Christiane Amanpour on Fighting Fake News and Rebalancing the Scales in the Workplace
Regardless of partisan affiliations, it’s always been the job of a political correspondent to remove themselves from the story, and instead, simply report the news. But according to veteran journalist Christiane Amanpour, neutrality isn’t exactly what we need from our news coverage these days.
Her M.O.—whether she’s reporting from the field as CNN’s Chief International Correspondent or interviewing global leaders on Amanpour, a public affairs program that airs on PBS and CNN International—is to be truthful, rather than neutral in her work. And that mean that it’s OK to get a little riled up.
“Many eras have had severe challenges to the truth, but I've never seen anything like this in a democracy,” Amanpour tells InStyle, referencing the onslaught of “fake news” flooding our feeds as well as President Trump’s near constant attack of the press. “As the press, it’s our job to call out an unacceptable state of affairs because what we're witnessing from the top of power in the United States are the kind of tactics that we see in dictatorships and authoritarian regimes. It’s a leader trying to control the message and wanting propaganda instead of the truth. We have to fight against this new normal.”
That fight is about to shift into high gear this September, when Amanpour will debut another show, Amanpour & Company, a late-night program from CNN and PBS, featuring frank conversations with policymakers and cultural leaders. “I’m proud to be able to bring the news of the world to Americans at a time when it's so, so important," she says. "Under the current administration, America's place in the world is being questioned. The president himself says it openly. Therefore, Americans need to understand what exactly that means for them.”
Amanpour’s new gig is also notable because it officially fills the slot left by Charlie Rose when PBS cut ties with the former host in December following a slew of sexual harassment allegations against him. “I'm glad to be a woman doing this job, because first and foremost, there aren't enough women in these top roles,” Amanpour says. “I think it's a big antidote to put a competent, experienced woman in a job that's been vacated for the reasons that is has been vacated. It’s about rebalancing the scales. It's not about women taking over the world. It's about women having their equal place in the world.”
Career highs: Amanpour has interviewed world leaders from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but she’s always looking for her next big get. “There are obviously still many difficult-to-get leaders that I would like to interview,” she says. But when she looks back on her illustrious career, some of her proudest moments were from her reporting in the field. “I think I’m most proud of my work in Bosnia, covering the war. It’s when I developed my understanding that one had to be truthful and not neutral. It formed me as a journalist and as a person.”
Badass mantra: “In my opinion, a badass is somebody who knows who they are, what they've been put on this earth to do, and that they will not be challenged lightly,” she says. “Any time a badass faces a mortal threat, we fight back twice as hard.”
Truth teller: “The most rewarding aspect of this profession is being an activist for the truth,” says Amanpour. “The most challenging aspect—bar the actual physical violence that is directed to us in many other parts of the world—is to have the very basis of your profession challenged by the President of the United States. I find it very satisfying to lay down the markers of why real journalism still matters. Fake news is not what we do.”
Staying the course: “I’ve overcome plenty of obstacles to make it to where I am,” she says. “It's one of the most competitive careers around. Particularly being a woman in this profession has been challenging for all the reasons we now know from the revelations over the last several months. As a war correspondent, I’ve also faced insecurity to my life and the life of my team. But as long as we know that we’re cutting through to the truth, it's all worth it. It's a vital part of our democracy and our civil society. And it’s our duty to the public, so to speak.”
Presidential motivation: First hired by CNN in the ‘80s, Amanpour says she’s as inspired as ever in her work. But with today’s fast-paced 24-hour news cycle, downtime is rare. “An off day is a bit of a luxury,” she says. “Of course, my job is hard work. But anything that's worth doing is hard work. Her daily motivation? “In my house, we have Teddy Roosevelt's famous ‘Man in the Arena’ speech framed. In it, he says to have the courage to get into the arena and not just sit around and be a critic or an armchair analyst. And so that's what motivates me. I believe in being there and walking the walk. Hopefully it gives my work the credibility that people can lie on.”