Television

"Most people who have been in the news industry for more than a couple of years would find it difficult to leave it. It's addictive. " : Andrew Stevens CNN anchor

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 At the recently concluded Frames Convention CNN anchor Andrew Stevens moderated a key session which dealt with how television channels can maximise their return on investment. On CNN Stevens co-anchors with Veronica Pedrosa the evening news and business show World News Asia. The show reports and updates the day's leading news and business stories from across the region and around the world..

Stevens joined CNN in 1999. He has been reporting on Asian business and economic news for a decade . He joined CNN from CNBC Asia , where he worked as a correspondent for three years. Prior to that, Stevens was a financial editor of the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong.

Through email sent by Indiantelevision.com's correspondent Ashwin Pinto Stevens spoke about the news business, what it takes to succeed as a newscaster.

Firstly what was the experience like coming down to India and moderating a key session at the recent Frames Convention?

Refreshing in that everyone had strong views on the industry and are prepared to debate them.

What would you say are the unique elements that CNN brings to the table vis-?-vis the competition in India and Asia?

Global news coverage of events as they unfold and overall experience of the news teams.

Are you going to shoot a World News Asia special in India sometime soon with the upcoming elections?

As the world's largest democracy heads towards the polls, CNN's senior international correspondent and New Delhi bureau chief, Satinder Bindra, will lead a large team, including fellow correspondents, Ram Ramgopal and Suhasini Haidar to report on the elections in India.

The Bureau will provide updates and analysis of the implications on global politics for World News Asia, as well as our other shows on CNN.

Has the format of World News Asia changed recently?

Yes. CNN International has re-branded two of its Hong Kong based shows; World News Asia and CNN Today replaced Asia Now and New Biz Today respectively. World News Asia airs at 5:.30 pm and 7.30 pm daily.

World News Asia provides live updates on the top news stories of the day in each one-hour programme to CNN's global viewers.

Considering the fact that today a lot of news shows are anchor driven, what do you bring to the table in terms of your personality and experience?

I am not sure whether that applies to us so much. I'm not asked to be a "personality", but I am asked to make sure I am on top of news and current affairs. That sounds like a glib answer, but I really think that we try to put the news side of things first.

It's obviously an advantage if your persona works. I suppose that what I bring is experience ... more than 20 years ... in different parts of the world.

Do you have a lot of say regarding editorial decisions like which stories merit more weightage than others?

Yes. We work in a news team in Hong Kong with a producer in Hong Kong and a supervising producer in Altanta. Our views do carry weight and I think that's important. It gives you much more ownership of the show and we know this region. .

"I'm not asked to be a "personality", but I am asked to make sure I am on top of news and current affairs"

What are the factors that are looked at when deciding whether or not a particular item should be dealt with in more depth?

The impact on the people in that region and whether there is a wider geopolitical angle to consider. Or a story that resonates on a more human level that all sorts of people can relate to. Or an issue that needs light shed on it.

For example, if we are doing a story about the Chinese economy and its recent strength. It's important to look at all angles, which means also looking at who's missing out as well. Or if we are doing the European reaction to the war in Iraq. It's important to get the balance of views..

Could you talk about the rapport you have with Veronica Pedrosa on the show?

Veronica and I have known each other for about four years. We also see each quite a lot of each other outside work as we both have children in the same class. She's got a keen sense of humour and for me that's important. She is also experienced.

She comes from a general news background, I come from more of a business news background. That provides a good balance and we can actually educate each other along the way. We don't always agree ... which is pretty healthy.

Are there any on field reports and interviews that you have done, which stick out in particular?

I have covered various political upheavals around the region and of course, business and economic stories. Some that stand out was covering the fall of Suharto in Indonesia in 1998, the Hong Kong handover was obviously important as was the SARS outbreak in the region.

What are the qualities needed for a person to succeed as a newscaster?

Presence of mind and an ability to digest a lot of material quickly are required. You deal with a lot of stuff that goes on in Atlanta and Hong Kong. Breaking news where no one's really sure where the story is going and what we are going to next. You also have to be interested in the news.

Most people you meet who have been in the news industry for more than a couple of years would, I believe, find it difficult to leave it. It's addictive.

"Presence of mind and an ability to digest a lot of material quickly is required. You deal with a lot of stuff that goes on in Atlanta and Hong Kong. "

Could you describe your work routine?

Eight -10 hours a day on an average. I start with a news conference. Soon after that we get in the middle of the afternoon to set the agenda for the show. Then it is research, ringing up the contacts if you need to build up a picture of the story and perhaps get some insights.

Voracious reading is required. If available I talk to guests who come on the show to get and idea of what issues they are focusing on. Another important is aspect is keeping an eye on possible breaking news, live events which are likely to fall within our time slot and then its reading and re-reading scripts before going on set. We have an hour break between the two shows so it's a cram to get up to date on new guests or more breaking news

One of the main challenges for anyone reporting on the news is to strike the balance between getting it first and getting it right. How is your show able to achieve this task?

Getting it right is the key. First means nothing unless it's right. We have a lot of checks and balances and a lot of eyeballs look at a story before we decide that we will air it.

You'd be surprised how much news we get which looks and sounds very interesting but we can't stand it up. I cannot emphasise the importance of getting it right because in the end, credibility is the only thing we have.

Earlier you worked with the South China Post. Could you dwell on the main differences between print journalism and television journalism?

Information in television has to be distilled so much more than print. I loved writing stories but the style is totally different. On a broadsheet newspaper you can tell a story in 1000 words, in television you have to try to get basically the same message across ink a 10th of the words. And you obviously have to work pictures into the story, which means writing around what pictures you have.

Indian news channels are introducing a greater deal of the 'masala' element into their line up in order to deal with the competition. They are basically trying to expand their repertoire beyond just business and politics by moving into other fields especially 'filmi' entertainment. Is this a trend that has also been noticed in other Asian countries like Singapore?

Interesting question. Some channels opt to take that strategy. Others, like CNN, stick to what they know and do best. I think it's important for viewers for a channel like ours, that they can turn on at any time of the day and be assured of getting a news update or breaking news.

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