Alumna Tells the Stories behind the Headlines

Posted: August 22, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By David Driver

Hala Gorani
Hala Gorani
CNN photo

As a reporter and anchor for CNN International, alumna Hala Gorani, BS Economics ’92, has interviewed such high-profile newsmakers as Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, American boxing star Evander Holyfield and Italian fashion designers Miucca Prada and Donatella Versace.

But it is the interviews with common people that are often the most memorable for Gorani and reaffirm why she entered journalism.

“The interviews that stay with me are ordinary people who tell me extraordinary things that help me understand an event or a trend,” she says.

One such interview stands out for Gorani. About four years ago, before most of the world had even heard of Darfur, she and a producer interviewed a middle-class couple who had fled the war-torn region of western Sudan.

“He was a veterinarian, and she was an engineer,” she says in an interview from her office in Atlanta. “We followed them to a slum outside of Cairo. That was all they could afford.”

Gorani, trained to think visually for television, asked the husband if he brought anything with him as he fled Darfur. He showed her the only memento he had: a photo of his father and two brothers. “They are all dead,” he told her.

“That was the day we really got the Darfur story. That one interview made me understand,” says Gorani, who co-anchors “Your World Today” with Jim Clancy.

“You get to tell the world the story of the drama and tell the world what to look out for. I do not take this lightly. I never forget that I have this unbelievable job.”

While at Mason, Gorani wrote editorials and movie reviews and covered events for Broadside, Mason’s student newspaper. “I would say working at Broadside, and writing, crystallized my desire to become a journalist,” she says.

She began her career writing for the French daily La Voix du Nord and news agency Agence France Presse. Gorani moved to French network France 3 and covered stories for French cable network Paris Premiere. She then worked as an anchor for Bloomberg Television in London.

“I was interested in financial journalism, but I knew I wasn’t going to end my career at Bloomberg. It was a very good experience. I knew I wanted to do more political stories,” she says.

Gorani left Bloomberg for CNN in 1998. While based in London, she anchored CNN International’s European breakfast show, “CNN Today.” She also reported extensively for CNN from France, where she anchored CNN’s live French election specials in May 2002. Gorani reported live from Paris in January 2002 during the historic currency switchover to the Euro.

Born in Seattle to Syrian parents, Gorani spent most of her youth in Paris and speaks French, English and Arabic. She has been to 20 of the 22 countries in the Arab League and recently returned from her first trip to Iraq, where she stayed for several weeks. She also anchors and files monthly reports for “Inside the Middle East,” a half-hour show on cultural and social issues in the region.

“I think what surprises you is, on a daily basis, life goes on,” she says of Iraqis. “It is not every five minutes that a bomb goes off.”

At the same time, she says, “I was surprised how much more desperate the situation is than I thought. They cannot have a normal conversation anymore. All they talk about is their misery. Everybody has a tragedy, everyone has a frustration and stories of despair. It is a whole country paralyzed with despair, drama and frustration at the highest level I have ever seen.”

Traveling around the world to report on these situations firsthand is challenging in many ways, Gorani has found, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It is hard to have a rich personal life and travel 80 percent of the time,” she notes. However, “You make that sacrifice willingly.”

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