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Sunday 18 November 2018

Eurovision a joke to CNN says Fionnuala

FORMER RTE star and CNN anchor Fionnuala Sweeney has revealed her bosses regarded Eurovision as a joke.

Fionnuala, who will be the face of CNN's new evening news programme around the world, hosted Eurovision in Millstreet in 1993 -- and landed a news anchor role on CNN some six months later.

But if you thought that hosting the singing contest in front of hundreds of millions of people across Europe would earn you some kudos with your prospective bosses -- think again.

Speaking on Derek Mooney's RTE Radio One programme yesterday, Fionnuala told of how her Eurovision gig almost counted against her.

"Their concern was that it was actually entertainment and not journalism," Fionnuala (43) said.

"I remember the boss at the time, the head of the network at Atlanta, saying he had lived in London as a bureau chief for CNN before he had moved back to Atlanta. [He] said, 'I have seen this Eurovision, but it's treated as a bit of a joke isn't it?' Which it is in England," she explained.

The UCD graduate, who attended the prestigious South Dublin fee-paying secondary school Alexandra College, began her career on pirate radio before moving to 2FM news. Soon after, she was brought to the small screen as a news reporter for RTE.

Since being hired by CNN in the early nineties, she has been the London-based anchor of World News Europe and presenter of CNN International's weekly cultural magazine programme Inside Europe.

Modest Fionnuala put her role in CNN down to luck and said it came about because she wanted to see a "bit of the world".

"I wanted to go and see a bit of the world ... I was a bit lazy. I didn't want to be waitressing my way [around the world], and I'm a hopeless waitress anyway.

"So, I applied to CNN and it was just at a very lucky time because they had, just after the Gulf War, been put on the map because they were the only people with satellite dishes in Baghdad when all the major networks in America were relying on traditional cable television.

"Of course the cables got cut pretty soon, a few hours after the war began, and they [CNN] were able to keep going. As a result of that, they started another dimension of CNN, which was CNN International. So I was just very fortunate at a time that they were hiring and expanding," she said.

Fionnuala's new programme on CNN kicks off on Monday.

"Basically the network is changing a lot of its look and its content. There's a challenge out there for broadcasters and newspapers in the age of the internet to try and redefine themselves in terms of news, and with 'citizen journalism'.

"We're still coming to terms with what the internet means to us and in journalism -- it means a lot."

She said her new programme was basically "a wrap-up of the day's news".

jlast@herald.ie

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