Iranian-bred, educated at the University of Rhode Island, Christiane Amanpour makes London the base from which she travels the world. Serious, elegant, and brainy, she crosses boundaries and bridges cultures with confidence and humanity. For all her worldiness, she radiates an unaffected composure that seems to flow from a core of self-knowledge.
I began by wondering if she thought of authenticity as a matter of personal identity, moral integrity, or journalistic independence. Her own work for CNN has been distinguished by a combination of all three. "I think of it as a commitment, a passion," she said. "Seeking and trying to tell the truth. Truth is important in a world that is changing so constantly and so quickly. And searching for authenticity becomes even more urgent in a world increasingly dominated by virtual reality."
Is there a self-defining moment she looks back on? "I began to develop a very focused sense of purpose when I was about 20," she said. "That's when the Islamic Revolution turned my world upside down. I lost friends and family, my home and possessions. The revolution propelled me to where I am today: trying to make sense of our world. My commitment is to constancy. I don't think I have substantially changed the way I report a story or how I think or how I look or dress.... I have not changed what I believe about truth, integrity, morality, and duty." Is there a price to pay for that commitment? "Yes," she mused, "but not a heavy price. People don't always like to hear the truth. But I've chosen a profession that is the truth business. It guides everything I do, even when I'm not on the air."
Still...isn't there ever a conflict between her role as a journalist and her feelings, political or otherwise? "No. I am not a political person. I am a fact-based reporter, not a pundit. What I do is not based on opinion, and that provides a very clear compass." It must take tremendous courage to do the work she does, I said. "I suppose courage is an ingredient," she agreed. "But something kicks in—you don't think about it. The war zones I've lived in for the past 17 years have taken their toll, physically and emotionally. You do need stamina and determination to endure. But my work is about reporting what I see—shining a light on those places shrouded in darkness and those people who need a voice. Believing in that completely helps you to survive."