Hala Gorani’s show favors color and insight over headlines
CAIRO: While more reporters and journalists flock to the Middle East than any other region in the world, much of the voluminous amounts of coverage beamed across the globe focuses on death, destruction and conflict.
And with a daily news schedule dominated by reports of suicide bombings in Iraq, the West Bank and the heightened rhetorical sparring between the US and Iran, the region appears to be little more than a grenade wrapped in plastic explosives.
Still, despite all the ink, many people living outside the region know next to nothing about what real life is like in Amman, Doha or Riyadh.
However, CNN International’s “Inside the Middle East is one of the rare news programs that digs into the region and delivers something beyond the headlines. Recent episodes featured reports from Mecca during the annual Hajj pilgrimage and an in-depth look at Egyptian street kids.
For starters, the features aired on “Inside the Middle East run about eight times longer than the usual news story, which gives the reporters the chance to “get their hands into the topics and put “a human face on the stories, according to the show’s anchor/reporter Hala Gorani.
In town recently to shoot a special on Upper Egypt and Nubian culture, an enthusiastic Gorani sat down with The Daily Star Egypt to talk about her show and wax about how much she loves her job.
“This is not faked enthusiasm, she says, sipping on chamomile tea and chilling out in the opulent lounge of a luxury hotel on the banks of the Nile.
“It’s important for us, on this show, to feature people, events and trends . that are away from the headlines, she says, adding that she wants the stories and features on the show to “wow the viewers.
So how does she ensure the program has what it takes? It’s simple: if Gorani is blown away by a story, then there’s a good chance the audience will be blown away, too.
“I have to have the same reaction when I hear about a story, says the broadcaster.
But along with tackling tough topics like homosexuality and disabled kids, the show manages to balance the heavy stuff with features on lighter fare.
“On the other side, we featured Petra as one of the contenders for the Seven Wonders of the World.
The episode on Upper Egypt will air Sat. April 7 on CNN International.
While the show airs around the world on CNN International, it doesn’t air in its entirety in the USA – an unfortunate result of regional programming.
“We need more of these types of stories in the US, says Gorani, who adds that showing Americans another side of the region is vital to breaking down stereotypes and cultural barriers.
Gorani, who first traveled to Egypt in the 90s, has an Egyptian step-father. Though she currently lives in Atlanta, GA, Gorani is the product of what she calls “three very different cultures.
She is of Syrian decent, but was born in the US and raised in France.
Her show has been making inroads into the US via the internet, and an increasing amount of viewers have been tuning in on youtube. A recent segment on an Arab-Israeli rap group called Dam was one episode which was an online hit, says Gorani.
“I don’t think you take away viewers. I think you share them, she says, before adding that channel surfing is her preferred method of television viewing.