Journalist Marvin Kalb pressed Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s legendary foreign correspondent, about her experiences covering dangerous conflicts and questioned her decision to risk her life for her career at the National Press Club.
Amanpour, an award-winning journalist, spoke about the perils of reporting abroad, but stressed the importance and necessity of journalism in a democratic society.
“We (as journalists) make a choice,” Amanpour said during the Kalb Report Monday night. “I chose not to be comfortable. I chose to accept that risk. I chose a physical and psychological job. And, I think all of us who do this know what it means.”
Amanpour’s 25-year career has taken her all over the globe. She has traveled many times to the Middle East and other war-torn regions of the world, trips that have exposed her to gunfire and bombing, Amanpour said.
When Kalb, the moderator of the event, asked Amanpour why she decided to become a journalist, Amanpour said her experience growing up in Iran and her view on the injustices that permeated her culture helped shape her desire to become a reporter.
“I wanted to be an observer and a player, but not a victim,” Amanpour said. “I watched what was happening in my homeland, and I read about it in the newspapers and that shaped me as well . I thought (being a journalist) was a great profession and was a great way to spend my life.”
When Amanpour reported on the war in Bosnia during the 1990s, she said she “found her voice” as a journalist.
“We were civilians watching and observing civilians being slaughtered.for who they were,” Amanpour said. “This is what made me realize that we have a duty to tell the truth.”
She said she is not afraid of going into tough situations and wants to use what she has learned as a professional to convince young people to become journalists.
“I am going to use (my experience) to do what I think is the right thing,” Amanpour said. “And, I am hopefully going to sit here and convince all of these young people (in the audience) that this is a great profession. That they shouldn’t be scared, disappointed, worried . If they want to (be a journalist), they can do it, and do it right.”
One audience member asked Amanpour if all of her experiences have led her to become “discouraged with humanity.”
“Obviously it’s hard to absorb the kind of horrors I’ve seen on a daily basis over the past 18 years in the field, but I am an optimistic person and I do believe that I’ve seen enough evidence of people being able to, when given the chance, triumph,” she said.
Junior Aaron Graff came to the event to hear Amanpour speak about her recent documentary, “God’s Warriors.”
“I didn’t really have much faith in journalism,” Graff said. “Amanpour is someone who stands out in journalism and grasps the concepts of what it is supposed to be like. She understands that journalism is talking to the people and not just getting information from government sources.”
Kalb said Amanpour’s sold-out appearance on the Kalb Report drew the largest crowd he had ever seen at one of his discussions.
“We had a big crowd for Katie Couric, but this might be bigger,” Kalb said.
He then turned to Amanpour,
adding, “This very large crowd is a testimony to the fact that (the American people) must like you.”
This event was the third in this year’s series of Kalb Reports. The series focuses on war and crisis coverage in the media as well as investigative reporting, White House coverage and the role of the television anchor in American society.