Single biggest role is accountability: Ali Velshi, CNN

03 Apr,2012

Being associated with a network that prides itself on coverage being different from the clutter as well as being responsible for making the people and authorities accountable for their actions, are roles that many journalists would hanker after during their lifetime. And this is where Ali Velshi of CNN holds himself in high stead as he embarks on an enduring journey of bringing about accountability and response from the viewers in a way that affects the functioning of an economy. Whether it is connecting the news through finance, global issues, contemporary governance, education and big ideas, CNN’s Ali Velshi executes several roles across CNN as the network’s chief business correspondent and anchor of Your Money and World Business Today on CNN International.


In a short yet crisp conversation with MxM India, Mr Velshi shares his sentiments around the political and business scenario bracing several economies and suggests patterns that would emerge as countries try and lift themselves out of the slowdown dilemma.


Q: There’s talk of an ongoing slowdown that’s said to be impacting growth of several industries across the globe. How do you view the current economic crisis?

The biggest differentiator between what the world is going through right now and what it went through in 2008-09 is that the current crisis has not evolved into a global credit crisis – that’s what made the last economic crisis substantially different in the sense that we learnt that we are all interconnected and that credit arrears that started in the US froze up the flow of money globally. Here we have a situation where we still have a great deal of uncertainty about Europe but you have stronger-than-expected economic growth in the US and weakening but still very strong economic growth in Asia. So we are not on the threshold of a disaster like we were globally in 2008-09; the general view is that the economic growth story is much more positive. It looks like the global economy is going to move forward heavily dependent on emerging economies and on strong growth in China & India.


Q: What role will Asia play in helping the world rebuild its growth story?

A lot of what happens to global growth is going to depend on China and India. We do see some slowing of growth in both of those markets for different reasons – in some cases because of the inflation and in the other cases because of the slowdown in spending in Europe. So the sum total of what happens in 2012 will probably have more to do with politics and inflation and oil prices then it’s going to have to do with organic growth. There are a number of things that are going to happen in the coming months particularly with respect to Iran and oil prices that will have an impact what 2012 will end up looking.


Q: At CNN, what are some of the new viewership trends that’re redefining the way you cover news?

The biggest trend that we’ve been witnessing at CNN and in the world of news is the remarkable surge in digital consumption of news, especially business news. Digital consumption of business news has been high for several years but the thing that is becoming important in financial news and economic analysis these days is context. And that’s where we can shine at CNN and that’s where we can gather the experts to add context to simple numbers or political results or debates as we have a strong stable of excellent analysts and commentators who can bring colour to the discussion. And that’s what is important; digital has given us access to development and news. But in the end, regardless of how our readers or listeners consume their news the value of the content and the context remains our major advantage in the market.


Q: Don’t you see digital challenging the traditional medium where accessibility of news is concerned?

As a journalist, I am highly agnostic to how people consume our product and one thing I have learnt at CNN is how to be agnostic. So I have to be able to report through TV, through social media, through blogging, through videos, etc. There are different types of audiences for these mediums, but ultimately if you are trying to get news and analysis out it should be relevant to the audience. I don’t think digital takes away the sheen from traditional media; in fact it adds to it as it allows us instant access to our audience and allows us to respond to them more quickly etc.


Q: How according to you does CNN stand out from its peers in the highly competitive news market?

Our reach continues to grow at CNN because it’s a must-have product for people who want to stay informed about global events and happenings. Whereas the Indian market is concerned, it’s fascinating how much news there is, how much broadcast there is…the growth of newspapers, etc. So Indians are clearly national consumers of news but where we stand apart is that CNN is a key channel that offers global perspective. We only see an upside potential in terms of busy, crowded, noisy world where people need to understand context in digestible portions.


Q: Apart from being just a disseminator of news, how do you ensure you play a larger role in impacting the lives of people?

The kind of initiatives that we take up like CNN Heroes etc we see to it that it really creates an impact because what ends up happening is that we can throw a light on corrupt practices and the plight of people who have no other voice. We can influence bad policy and have an impact on changes in an effective way. Also, the other thing is that using the strength of CNN we can get accurate reporting where sometimes a smaller organisation that doesn’t have a similar reach is not able to do so. As a result, we can hold people accountable. In media, the single biggest role that we can play is that of accountability. It makes for a more honest and fair world and I think that’s what our viewers appreciate.


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