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Christiane Amanpour shares journalism insights at Tufts' Edward R. Murrow Forum

Posted by Christina Jedra  April 26, 2013 05:28 PM

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Christina Jedra for The Boston Globe

Amanpour answered audience questions and met with student press after her one-on-one with Tisch.

International news correspondent and anchor Christiane Amanpour spoke to a packed room at Tufts University on Friday on a variety of journalism-related topics, including her career in global reporting and the challenges today’s journalists face. 

“The leading cause of death among journalists is murder,” she said. “People want to shut us up.” 

Amanpour, an international correspondent for CNN and an ABC global affairs anchor, was this year’s headliner for the Eighth Annual Edward R. Murrow Forum on Issues in Journalism. In a conversation led by Jonathan M. Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels and an Emmy-nominated interviewer, Amanpour talked about her illustrious career with an audience of dozens of local academics and students.

The forum, which has featured Katie Couric and Brian Williams in the past, is dedicated to highlighting Murrow’s contributions to journalism as well as addressing topics in the field today.  

In her distinctive British accent, Amanpour described the experience of covering an ongoing war where journalists are not exempt from danger. 

“You are not an observer standing on the side. You are at equal risk as the civilian population,” she said. 

Tisch brought up a quote he found of Amanpour’s about “repressed fear” during work.

“If you don’t repress it, you can’t do your job,” she said. “It was about managing it and figuring out how to summon up that adrenaline ... to stay safe.” 

Amanpour spoke about how her foreign reporting career, which has earned her every major broadcast award, may have seemed unlikely to happen at the time. 

“Every woman on TV at that time was blonde, spoke with a midwest accent,” she said. “I didn’t fit that bill at all.” 

However, despite her different look and sound, Amanpour kept her dream of being a foreign correspondent in focus, and picked up a job when an entry level spot opened up at CNN. The rest is history. 

“It was the creme de la creme of the profession,” she said of foreign reporting in the '90s, noting that now, news sources view it as “too exotic” or too expensive. 

Amanpour explained that the need for foreign coverage became especially apparent with the recent increased focus on Chechnya after the Boston Marathon bombings. She said a greater understanding of these kinds of regions is vital. 

“I believe foreign coverage is something that should be invested in,” she said. 

Amanpour also touched on journalistic ethics and conflicts of interest. She gave the example of White House reporters, who she said may find it difficult to write objectively if officials they are in constant contact with want to spin a story a certain way. 

“Everybody has an agenda. It puts a burden on [those of] us intent on finding the facts to do so,” she said. “This is a profession where you kind of don’t want to be liked.”

Another issue she discussed was a news provider’s desire to be the first to break news in a competitive social media environment, which also played itself out in last week’s marathon coverage. 

“Now you have an increased pressure. Even I can’t keep up with all that,” she said, noting that Twitter is a 24-7 machine of information. “Keep putting those breaks on yourself ... to be able to report, verify, and be able to deliver it.” 

Throughout the presentation, references were made to Edward R. Murrow, who helped shape what war reporting is today. In a post-forum interview, Amanpour said that she was happy to share her insights for an event in his honor. 

“It’s been a real honor to be part of this Murrow Forum here at Tufts because he is to this day, revered as the epitome of what it means to be a great journalist.” 

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