Saturday, January 24, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Bobbie Battista Answers Your Questions

CNN Observations and CNNFan.org have teamed up to offer readers and members of the forum the chance to put past and present CNN staff under the spotlight. To kick off the new feature, we went in search of one of CNN’s originals.

After joining CNN Headline News in 1981, she went on to join the main CNN network in 1988 where she served as anchor of numerous scheduled programs and breaking news coverage. She was also one of the most recognisable faces on CNN International in the 90’s.

Our first interview this year is with the legendary, Bobbie Battista.

The questions below were submitted by members of CNNFan.org and readers of CNNObservations.com.


Q. You anchored programs on both CNN domestic and CNN International. Were there any editorial differences between the two networks?

Yes, CNN International's focus was very global. There was much less coverage of US domestic news. Many of the producers and anchors came from different countries and cultures and that brought a more expanded view to news coverage.


Q. Were stories sometimes formatted for the American audience, and as such with the international audience?

The audience for CNNI was the world so in that sense, the news programming was formatted with an independent view. Having said that, the network also realized CNNI was heavily viewed by Americans abroad, so an effort was certainly made to keep them up to date on what was happening at home. But the coverage came from multiple perspectives and not just the American view, which really separated CNNI from CNN domestic.


Q. Do you feel international news in the United States has been limited since you've left CNN?


Absolutely. One example, how often do you see Christiane Amanpour's reporting on CNN anymore? Very selectively. Her reports and those of others around the globe used to be daily fare. And CNN has closed a number of bureaus overseas as well. The thinking is that people aren't interested in international news. I think that's wrong, especially as the world continues to grow smaller and more inter-connected.


Q. Back when you were with CNN, did you ever sit at the anchor desk and watch correspondents like Christiane Amanpour and Nic Robertson report from hot spots around the world and wish you were there as an International Correspondent?


I do wish that I had taken a few years and spent them overseas in one of our bureaus, but I had my hands full at CNN and we had a whole team of qualified international correspondents doing such a great job back then.


Q. As you observe the CNN networks at the time you were there and right now, you will notice how different they have become, especially the main CNN network. What do you think the thrust was in the 90s that warranted programming like those during your time and the thrust that exists today to warrant more opinionated, personality-driven and drama-driven programmes?


Wow, that could probably be a thesis for a PHD! I would have to say the advent of FOX News was the biggest catalyst for change. As objective as we tried to be back then, there was a slight leaning to the left at CNN in the 90s and Roger Ailes and others saw the need for other viewpoints, found their opportunity and their audience and then drove a truck through it! FOX not only created a right-leaning network, but a personality-driven one as well. CNN had always focused more on the news and downplayed its personalities. Suddenly personalities became more important than the news because they attracted more attention. What followed then, was a blurring of the lines between reporting and opinion. Back in the day, opinions and editorials were banned from CNN and the news was the "star". But the rules of the game changed and CNN had to change to stay in the game. And of course, all this is more about money and the bottom line than anything else. These news networks are first and foremost, now owned by very large profit-oriented conglomerates.

Q. Has cable news changed for the better or worse since your time at CNN?

Double-edged sword. I would have to say "better" because of all the technical advancements in news gathering and the integration of the internet and social media, etc., but "worse" because there has been a deterioration in the quality and depth of coverage. I think we haven't yet managed to figure out how these two things work well together yet! And I have to say sometimes I really miss getting my news straight up without all the bells and whistles and over-the-top, tiresome personalities.


Q. You anchored on 3 of 4 CNN TV networks, Headline News, CNN and CNN international. Did you have a favorite network?


That's like picking a favorite child! I loved working for them all.


Q. What was your best experience at CNN?


Being one of the first anchors hired and being lucky enough to work for Ted Turner back when CNN and its mission was a dream to fulfill. Those beginning years were the best ones. (And nobody was even watching back then!)


Q. Could you name one person (living or deceased) that you would love to interview, but haven’t?


Bruce Springsteen and Jesus Christ. They might be one and the same, I'm not sure. :) (Just kidding!)


Q. I remember that I was devastated when I had learned you were leaving CNN back in 2000/2001, what are you doing now?


I occasionally still do some TV work, most recently for Retirement Living TV, but I was too young for that network!! I am also part of a new content development company and we're working on documentary and reality style programming. And I have just done some web videos for the Onion.com (a parody news site) which will air in February. They're pretty funny. I wasn't sure I should do them at first, but I think it's always important not to take yourself too terribly seriously!


Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring journalists?


Yes, practice journalism, not blogging. Remember there is such a thing as journalistic ethics. Think globally. And if you work in broadcast news, don't shout.


Q. Do you have any hobbies?


Interior design, tennis, cooking and crossword puzzles.


Q. What is something people would not know about you?


I'm only 5' 3" and I once went out with Steve Perry of Journey.



(C) 2009 – CNNFan.org / CNNObservations.com
CNNFan.org members who contributed to this interview: Arrapare, Sarah, Jon, headliner101, Leeroy, Dustin.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bobbie's comments are very interesting and thoughtful, but I have to take issue with what she says about international coverage now. CNN hasn't really closed foreign bureaus so much as moved them around. As they left Frankfurt, Amman, and Manila, they opened offices in Dubai, Islamabad, and Jakarta.

Also, the main reason Christiane isn't seen as much in the past few years is that she's just doing less reporting. She slowed down her career to start a family, and doesn't even live overseas anymore.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to know more about the date with Steve Perry. She can't leave us hanging like that.

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lovely interview guys!

3:53 AM  
Blogger CNNfan said...

This interview proves Bobbie Battista is bankable as a star who arouses interest! Steve Perry was lucky. :-)

Great format Troy and Dustin. CNNfans, even those who were not picked this time, wrote great questions at: http://www.cnnfan.org.


I would like to suggest one slight edit to help better promote the parody video for Bobbie next month on The Onion:

Add a link inside the article for bloggers and to better index Bobbie in the search engines:
http://www.theonion.com

This will help increase the video view count for Bobbie Battista.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ALOT of us want to know more about Steve Perry! Was this the singer from Journey? When was this date? What was he like? Why only one date? DO TELL!!

A Perry Fan

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