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Christiane Amanpour to debut weekly show

NEW YORK (AP) – For what it’s worth, CNN’s best-known international journalist, Christiane Amanpour, also found it odd that she’s had little visible presence on the company’s North American network for the past several years.

That changes Saturday at 11am Eastern with the debut of “The Amanpour Hour,” part of a revamped Saturday morning lineup that will also feature shows headlined by Chris Wallace, Michael Smerconish and Victor Blackwell.

The London-based Amanpour envisions her show as a weekly letter to Americans about what is going on in the world and why it’s important to them.

Amanpour, 65 and celebrating her 40th year at CNN, was for a long time the face viewers were most likely to see reporting from the world’s hotspots. That has primarily, although not always, been left to others since she began hosting the studio show “Amanpour” each weekday.

That program airs at 1pm Eastern on CNN International, a network that, as its name suggests, is seen mostly outside of the United States. The same show, renamed “Amanpour & Co,” airs later in the day on PBS stations.

“I have always believed, ever since I started as a foreign correspondent at CNN, that the American audience wants to hear about the world,” she told The Associated Press on Friday. “I’ve never believed that things are too complicated to put on American television. I’ve never talked down to an audience. I’ve never believed that they just want to know what’s happening in their backyard.”

On “The Amanpour Hour” — they’re running out of show titles featuring her name — she hopes to discuss what is going on in the world with a sense of history and context.

In talking about the Israel-Hamas war on Saturday, for example, Amanpour will pull from the archives a story about the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and what that meant for the troubled region.

It’s important to project a sense of calm when talking about terrible news that might cause others on TV to hyperventilate, she said.

“I stick to my belief of what journalism is, and that’s to be truthful always, to be truthful and not neutral — to call it like it is, when it is and be a real, grown-up journalist,” she said.

Amanpour, who disdains the titles “host” or “anchor” in favor of “reporter,” will interview Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry on the debut show, along with Jane Hartley, US ambassador to Britain, and Sir Robert John Sawers, former head of the British intelligence service MI6.

“Because of my upbringing — I’m half-Iranian and half-British — I’ve had the great privilege of being able to see the world from two very distinct perspectives,” she said. “I’ve always spoken out about the need to bridge gaps. I know we can live in a world that’s not 100 per cent tribalised.”

Amanpour said she’s optimistic about Mark Thompson, a fellow Brit who recently began as CNN’s new chief. She was given her new show in a lineup change that was made by the quartet of executives who ran the network following Chris Licht’s firing in June.

She said she got a “100 per cent positive” response from others at CNN when she used a speech at the Columbia Journalism School to criticise the network for hosting a televised town hall with former President Donald Trump in May.

Even management was supportive, she said, although “maybe through gritted teeth.”

“I believe I did the right thing,” she said. “When you achieve a certain position in your life and your career, not only are you able, but you have a duty to speak up,” she said. “I take that very seriously. That’s my responsibility.”

Honoree Christiane Amanpour attends Variety’s Power of Women in New York on April 5, 2019. PHOTO: AP
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