With her intelligence, warmth and celebrated beauty (she’s been called one of the world’s sexiest female anchors), CNN anchor Kiran Chetry had a group of around 35 people assembled at Larchmont Avenue Presbyterian Church on Mar. 4 as captivated as her early morning American Morning TV audience.
For a “Women in the Media” talk hosted by the Woman’s Club of Larchmont, Chetry arrived with her daughter Maya, 5, and an executive assistant, which was fitting since she spoke for over an hour about her family life and career.
Chetry, who joined CNN in February 2007, lives in Larchmont with her husband and fellow broadcast journalist Chris Knowles and their two children (son Chris is almost three years old). American Morning airs weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and, Chetry joked that, “my neighbors never quite really knew what career field I was in, to have a black town car waiting for me at three o’clock in the morning when I leave for work.”
There is speculation whether Katie Couric’s CBS contract will be renewed in May, and if not, who her successor will be. With Chetry holding strong at CNN while co-anchor John Roberts left for Atlanta’s Fox News, her name is a likely contender for the short list.
Asked if she would be interested in the anchor desk of Couric (who is the first female solo anchor of weekday nightly news, and of whom Chetry is an admirer), Chetry weighed the pros of being at a cable station such as CNN, versus a commercial network station like CBS.
She answered, “I absolutely am very happy at CNN…CNN is a 24-hour news operation and still committed to story telling…Katie Couric gets 22 minutes…In terms of the freedom, CNN is a place where you can explain why you think your story is important. They’ll let you tell it regardless of the cost. And that is a very, very rare thing in 2011.”
Program chair Mary Lee Berridge said she selected Chetry because of CNN’s balanced news reporting, and because she’d heard Chetry speak at St. John’s Episcopal Church—where Berridge and Chetry are parishioners—last year about media. Chetry began by saying she was going to provide different content, and did.
At the time that the Woman’s Club was founded in 1925, Chetry said, “There were some prominent female journalists across the county, but not many.”
One of few female journalists around that time, Charlotta Bass, owned and operated The California Eagle newspaper. “She had one of the largest circulations of an African-American newspaper.” Bass was a crusader for the rights of women and African Americans, and consequently was under surveillance by the FBI until her death.
Chetry also cited Ruth Finney, one of the only women to cover the 1922 Argonaut Gold Mine disaster in which 47 people perished. Nancy Dickerson, in 1950, was one of the first women to broadcast from the floor of a political convention.
Chetry then discussed Laura Logan, the journalist who was recently attacked while covering Tahrir Square in Egypt. “She wanted the statement to be released, that she had suffered ‘a brutal and prolonged sexual assault.’ The unique dangers of females in war zones is something that is not new, but it’s something that has long been in effect kept quiet," she said, continuing, "Partly because of the shame, and partly because of the fear that many women correspondents have that they’ll be seen as weak or as complainers."
Chetry went on to say that female journalists are increasingly providing coverage in areas where women do not have the same rights as men, and often suffer beatings or worse by men who are protected by laws that don't apply to them.
"That is unique to today’s coverage, especially in these uprisings we’re seeing in the Middle East,” she said.
Chetry was born in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her mother, from a small Pennsylvania town, joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Nepal where she met Chetry’s father. The family moved to Maryland when Chetry was an infant. She attended University of Maryland, majoring in journalism, and began her career in 1995 at a Rockville, Maryland station.
The following year she moved to Erie, Pennsylvania, as main anchor and health reporter on WICU-TV,where she met Knowles, the prime time news anchor. She received her first news award there about teen smoking. In 1999 she moved to a Sacramento station, KXTV, then joined Fox News Channel in 2001.
After moving to CNN in February 2007, she began anchoring American Morning on Apr. 16, the day of the Virginia Tech massacre.
On addition to Roberts, Chetry’s current co-hosts have included T.J. Holmes, Rob Marciano, and Ali Velshi.
Chetry has covered the Gulf oil spills, the Tucson, Arizona shootings, and the 2008 presidential campaign, reporting live. Coverage with Roberts won the show a National Headliner Award. She’s covered the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and was one of the few journalists to interview Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III and his crew after his emergency Hudson River landing.
A trip to Nepal for a women’s empowerment journalism conference, scheduled for last year, was “put on hold” due to political unrest. She is preparing for a London trip to cover the Royal Wedding.
Chetry spoke about her family’s use of all the local parks and the Larchmont Yacht Club where they’re members.
“We truly, my husband I, we feel like we discovered a jewel when we came to Larchmont. We love the beauty of this place...We really enjoy being part of this community.”