Life & Style | People

The other side of CNN anchor Hala Gorani

She's been the eyes and ears of the world everywhere from warzones to boxing rings. CNN anchor Hala Gorani opens up about life in the news spotlight.

  • By Kelly Crane, Staff Reporter
  • Published: 00:27 May 5, 2008
  • Tabloid

  • Image Credit: Vazhisojan/Gulf News
  • Gorani joined CNN in 1998 from Bloomberg Television in London, where she worked as an anchor.

A crisp white jacket, cube-shaped silver earrings and a secret passion for reality TV. Sitting across from Hala Gorani you'd
never guess the CNN anchor woman is better known for her hard-hitting news reports and updates from the most war-torn countries on the planet.

And even more ironic — she has the 1894 film The Killing Fields to thank for where she is today.

The film follows the story of Sydney Schanberg, a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia, The Killing Fields had a profound effect on Gorani as she watched Schanberg cover some of the tragedy and madness of the war.

She said:"I watched that film and thought what a noble career a journalist has and knew it was what I wanted to do. I made
the decision there and then and started a student magazine.

"It touched me enough to make some very important decisions about my career and now I find myself in a similar position."

Gorani is a reporter for CNN based in Atlanta, where she is an anchor on the network's World News show, and she also hosts Inside the Middle East, a half-hour programme featuring stories on the most important social and cultural issues in the region.

Previously based in London, Gorani anchored CNN International's European news and business breakfast show CNN Today, as well as reporting from across Europe and the Middle East.

But after just 10 minutes of comfortable conversation it wasn't long before a different side of Hala crept out.

Obsessions

Warm, kind and with a great sense of humour we chatted about her obsession (sorry…secret obsession) with American Idol and an immense love for her family.

"I record the programme and would never miss an episode", said Gorani — and she's not talking about her news show.
"American Idol is so entertaining and I know I'm not the only one who thinks it. There are other closet fans at CNN but my life wouldn't be worth living if I revealed names."

Having filed a special series of stories from the Middle East on the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States as well as covering the Iraq war from neighbouring Jordan and the annual Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, Gorani is no stranger to war scenes, but says it can be hard especially for her family.

Born in Seattle and raised in Washington, DC, she said:"If you have a passion for journalism you really don't think about
where you are and the danger you could be in. You are the eyes and ears of the people who are not there and you have a responsibility to them. In essence you are their proxy and that has to come first before any fear or worry.

"But obviously it's hard for my family and friends. My mum finds it hard I think because we are very close. We speak every day on the phone and I try and reassure her that I'm fine when I'm in dangerous places as often as I can."
Almost as if to justify her last sentence, Gorani picks up her phone and started scrolling through her messages."Look, I even have a programmed text message which I send each day without fail!"

The message reads ‘Hello mum, just to let you know that I'm fine' — she glances up looking pleased with herself and the
deep-rooted love between mother and daughter is even more apparent than before.

Passion

Her mum is one thing but personal relationships are much harder to maintain, according to Gorani.
Often reporting for CNN from France, where she anchored CNN's live French election specials in May 2002 and also live from Paris as part of CNN's special programmes on the launch of the euro in January of the same year, marking the historic currency switchover, Gorani says she hasn't yet found the perfect balance between work and play.

Fluent in English, French and Arabic, she added:"It's an obvious problem really but of course having a relationship is difficult when you are travelling around the world and are away from home for so long. But I believe if the day ever comes that the need to stay in one place overrides my passion for my job then I will make that decision then and there.

"For now my brother has two gorgeous girls and I'm enjoying being an aunt as often as I can."

Again, reaching into her bag for her diary, Hala pulls out a postcard and launches into her latest family-orientated project. "Dubai is the launch country for my new postcard plan. In this digital age I wondered whether my nieces had ever received a postcard. So now I plan to send them a postcard from every country I go to and they can keep them on the fridge — a bit of education in geography too."

As part of her anchoring duties, Gorani has interviewed some of the world's most influential newsmakers from all walks of life, including Coalition spokesman Dan Senor, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, Italian fashion designers Miucca Prada and Donatella Versace, as well as boxing heavyweight Evander Holyfield.

But it's what Hala calls"the normal people" who she says have really touched her life, including an Iraqi man who she met during the coverage of the war there.

She said:"He was the head of the National Public Library in Iraq — a place which houses hundreds and thousands of years' worth of documents and heritage, mapping out the country's history. And even though he had the papers which would allow him, his wife and young son to leave the country, he refused.

"He said it was his duty to stay and spent most days trying to keep the historical documents dry from water.
"I witness the worst things happening in humanity and yet you still come across these beacons of courage and decency and it makes you a better person."

Having earned a Bachelor of Science in economics from George Mason University near Washington, D.C. and graduated from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po) in Paris in 1995, Gorani is still looking for more when it comes to journalism but says she also sees herself in education.

She added:"If I wasn't a journalist I think I'd quite like to be a teacher." She looks around as if for inspiration, looks down and said:"Actually maybe not — I don't think I'd cope very well with children having tantrums. I'll stick to journalism for now."

A good start

Gorani joined CNN in 1998 from Bloomberg Television in London, where she worked as an anchor. She previously worked for French network France 3 as well as covering stories for French cable network Paris Premiere. Gorani started her career in journalism writing for French daily La Voix du Nord and the AFP news agency.

Hala on dubai


Syrian by descent and having reported from countries throughout the Middle East, Hala Gorani gave her views on the ever-changing landscape in Dubai.

She said:"Dubai is such an extraordinary place. Each part of the Middle East has a very distinct feel. You have the war
zones, including Lebanon and Syria, which have their own political issues, and Egypt with economic problems and then you have the UAE. It's like a gem which is growing all the time and it's strange to experience really. It amazes me that after six or seven months away I can come back and a whole building has been finished and people are living in it.

"Life moves so quickly and nothing seems to be measured by time but instead by what has been built. One person witnesses something three generations would normally see in a lifetime, in just a few years.

"It is a very interesting place for journalists and I will keep my eye on the place for the foreseeable future. It is very exciting."

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