58 January/February 2014 | BethesdaMagazine.com
As told to Rachel Chism WORK
My parents are both immigrants
[father from China; mother from Japan]
and scientists, and neither spoke proper
English. When I was very small and
learning to talk, my mother was dis-
appointed in the lack of role models.
Because Bugs Bunny may or may not
have spoken proper English, I watched
Walter Cronkite broadcast the news.
When people ask whether I had voice
coaching to develop a TV voice, I have
to say, “Well, no, not exactly.”
Most of my career has been a series of
fortunate accidents. I went to journalism
school at Northwestern University when
Bob Woodward and Watergate were
[considered] the pinnacle of journalism.
My ambition was to be a Washington
Post reporter. When I couldn’t get a job
in print journalism, I went back for my
master’s in broadcast journalism. At that
point, I really wanted to be Don Hewitt,
the executive producer of 60 Minutes.
My first job was in Charleston, S.C.,
acting as both a producer and reporter.
I turned out to be a horrible producer.
I left Charleston for a local station in
Atlanta. Then from Atlanta I went to
CNN International, where I had to think
of news for a global audience. I’ve also
been on the domestic side of CNN, and
covered Capitol Hill while at CBS Washington. My career has been this series
of shifts from the smallest market to a
global audience and back again.
I left CBS five years ago and thought J O N A T
Joie Chen, 52, Bethesda,
host of Al Jazeera America’s
my career in television news was done.
I had the opportunity to work in niche-
focused content. Today, every corpora-
tion or government agency is its own
news outlet, and my interest was in help-
ing these organizations tell their stories.
It has a big future, sponsored journal-
ism. But the opportunity to come to Al
Jazeera was too interesting to resist.
I’d had a lot of conversations with
friends at Al Jazeera English [the sister
channel of the original Arabic-language
Al Jazeera as well as Al Jazeera Amer-ica] from the time they started the chan-