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Becky Anderson

Anchor – Connect The World | 27 Jun 2014

There are multiple platforms and different sources of news. The world has gone digital and the question is where do we go in this digital world? The big challenge for all media organisations is how the ones that were big TV networks are converging their assets and how they are prioritising their digital platforms. Across these multiple platforms, we have this global conversation going which has to be captured.

Becky Anderson hosts CNN International’s flagship news and current affairs programme, ‘Connect The World’, which airs on weekdays. Anderson has spent 15 years with the network, having witnessed the transition from a regional news network to an international channel with a focus on top international stories. She is now based in Abu Dhabi, which gives her a regional perspective on some of the most important news stories.

Rashi Bisaria caught up with the high profile anchor on her visit to India to know more about CNN’s style of reportage, her views on the Indian media and CNN’s coverage of the Indian elections.

Q. What do you think is the biggest challenge for media organisations like CNN today?

There are multiple platforms and different sources of news. The world has gone digital and the question is where do we go in this digital world? The big challenge for all media organisations is how the ones that were big TV networks are converging their assets and how they are prioritising their digital platforms. Across these multiple platforms, we have this global conversation going which has to be captured.

Q. Do you think social media is really helping CNN get to the top of news and breaking news?

I think it is a partnership. There are the official partnerships and then we use social media on the input side and the programming side. Over time, we have developed how we are engaging with social media and on social media. Any service that provides real time information and wide ranging analysis is useful. We at CNN are very strict about what we publish. Social media becomes maybe the first point of call for a developing story, but everything is fact checked. We couldn’t otherwise call ourselves a brand of repute and integrity. I wouldn’t work for an organisation that didn’t have integrity, but that means how we use social media is also evolving.

Q. Could you tell us about CNN’s relationship with Twitter and Facebook?

The partnership with Twitter began around the US elections. When I interviewed Mark Zuckerberg in 2006, we had to fly him over to Davos. He was this kid we picked up at the airport. Somebody said the company might one day be worth a billion dollars. Everybody laughed at him. The genesis of our relationship with Twitter and Facebook began around 2008.

Q. Tell us a little about your show ‘Connect The World’.

Abu Dhabi, where I’m based, is a microcosm of what CNN does as a network. At CNN, we get the opportunity to develop stories. So, you hit the news at the top and the bottom and in between you get a chance to develop a story, so that’s what we did in India.

Q. What did you think of the Indian elections as you witnessed the climax and covered it on your show ‘Connect The World’?

More than half a billion people voting in the world’s largest democratic exercise was in itself a fantastic story. The numbers speak for themselves. The country sits on the cusp of a potential economic and political change. This story has so many legs, and there are fascinating characters involved. For me, why wouldn’t I want to be front and centre on reporting on the biggest democratic exercise in the world? Being able to get access and develop content in cities like London and New Delhi is difficult. I feel privileged. It’s a fascinating story of inclusiveness. It’s one of the most exciting stories I have been in for a long time. It had everything a news story needs. It was new, had different characters and it was developing. It can really define what news is and I can use it as an example of why I like being a journalist.

Q. Could you recall some memorable conversations and interviews?

I had a great chat with Najma Heptullah. We had a great conversation about the prospects of India’s economy. We spoke about the story that has really resonated, about Modi’s past. We also talked about women’s rights. I asked her if she was disappointed with the manifesto, which didn’t include much on women’s rights and she agreed. This is someone who can make a difference in the narrative going forward. There are lots of stories to watch going forward.

One of the segments within my show ‘Connect the World’ is a ‘Café Chat’, and I did one in Delhi with Indira Jaising, Subramanian Swamy and Suhaan Mukerji. During the course of the discussion I asked Dr Swamy if he and the BJP oppose homosexuality and LGBT across the board. He replied with “Yes, we consider this as a disorder that needs to be cured. We don’t accept it as a choice. We consider it a malady. We consider it as a genetic flaw.” I especially loved to hear and see that people from all walks of life had a strong desire for economic change and growth. Indira Jaising told me, “We all want economic growth, but we don’t want crony capitalism. We don’t want artificial growth. We want sustainable growth.”

Q. How have you seen CNN evolve over the years?

I came at a time when the focus of the channel was regional. Before 1999, there was less internationally focused news. I was part of the evolution of CNN International. We developed the programming hub in New York, a hub in London, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi. I have seen the development of a pan international network. That’s what has happened over the past 15 years, both in the programming and news side.

Q. How does CNN offer differentiated news from other international channels like the BBC?

The editorial direction is to provide news with integrity, intelligence and sophistication. There is no other editorial direction. The objectivity is what counts at CNN. Our focus is to cover stories that find resonance throughout the world. Why does this story of New Delhi resonate in New York, is the question we ask ourselves. We focus on news that really matters.

Q. What are your views on the Indian media and how it covered the elections?

What a healthy democracy that it has such a plethora of outlets! The Indian media was breaking news during the elections all the time. I have been genuinely impressed by the depth of content being offered. I’m happy with the number of newspapers here and how they are still important. I’m impressed by the diversity of content available.

I think the challenge for every media organisation in today’s world is how to get their content published in a way that gets the maximum eye balls, in the most efficient and effective manner possible. They are constantly wondering what the future might hold.

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