information and understanding.

LONG: A blogger wants to know about your movie-viewing habits as well, and wants to know if you were inspired by the “Jesus Camp” movie.

AMANPOUR: No. I saw it, but that’s not – I saw it only halfway through our own production. And it was a fascinating look. But that’s not what inspired this.

LONG: OK. Another question I have for you is from a blogger who asks, “Are you a religious person yourself? And if you are, tell me a little bit about your faith.”

AMANPOUR: Well, I don’t go into my own personal faith because I am a journalist, and I have to navigate all cultures, religions, societies, and ethnic groups. And I don’t want to come out and look as if I have a particular agenda, because I don’t. I was raised understanding and knowing about and having a respect for religion.

I come – and this public – my mother is a Catholic, my father is a Muslim. I am married to a Jew. And I have spent my whole professional life navigating and exploring and reporting on ethnic and religious conflicts.

So, I feel that I am very much steeped in these issues, and I come at them with a genuine curiosity, and a genuine desire to explain and increase understanding.

LONG: Using your own words, considering how steeped you are in the issues, in your reporting, and in your investigating, did you learn anything?

AMANPOUR: Yes. But, no matter how religious you are, and no matter how important God is, it cannot trump rational political solutions, because each and every one who is religious feels that they know the truth. And if that was the case, then nothing would get done, if each and everyone’s belief was individually catered to.

And so, I have come away with an increasing view that, rather than division and chauvinism and individual claiming of the truth, that real leadership involves expanding the pool of tolerance and understanding and compromise for the greater good to empower all the people, not just some of the people.

LONG: In the six-hour documentary, you really show just the volatile mix of passion and conviction. How sure are the people of their missions, and just how sure are they of what’s at stake?

AMANPOUR: Very sure. They believe that this is their life struggle, that this is not about interpreting the word of God. It’s about enacting the word of God, whether it be from the Koran, the Torah, or the Bible. And, you know, once you believe that, and once you believe the books are the truth, then it’s very difficult to question, you know, any of the building blocks.

And what I found very interesting in the Christian documentary that we did was that, although Christian – the Christian right, the religious right, has been so powerful in espousing the religious views, and certainly bringing them through the democratic process into legislation, and into power, and into politics, there are many pastors who are now starting to step back and say, look, we’ve got to take a second look. Religion is massively important, but we can no longer fuse it with politics all the time.

For instance, we need to take care of the environment. There is something that man is doing to endanger the environment. We need to take care of that.

We need to look at poverty in the world. That contributes to a lot of what Christians feel is going wrong in the world. So, why not tackle poverty?

All sort of things like that, people are looking at and realizing that there is a whole host of other humanitarian issues that are equally important in a Christian – in a Christian outlook as some of those hot-button, socially conservative issues that are used very deftly in today’s political world here in the U.S.

LONG: And finally, Christiane, since we are just about out of time, my final question will be about how you would like people to approach viewing your six-hour documentary. Of course, people will come with preconceived notions and beliefs. So, how would you like them to sit down as they watch your documentary series?

AMANPOUR: I would like them to trust that we are not here to preach, so to speak, and that we don’t come with an agenda or an ideology. That they should watch this for information purposes, and hopefully go away with an increased knowledge of what’s out there and how powerful an impact it’s having. And maybe to sit back and think a little bit about what all this means, and how we, as a civilization, as a people, as a community, can go forward in a constructive way in the world and the life that we face right now.

LONG: Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to speak with you tonight about your research, and about the documentary. We appreciate it.

And we want to remind everybody as well that the documentary series “God’s Jewish Warriors” will broadcast on Tuesday, the 21st, at 9:00 Eastern, “God’s Muslim Warriors” on Wednesday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, and “God’s Christian Warriors” on Thursday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

AMANPOUR: Thank you very much.

LONG: Thank you, Christiane.

Friday, August 24, 2007

God’s Jewish Warriors

We're going to wrap the week up with the first installment of God's Warriors: Jewish Warriors.

The program starts in Hebron where 500 Jewish settlers live among 140,000 Palestinians. I was struck by the settler’s courage. To believe in something so much that you’re willing to put your life and your entire family’s lives at risk every day takes an enormous amount of conviction and strength.

The profiles of Hanan Porat, a Rabbi and former solider who lives in a settlement on the West Bank and Yakov Barnea, a secular man who lives in Tel Aviv and says that his religion is classical music. Both were soldiers in June, 1967 during the 6 day war. Both were at the Temple Mount when the Israeli army recaptured the sacred land. One saw it as a miracle; the other saw it as a military victory.

The ongoing conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians’ impact goes beyond just foreign policy in the United States. Shani and Dov Hikind raise money for building new Jewish settlements. Lobbyists in Washington, DC. The Christian Zionist movement.

The program covers the struggles of the peace process and the violence that has plagued the area:

  • The murder of six Jewish students
  • Car bombings
  • A plan to destroy the Dome of the Rock
  • The assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat
  • The eviction of Jewish Settlers from the Sinai
  • The assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

One of the elements of this series that I've really enjoyed is the review of the associated history they've provided with each program. I never realized that the fundamentalist and conservative religious movements that we see today have their roots in events that occurred 40 years ago.

Christiane Amanpour has does an incredible job with this documentary. Behind the politics and the violence are real people; their stories are frequently lost over time and forgotten. Programs like this remind us not only of dates, places, and events of history, but also put a human face on the tragedies.

If you haven't had the chance to watch all of the God's Warriors series, CNN is rebroadcasting it this weekend.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

9:00pm – 11:00pm CNN Presents: GOD’S JEWISH WARRIORS
11:00pm – 1:00am CNN Presents: GOD’S MUSLIM WARRIORS

Sunday, August 26, 2007

1:00am – 3:00am CNN Presents: GOD’S CHRISTIAN WARRIORS

9:00pm – 11:00pm CNN Presents: GOD’S JEWISH WARRIORS
11:00pm – 1:00am CNN Presents: GOD’S CHRISTIAN WARRIORS

Monday, August 27, 2007

1:00am – 3:00am CNN Presents: GOD’S MUSLIM WARRIORS


Mystery Journalist

Well, I'll give you a hand this week with the Mystery Journalist clue.

Can you name this CNN journalist?

And you thought I was joking about the hand?

Take a guess. Let us know who you think this journalist is in the comments. The identity of the Mystery Journalist will be revealed in Sunday night's post.