number 3, december 7, 1998

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CNN president wants WCC delegates’ views

By John Newbury

CNN international president Chris Cramer flew into Harare yesterday morning to attend the WCC 8th assembly. "I want to know what assembly delegates think of the job we are doing," he said.

"I have come to the assembly in a listening mode," said Cramer, who is one of the featured panelists at a Padare event on Wednesday at 2.30pm in the Science Lecture Theatre.

Organised by the World Association for Christian Communication, that Padare offering will examine the power of global communication today.

Cramer told Jubilee, "Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that CNN is a huge global influence. We don’t wish to be a global player but would rather be a global spectator. I want to know from people at the assembly if they think CNN is up to this job".

He added that he would take back the comments he heard to Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, "who cares passionately" about a whole range of issues, including religion.

Acknowledging that CNN has never had a religious affairs correspondent but that the possibility had often been discussed at the organisation’s headquarters in Atlanta (USA), Cramer said he thought an appointment was "probable", though where such a person would be based was not immediately clear.

"Along with the BBC, CNN is one of the few networks to maintain a large and expensive system of news bureaux around the world, because the only way to cover the world is to be in the world," he said. "It is vital the work of these offices reflects all religions."

Cramer said he is often asked why CNN does not show countries in a better light. "That’s not our job. Our task is to show countries in a broader light."

As an example of how CNN does that, he cited the fact that last year his network was the only one to broadcast live from the Haj when it sent its correspondent, Riz Kahn, to Mecca. "I am enormously proud of that coverage and we will do it again at the time of the next Haj".

CNN "is not here to make the world a better place but we are not squeamish if that happens; in fact that is frequently one of the by-products of our work", he said.

Cramer, who comes from a Roman Catholic background, told Jubilee he was looking forward to experiencing his first WCC assembly.

e joined CNN three years ago following a 25-year career with the BBC, where he progressed from regional reporter to head of newsgathering. He is also the author of the book Hostage, a first-hand account of the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in London, where he was held hostage.

In 1974, on loan from the BBC, he also established a new television and radio service for the Sultan of Brunei.

Today he is conscious of the power of CNN, which describes itself as "the world’s only global TV news network". "At the BBC I was never on the end of phone calls from world leaders wanting to get on the air. I am at CNN, and it is quite frightening."

At Wednesday’s event, he will be joined by Mike Wooldridge, BBC South Asia correspondent and head of the BBC Delhi bureau chief Mike Wooldridge, whose BBC career has included being a correspondent for Religious Affairs, Southern Africa, and East Africa.

Wooldridge will moderate the Padare session, which will also feature Musimbi Kanyoro, general secretary of the World YWCA, and Cees Hamerlink, professor of international communication at the University of Amsterdam.

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Read other articles in this issue:

Vision paper triggers debate &
On the back of a tiger
Abolition 2000
CNN president wants delegates' views
They went on a visit
Gays' criticism about WCC integrity rejected
Help stop slaughter in Sudan
You're in the deadly centre
WCC has eight new members, and one deferred

8th Assembly and 50th Anniversary

copyright 1998 World Council of Churches. Remarks to webeditor