Christiane Amanpour courtesy CNN
CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour has been reporting from overseas hot spots since 1989, so she knows firsthand about
, the subject of her three-part documentary series airing Aug. 21 to 23 at 9 pm/ET. Over six hours, Amanpour dissects the recent history of the fundamentalist elements of three Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - and how they want to transform society to fit their beliefs. The Biz recently talked with Amanpour about her willingness to dig deep into serious issues and go against the tabloid tide that's been pulling at cable news.
TVGuide.com: Cable news has changed a lot over the last 15 years, but you're still able to go out and do serious long-form pieces. Who drives that? Do you have to push to get them done? When we think of cable news, we're not thinking about this kind of material anymore.
I agree that it has changed an awful lot since Ted Turner created it. I think there is something to be said for CNN that in this completely changed environment we continue to do these kinds of reports. I particularly like doing this, as you can imagine. I'm not the Paris Hilton/Anna Nicole Smith kind of reporter. I really like these meaty issues, because I'm convinced that this is what people want to know about. Everyone who I talk to asks me what I'm working on, and I tell them religion - and they tell me it's something on their minds right now.
TVGuide.com: To make a good documentary, it's said you have to have a strong point of view.
I agree that some kinds of documentaries do require that. This is a documentary in a different sense: It documents the process [by which] extreme Jews, Christians or Muslims try to reshape society into what they think God's image is and according to what they believe God's teachings are. We didn't go out to do "Wackos-R-Us," because a lot of that has been done. We went out to [examine] people who have a particularly extreme vision and what that means to us as a society - how they affect us.
TVGuide.com: But is that tricky to do because we are in this media environment where everyone's reporting is so scrutinized for bias? Are you feeling pressures now that you didn't feel 10 years ago?
I will admit that there is a lot of pressure out there. I just don't happen to feel it. I live abroad and I don't seek out all the blogs and all the verbiage that is out there. Frankly, there would be no time to do anything else, and I'm not that interested in what people are saying about me. It's a lot of people's personal opinions. I've been doing this for a long, long time and I know clearly what my professional mission is and I stick to it.
TVGuide.com: And how do you define that these days?
To do something that I admit is getting to be an endangered species: [to be] a relentless foreign correspondent bringing this kind of real journalism back to people who really want it. The audience still wants information. We've done serious documentaries [in the past], like
In the Footsteps of Bin Laden
, which did very well in the ratings last year. And why not? It was good, interesting and relevant. People are interested in this particular subject right now because of everything that's happened since 9/11. So there is pressure in the general cable environment to be more tabloid. I think that one thing CNN is committed to is this program, this documentary strand.
TVGuide.com: In the course of reporting this, did people ask you if you believe in God?
They did. I always find it a difficult question. I'm born of a Catholic mother and a Muslim father and I'm married to a Jewish husband. So I have all of God's wonderful shapes in my DNA. It has helped me have an inclusive look at what religion is all about. I instinctively retreat from division. I don't want politics or religion to be a reason for division in my life or in other people's lives. I see so much war, killing and hatred; I can always see why it shouldn't be like that.