Telling the story

CNN star an­chor Hala Go­rani may be a house­hold name in the world of break­ing news with a port­fo­lio of ac­com­plish­ments to make even the most vet­eran jour­nal­ist blush, but this hu­mor­ous and ap­proach­able woman has built her suc­cess on a unique abil­ity to ble

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The 43-year-old prize-win­ning CNN an­chor is not what you would ex­pect. Watch­ing Hala Go­rani suc­cinctly present the lat­est world news from CNN’s head­quar­ters in At­lanta, US, give live up­dates from a re­mote war-torn part of the globe, or in­tel­lec­tu­ally grill a con­tro­ver­sial world leader, one would be for­given for imag­in­ing the for­mi­da­ble woman on our screens would be much the same in per­son. Quite the con­trary. Yes, she may be tough but it soon be­comes ap­par­ent that be­neath that tough ex­te­rior Hala Go­rani is blessed with both wit and warmth.

If you scroll through her Twit­ter feed along with over 110,000 other avid fol­low­ers, you’ll no­tice that one story in par­tic­u­lar cur­rently fea­tures heav­ily, and it’s one with which Hala has a birth af­fil­i­a­tion – Syria.

Asked how it feels to see her home­land spi­ral into chaos, she says, “Pro­fes­sion­ally the same rules ap­ply re­gard­less of my her­itage but I would be ly­ing if I said it didn’t add a layer of per­sonal drama be­cause my whole life I’ve been go­ing in and out of Syria.

“I’m 100 per cent Syr­ian – from my mother and my fa­ther’s side – so you hear cer­tain ac­cents, you hear peo­ple say­ing things on am­a­teur video and it reminds you of where you came from, what your fam­ily is, and of course it adds more to how dev­as­tated you feel about what’s go­ing on in that coun­try. Add to that it’s the worst-case sce­nario re­alised. I don’t think any­one two-and-a-half years ago thought Syria would be what it is to­day, even peo­ple who’ve lived there their whole lives… it’s a con­stant daily on­slaught of tragedy and al­most the death of a coun­try.”

Hala, as one of CNN’s most ex­pe­ri­enced jour­nal­ists, was one of the first re­porters to cover the Syr­ian cri­sis when it started to un­fold back in 2011 and was part of the first small team al­lowed ac­cess af­ter protests be­gan. She has not re­turned to her home­land since but says it’s not for lack of try­ing.

“Well, of course, with Syria the main chal­lenge is get­ting in now, and just be­ing able to cover with­out be­ing con­stantly con­sid­ered a tar­get by al­most all par­ties. I mean Syria is cur­rently the big­gest story no one is cov­er­ing! You have the odd per­son who sneaks in for three days and runs back out, and who can blame them? Be­tween the kid­nap­pings, the mur­ders, and the snipers, it’s be­com­ing im­pos­si­ble to cover that story.

“It’s not just the ac­ci­den­tal ex­change of gun­fire that is a prob­lem any more,” she ex­plains. “That used to be the is­sue when you were a jour­nal­ist. Nowa­days you’re tar­geted for kid­nap­ping, by snipers, peo­ple ha­rass­ing you. You can’t go into crowds any more with­out feel­ing you’re tak­ing a gi­ant per­sonal risk – it’s be­com­ing ex­tremely hard froma per­sonal-safety stand­point to cover con­flict in the re­gion.”

French flair, Amer­i­can ed­u­ca­tion

Born in­Wash­ing­ton to par­ents from Aleppo, Hala spent much of her childhood in Paris (some­thing many French peo­ple claim ex­plains her im­pec­ca­ble style and taste).

Fol­low­ing a brief spell in Al­ge­ria, and af­ter her par­ent’s sep­a­ra­tion, Hala ac­com­pa­nied her mother to France where she stayed un­til

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