Presenting the link between issues around the globe is a daily challenge for one of CNN’s most respected television anchors.

RUSHING from one appointment to another, Becky Anderson still manages to come across as personable, kind and centred. After a few moments of talking with her, listening to snippets of her life’s episodes in war-torn Lebanon and earthquakes in Pakistan, one quickly realises that this fervent and pleasant person has walked no ordinary path.

With a debut in business journalism, her career soon took her to CNN as an anchor and correspondent chasing breaking news around the globe. From interviews with world leaders and stars, ranging from the UN’s former Secretary-General Kofi Annan to footballer David Beckam, and from earthquakes and military conflicts to royal weddings, Anderson has brought televised momentous events to millions. Most recently she helped create and presents CNN’s program Connect the World five nights a week, with the aim of connecting viewers to the biggest international daily stories.

You have been reporting from a variety of war, crisis and tumultuous locations. How do you learn to work under pressure?

It’s something you learn on the job. It never gets any easier, to be honest. But there is a knack to prioritise the content that you report on. To get a true sense of the story, however chaotic the situation is, you never forget the golden rules of journalism: ‘What? Why? When? Where? How? Who?’. You don’t put yourself in harm’s way. You’re there to report and it’s very rare that you become part of the story – although, of course, that does happen sometimes.

Have you ever feared for you own safety?

Actually, yes. During the war in Beirut in 2006, I reported from an area the Israelis had been bombing and 20 minutes after we left, they bombed that area again. So you do worry. Like I said, you try not to put yourself in harm’s way and we work with security, but there are times when you realise that it’s been pretty close.

Which story that you have reported on has affected you the most and why?

The Pakistan earthquake. We flew in a relief helicopter up to a very remote part of the Himalayas that hadn’t received any help for three days since the quake. We were stumbling around little children’s shoes on our way to a school that had collapsed. When we peered in, we saw the bodies of children putrefied who hadn’t been able to escape. And when you see the bodies of five, six, seven-year-olds, who nearly made it…you really don’t forget things like that.

As a high profile reporter, you have to be a specialist on almost every topic, how do you do that?

I started off with business journalism, so I already knew a lot about the subject I was reporting on. I enjoyed that a lot – it really makes you feel like you have a grip on the story. But for the last 10 years, I’ve been doing general news and there are times when it’s frustrating that you know a lot about a little bit and a little about the things that seem to count. But your main aim as a journalist is to go to the people who do know, as long as you know what you’re trying to elicit from them. You need to know enough about a subject and which questions to ask. You don’t rely on your own knowledge but the knowledge of the experts.

Is there a team of journalists assisting you?

Yes. I couldn’t do without them. Becky Anderson is the front line as well as a big and really successful team. It’s absolutely fantastic. We’ve got a team that works across the day in order to produce the program that I execute at 9pm London time. I’ve got producers, writers, assistant producers, a team of bookers and an executive editor. In the big scheme of things at CNN there are big news gathering facilities and planning facilities, so we work very much together as a team. There is no working as an individual – you have to work as a team, and rightly so.

Do you go through the topics with your interviewees beforehand or is it all ad hoc?

My interviewees will know what the general subject is and normally it will already be pretty obvious to them. If, for example, we wanted to talk about the US China currency war that may or may not be happening in Seoul at the moment, there may be a number of people I might go to, to an economist or an analyst of the geo politics of the region. The person booking the interview would also let them know what the general topic is. But, I never ever let my guests know what I’m going to ask them specifically.

What’s your advice to young journalists who see what you are doing as a dream for their own future?

That’s a great question. It’s one I like to answer: pursue some higher education and take an interest. You’ll know innately if you’ve got an interest in current affairs. What you do in higher education is entirely your decision but I would never suggest that anybody necessarily pursue a media studies route. I would like to see people studying international relations or history or English literature – something they really passionately enjoy. The next stage is to get a really good internship. There you need to work hard, be enthusiastic and fight for everything. You can never be too annoying! After that, we can see you looking and sounding impressive. You want to show that you’re prepared to do the grunt work, don’t come to me and say you want to be a presenter when you’re 21 years old, because I won’t be impressed. I want to know that you want to be a writer and a producer, that you love TV and the digital world. And probably, the last piece of advice is the importance of social skills – you have to be able to have a drink with the team!

How did the idea and concept for Connect the World evolve?

When CNN was looking for some prime time programming, we realised that at the end of the day in Europe, in The Middle East, in Africa we needed a big headlining show that gives a deeper and broader understanding of the biggest stories of the day. It may sound slightly pompous when we say that we want to show how a story in Seoul resonates in Washington, London and New York, but it’s important. As news is commoditised these days, there’s a sense of  ‘Why should I care?’ from television news, and what I realised is that we needed a show that would take big stories and really ‘join the dots’ to really connect people to those stories. Connect the World is an attempt to give you a much broader and deeper understanding of the biggest stories of the day.

How are the topics and places selected?

Ultimately, when you’re making a program, which is the output side of television, you have to rely on what’s coming in on the input side, which is the news gathering side. We will plan our show, a month, a week or a day ahead of time depending on what is being planned by our news gatherers and plan a segment around that. We’ll also rely on the news of the day. The way we choose our topics, to a certain extent, is based on what our network is generating from its ‘news gathering machine’.

How do you find the show?

I love it! I learn something – no, I learn lots of things every day. That’s because I have to do as much work as the rest of the team to make sure that we understand a subject, whatever the story of the day is – understanding that and understanding how it resonates around the world. So it’s as fascinating for me, as I hope it is for the viewer to get a broader and deeper sense of what’s going on. We’ve understood as well that these days, as a program, you either engage with the viewer or you die.

It’s great to see that so many celebrities are involved in charity, protection of the environment and other good causes. Does the fact that they need the media to attain support for their cause make it easier to access them? Yes, it does. As far as celebrities are concerned, everybody has a cause of some sort that they support these days and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If there are causes out there that a celebrity ambassador might be able to get more attraction for, then good. It is easier to interview celebrities who’ve got something to say on a humanitarian issue but we don’t only talk about that. The celebrities understand that the questions are from the viewers. For example, Ricky Martin takes an ambassadorial role with child trafficking but the questions are also about his book where he admits to being gay, we talk about his music and various other things. So the cause is often a jumping off point.

What is one of your future topics?

We are taking one initiative in particular next year, and we’re going to own it and tell the viewers that there is no uncertainty that this is wrong! It will focus on the issue of human trafficking, which is second only to drugs and arms trafficking. Some 30 billion dollars a year and 2.5 million people are being trafficked around the world at one time. It is something that we believe is truly wrong and we are going to make an effort as a team to show that story to the world and try to do something about it.

Connect the World screens every Monday to Friday at 21:00GMT on CNN.

Tania Anderson