Christiane Amanpour has been sitting at the newly refurbished This Week desk for nearly two months now. While some reviewers took shots at the former foreign correspondent in her first few weeks on the job—the Post’s Tom Shales ludicrously asked if Amanpour was suggesting we mourn Taliban members after the host made a point of including “all those who died in war” in an “In Memoriam” segment—she has had successes as she’s settled in. This week alone, Amanpour booked Hillary Clinton and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pressing the latter hard; and with a new, more international focus, This Week began airing on BBC World News at the beginning of September.
That deal takes Amanpour and This Week to over two hundred countries across the world; but Amanpour told CJR assistant editor Joel Meares that her priority is bringing the world to the U.S. She spoke to Meares Tuesday about the move to Sunday morning, her critics, and reporting in a new age. This is an edited transcript of that conversation.
After twenty-seven years covering international news at CNN, why did you move to the more inward-looking arena of Sunday morning talk?
Taking this program was not about leaving CNN or having any problems in that regard. It was about seeing an opportunity and seizing it, seizing the day, and seizing this moment to further what I’ve always tried to do.
The bottom line is this: I have a mission and my mission has been to bring, through all my work, a broader understanding of the world to U.S. viewers—first with my job at CNN and now at ABC with This Week. I feel strongly that the United States is in a unique moment of history right now where everything is in play—economy, politics, environment, security, not to mention wars and how to deal with rogue nations, how to deal with proliferation, how to deal with peace and conflict resolution. All of that is globalized. It’s not about the U.S. sitting inside fortress America and not being willing to look out. Everything now, right down to how Americans are educated, how they do business, how they operate in the world, is globalized.
This was an extraordinary opportunity and it was counter-intuitive—it wasn’t conventional wisdom; I’m sure ABC didn’t think of me first when George Stephanopoulos went on to do his great job at GMA. I felt that when this opportunity came up I needed to grab it with both hands, because this is what I’ve been talking about all my career. I believe in putting my work where my mouth is. I felt that I could no longer just talk about how not enough international perspective was on network or other news in the United States. ABC said to me that what they wanted to do was also to differentiate themselves on a Sunday morning. And, while I am doing politics, and while I am being competitive on the midterm elections and the economy and all the things that affect the United States, I’m also adding new layers of international perspective.
Do you think Americans want to see international news on a Sunday morning?
I’m not going to put the cart before the horse. I’m just going to say that I’m pleased with the way we have been received so far. I understand that this is a big challenge. I understand that it is somewhat counterintuitive. And therefore I understand how hard my team and I have to work. But I’m not trying to deliver something that’s foreign. I’m trying to deliver something that I believe many, many Americans want, particularly those who tune in on a Sunday morning—these are people who are interested in what goes on around them, the politics and economics of their own country, but also, by virtue of how their country is changing and how the world’s reality changing, I hear direct feedback from people saying that they do want to know more about the world.
For instance, look at the Islamic center controversy in New York. On the one hand, that’s a local issue. On the other hand it’s a national issue. And on the other hand, it’s an international issue. I’m trying to take all of these stories, all of these human dramas and national dramas, and point out the confluence of where domestic meets global. And I believe strongly there is an appetite and there is a window for that.
How big is the appetite?