Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | April 7, 2002, Sunday // 00:00

Ralitsa Vassileva anchors CNN International (CNNI) newscasts from CNN's global headquarters in Atlanta. Since she assumed her duties at CNNI in 1992, Vassileva has anchored coverage of many major international news stories. Vassileva previously anchored CNN World Report, the world's only forum for international broadcasters to present news from their country before CNN's global audience. Before joining CNN, Vassileva was an anchor and reporter for Bulgarian National Television (BNT). After two months as a BNT anchor, she became the country's second highest-rated anchor. Vassileva was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and was educated at English language schools in Sofia and New Delhi, India. She graduated from Sofia University with a major in English and literature and a minor in Bulgarian and literature.

Ralitsa Vassileva answered questions of novinite.com.

Q: How did life in the United States and your work in particular change after September 11?

A: I see Americans now trying to live with a new sense of "normalcy", which means learning to co-exist with the threat of terrorism without letting it rob you of the joy of life.

As a journalist I had made sense of a new reality, an unprecedented terrorist attack on U-S soil while at the same time learning the implications of the changes in politics as a result of it. One of the most vivid examples that comes to mind is Pakistan's shift from supporting the Taliban to becoming one of the U.S' closest allies in the war against terrorism.

Q: In your opinion, can journalists be fully objective in today's world?

A: They can try their best! It starts with always looking for both sides of the story and giving them equal importance.

Q: How did you feel while announcing your first news broadcast as an anchor at CNNI?

A: I was floating on air, I was so excited, but I was also scared, because I had never anchored live newscasts in English before. In the end, the enormous support of my colleagues and my great love of what I do, helped me get through all the fears. I'm not afraid anymore that a word might come to me in Bulgarian, instead of English as I was ad-libbing breaking news or asking questions in a live interview.

Q: How would you describe your normal working day at CNNI?

A: I usually come to work two hours before my first show. My day starts early in the morning with coffee, lots of it, and a bagel at my computer in the newsroom. I read in for about an hour and then go to make-up. By the time I'm back in the newsroom, the show's scripts are ready. I read through them and make some changes if necessary. I also finalize the questions I want to ask in upcoming interviews and gather information for possible press conferences or other live events during the day I might need to ad-lib. I do 4 shows a day. Of course, there's more reading that I do on a daily basis at home too. I follow main news events carefully, so that if there is breaking news, I can handle it professionally.

Q: You are famous in Bulgaria. Do you feel like a TV star in the United States?

A: Most of the time I don't because few people have had a chance to watch me. I have the best of both worlds here, I'm on TV but almost no one recognizes me. You see, CNN International is broadcast outside the United States, you need a Satellite dish to watch it in the U.S. Most Americans watch CNN USA, which is tailored for them and broadcast on cable. Once in a while an American who lived overseas or a tourist recognizes me in the street.

Q: What personal sacrifices have you made in order to excel in your profession?

A:Like every person working in a 24 hour, 7 days a week operation, I have had to work overnights, weekends and holidays but stay motivated to do the best that I can. I have missed out on time with my family and social life at times.

Q: Of the interviews you have made, which has been the most memorable?

A: I would say the one I did with Mikhail Gorbachev a few years ago. I struggled a bit to stay focused; I was so moved by the fact that I was talking to the architect of perestroika. It was thanks to the changes that he initiated that Bulgaria was able to embrace democracy.

Q: You came back to Bulgaria last summer. Did you find that the circumstances and the people in Bulgaria had changed? In your opinion, what are Bulgaria's future prospects?

A: Each time I visit Bulgaria, I see improvements. I feel like Bulgaria is a part of Europe and the world, that it's not isolated anymore. On the other hand, I see how hard it is for most people to make ends meet. I see how frustrated they are that their lives have not seen much improvement after 12 years of reforms.

Q: What is the image of Bulgaria in the United States?

A: Some have heard of Bulgaria's wonderful singers, others associate the country with soccer star Hristo Stoitchkov.

Q: Do you keep in touch with your friends in Bulgaria? Do you plan on returning any time soon?

A:Even after 10 years, I keep in touch with many of my friends in Bulgaria. I visit almost every year, but there's never enough time to see everyone! I miss my family and friends there very much.

As to what the future holds, I don't know. Right now I am happy where I am.

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