||[Jan. 23rd, 2004|03:43 pm]
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One to watch |
It’s unspeakably early in the morning, but CNN’s central London newsroom is already buzzing with activity. Producers debate which European business story to lead with, and researchers tap away at their keyboards, some keeping a casual eye on the latest World Cup scores, being played out on a bank of TV screens overhead.
At the far end of the room, the studio is live on air and Hala Gorani is quietly in control, anchoring BizNews. Wrapping up a live interview with an Afghan affairs analyst, she reads the morning’s headlines from the autocue, before handing over briefly to CNN’s world news anchor in Atlanta.
Richard Quest, CNN’s lanky, livewire business anchor enters the studio as London goes back on air, and the two presenters joke together briefly, before Hala hands over the controls and finishes her shift. It’s barely 8am, but Hala has been in the studio, without a break, for three hours.
Having joined CNN three years ago, Hala Gorani is being groomed for stardom. This summer has seen her take the helm on Design 360, a new series of twelve monthly slots and weekly updates on cutting-edge design, launched in June and broadcast across the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Blonde and blue-eyed, Hala was born in Seattle to Syrian parents. Her father, a civil engineer went to the US to study and her mother later joined him there.
Raised in Washington DC, Hala later moved to Paris with her mother and older brother. Her mother now lives permanently in France, and Hala divides her time between London and Paris, and keeps in close contact with her grandmother and other relatives in Syria.
“My family is from Aleppo, and I go back there every couple of years,” Hala says. “I have family and friends there - we’re a very close-knit, oriental-style extended family. When I go back to Syria, I speak Arabic - though not very well. I’m French and American, culturally, but Syrian in origin.”
“Paris Review was my first ever TV package,” she recalls. “I guess I wasn’t bad for a 24 year-old, but it really was dreadful. One of the difficult things about TV is that you have to train your voice down, because it gets higher if you’re nervous.
“I sounded like I’d been inhaling helium and got a lot of flack from my friends. But it was fun. And I discovered that in Paris, you can rent parrots and even a Michael Jackson impersonator.”
Hala’s high point so far was when the news broke in May that far-right leader Jean Marie Le Pen had defeated socialist leader Lionel Jospin in the French presidential elections. The shock announcement came as Hala was presenting her business programme, and she found herself in charge of breaking news.
“The French election coverage was the best thing I’ve ever done - being on air for hours without a prompt or any notes at all,” Hala enthuses. “I was on air for three straight hours, covering the breaking story with just two reporters on the ground.”
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