Sir Anthony Hopkins. Denzel Washington. Tom Cruise. Will Smith. These are top billing Hollywood actors that we love to watch on-screen either for their raw talent or sex appeal; or a little bit of both. Being on television or on the big screen is not reserved for top billing actors; however. There are some television personalities that are not traditional actors as we know it but still have a certain level of prestige for their career in television.
One such person is former CNN Espanol anchor Daniel Viotto. Although Daniel is now retired from CNN, he is still in the reporting business. He currently works as the digital content manager for a local Hispanic newspaper called Mundo Hispanico which is a subsidiary of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. This week, Daniel will tell Reel Focus what it was like to be an anchorman for one of the most powerful international news shows in the world; and, what life is like after CNN.
Daniel thank you for joining us this week. A lot of Reel Focus readers are in film or television or are aspiring to be in film or television. Being a television anchor is a very important part of the television experience; therefore, tell our readers how you became an anchor for television.
If I were to say that becoming a TV anchor was destiny I would be lying. I would also be lying if I were to say that I was a born journalist. I will say that I have always been curious and concerned about communication among people and across cultures and languages. I was motivated to become a journalist in order to explore human behavior, communication and emotions in depth. It is my personal belief that most of the amazing accomplishments and even the tragic events we have experienced have to do in one way or another with human communication [or miscommunication]. However, when we are able to communicate effectively with one another something amazing always happens–solidarity, space travel, peace, new discoveries, environmental protection, and justice are all possible when we communicate to share common human values instead of labeling groups of people as “this or that.” These are some of the reasons that I became a journalist and decided not to pursue a career in architecture – although one day I still may [pursue an architecture degree].
After graduating from college in Mendoza, Argentina I worked for few years in radio and television. However, I wanted more. I wanted to travel to other countries and see beyond my immediate surroundings with my own eyes. I landed at LAX airport in Los Angeles in March 1991 and was greeted with a simple, spontaneous ceremony in which myself and my luggage were welcomed by a good friend who allowed me to stay in his house. This friend then put me in contact with people that eventually became good friends. In hindsight, I am deeply appreciative to all of them. I was a stranger and they opened their homes to me when I needed it the most. They are extraordinary, unforgettable people.
Soon after, I become a permanent resident by a program called Lottery of visas. I was lucky enough to win one of thousands of resident visas. A year later, I was an intern and then freelancer with Univision 34. A year after that, I signed my first contract with Telemundo 52 and worked under the remarkable and successful news director, Sandra Thomas, who believed in me and allowed me to join her team of field reporters. Two years later, I was hired by CNN when they were launching CNN in Spanish for all Latin America viewers. I worked for CNN for 14 years until I decided to take a break from news and explore other options.
What was it like working for CNN?
Working for CNN was like being in the school of real life for me. It opened my eyes to a very complex and dynamic world. I learned a great deal and became interconnected to human events and occurrences. While working as a news anchor, I also realized that not only politicians and world leaders have to fix the problems of the world; journalists too, can make a difference but we have a lot of work ahead of us to do. I was part of an organization that proved over and over again its leadership in journalism. CNN continues to embrace high standards in journalism and CNN en Espanol keeps bringing people together all over the continent. I’m pretty sure I didn’t learn everything during my time at CNN and there is a lot more to come, but let me tell you, it was a great learning experience and such a journey to share.
How important is what you do as a journalist?
I became an anchor at a time when social media was conceived. At first it was entertaining and kind of senseless–yes senseless– that is until the platforms became the massive media phenomenon they are today. As social media grew, narcissism also grew, using these platforms to expose absolutely nothing but out of control ambition and a constant craving for reaffirmation by audiences. While we can use less of the narcissism, I am convinced that the world does need more leaders and less followers but journalists need to be involved in this process because at the end of the day we play a key role in communicating the people’s needs. The day journalism no longer delivers people’s message it will become obsolete.
What’s life like for you after CNN?
Life’s fantastic but boring in so many ways. I tasted freedom by leaving and becoming an entrepreneur. I took a much-needed break from listening to my producer in my ear every day or explaining to the news director why I said what I said the day before that made some people so angry.
I left anchoring and became part of the audience–a listener, a reader, a news consumer. For the first time, I was away from the energy of a newsroom. I was no longer addicted to the camera and I no longer had to pretend to know everything.
Working for CNN was exiting, challenging, fun and sometimes dangerous, but after being away for 5 years, in retrospect, it looks even more fascinating. I do miss it, though.
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