Christiane Amanpour has seen it all across her 35 years of reporting at CNN — wars, humanitarian crises, devastating earthquakes, despotic leaders. But a global news story that has taken off over the past year has Amanpour, CNN chief international anchor, particularly energized.
It was a year ago that The New York Times reported on Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct, and countless other stories have pushed transgressing men of massive power out of their elevated positions and given women a platform to report their own #MeToo experiences.
“This is a major game-changing moment in the history of the United States, in the history of the world,” Amanpour said, “because it’s about half the world’s population.”
She has experienced firsthand how a hard-working, talented woman might move ahead when a man charged with misconduct moves aside. She hosts Amanpour and Company, a news and public-affairs program that debuted on PBS Sept. 10, filling a slot vacated by Charlie Rose after allegations arose against him.
“I’m a beneficiary of the #MeToo movement,” she said, “and a woman who has been put in a slot that was occupied for decades by a guy.”
Reporter With Global Reach
Amanpour joined CNN as an entry-level assistant, and rapidly emerged as an elite reporter on the front lines of the world. “Her success in bringing stories of carnage and conflict into living rooms around the world has made her one of the most visible war correspondents of her generation,” The New York Times Magazine said back in 1994.
She calls CNN “my training ground, my home.” The network launched in 1980, and Amanpour came on board three years later. “I love the story of a startup, the fact that [founder Ted Turner] was laughed out of town, that people called us Chicken Noodle News,” Amanpour said, “and we ended up being the little engine that could.”
Jeff Zucker, CNN Worldwide president, is happy to have her on board. “The hallmark of Christiane is, she is fearless,” he said. “She’s afraid of no one and no place. That makes her a great reporter and intrepid interviewer.”
Half Iranian and half English, Amanpour spent her childhood in both nations. She was born in London, moved to Iran shortly after her birth, and came back to London when Iran underwent the Islamic Revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979.
Amanpour thought she’d be a doctor, but after watching the revolution unfold, decided to become a journalist. She said the two vocations are not dissimilar. “Being an emergency room doctor or a frontline war correspondent are practically two sides of the same coin,” Amanpour said. “You deal in trauma, you deal in emergency response, you have to steel yourself both as a doctor and a correspondent in the trenches to not be overwhelmed by what you’re seeing.”
Prepping for a journalism career, Amanpour took the SATs and set out for the United States, enrolling at the University of Rhode Island. While at URI, she landed an internship at local news power WJAR. “Providence turned out to be a brilliant news town,” she said.
After finishing college in 1983, she shifted to Atlanta and began a starter job at CNN, answering phones and typing up scripts. She moved on, and up, to bureau positions in New York and Frankfurt, and headed for the Middle East after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.
Amanpour made her name in war reporting — the 1994 NewYork Times Magazine story is titled, “Where There’s War There’s Amanpour” — but she also established herself as an unflinching interviewer of world leaders, and did some of her best work amidst the Bosnian War in the early ’90s. Tireless coverage of that conflict preceded President Bill Clinton seeking to end that war with airstrikes, and sending a negotiator to gather the warring factions for a detente.
“I do believe that my work, and that of my colleagues from other networks, as a band of news people who are committed and passionate about telling that story and being there throughout the war, made a difference,” she said. “You can’t ask for more as a reporter, as a journalist, than to actually change the world for the better.”
She also spent nine years as a contributor on CBS’ 60 Minutes, ending in 2005, and hosted ABC’s Sunday morning show This Week from 2010 to 2012.
Amanpour singles out mentors such as Jim Taricani, who headed up the WJAR investigative unit; Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, whose interviews included Golda Meir, Yasser Arafat and Indira Gandhi; and Barbara Walters, who she describes as a “frontier-busting correspondent, interviewer and anchor.”
Today’s news cycle, with the media reporting on President Donald Trump’s every last tweet, may seem unparalleled. Based in London, Amanpour said she’s mostly seen it before. “I’ve been through the Gulf War, the Iraq War, Bosnia — many, many things that were a massive news cycle,” she said. “But because the technology has gotten so much faster and because the reach of social media has become so much bigger, the amplification is bigger.”
Chance to Go Deeper
Amanpour began hosting Amanpour on CNN International in 2009, and Amanpour and Company, a joint venture between PBS and CNN, allows her to dig deep on pertinent issues. Most news outlets “are chasing the latest tweet and letting people talk in sound bites,” said contributor Walter Isaacson, who knew Amanpour from when he ran CNN in the early aughts. “This show goes deeper.”
Gretchen Carlson, Anthony Hopkins and Kellyanne Conway have been guests on the new show. “Everyone wants to talk to Christiane,” Zucker said.
The host is always up for a new venue in which to further the discussion on vital issues. “I’m proud of any reporting I’ve done which has told a story that needs to be told and has given voice to people who just can’t get their stories out to the world,” Amanpour said. “Stories that matter to us as a civilization.”