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CNN host and journalist Fareed Zakaria speaks to journalism students, giving important advice on future careers (Photo Ariana Erin)
CNN host and journalist Fareed Zakaria speaks to journalism students, giving important advice on future careers (Photo Ariana Erin)

CNN host Fareed Zakaria gives advice to UNLV journalism students

By Ariana DeCastro
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CNN host and journalist Fareed Zakaria shared his experiences and some advice on choosing a career in journalism during an exclusive talk with UNLV students on Feb. 9 at Ham Hall.

“I never thought I was going to be a journalist,” said Zakaria. “It was just the thing that I would do for fun.”

Zakaria discussed his early relationship with journalism and shared that he founded and wrote for his high school magazine, his college newspaper and had three summer jobs that were journalism-centered.

“Journalism jobs always seemed much more fun,” said Zakaria. “It was the thing that I would do even if someone hadn’t paid me.”

Zakaria migrated from India after receiving a scholarship from Yale University and started out as a science major. However, when he took a history class, he knew that subject was his interest.

“I wanted to stay in America,” said Zakaria. “And getting a Ph.D. gave the longest visa.”

So he continued to pursue his education and went to graduate school.

Zakaria contemplated on what career path he wanted and considered being a lawyer, but halfway through taking the LSATs, he realized that was not what he wanted and walked out.

“I realized I’d done so much journalism in my free time,” said Zakaria.

So when there was a job opening to be an editor for a foreign affairs magazine, he applied for it.

“It turned out to be a little more complicated than that,” said Zakaria. “I was very young for the job.”

Zakaria participated in editing tests anyway and had a conversation with the editor who admitted that he liked his style of writing, but addressed his lack of experience as an editor.

“So I convinced him to let me re-edit the entire magazine,” said Zakaria.

He spent two weeks inserting suggestions on how to improve certain columns and turned in his edits.

“I got a call the very next morning for the job,” said Zakaria. “So it’s important to think about what you really enjoy doing. What are you passionate about? What are you willing to spend all night working on?”

Zakaria has been writing a regular column for 17 years and began his broadcast career on a Sunday morning show on ABC that centered on foreign affairs.

“I did that show every other weekend for five years until the show, unfortunately, lost its funding,” said Zakaria. “Then I got the offer for CNN.”

Zakaria discussed that the platform of his show, “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” It is about the audience learning something new at the end of every segment and that the show is for people who want, “intelligent television.”

“Broadcast is an extremely powerful medium,” said Zakaria. “I could do every show on the elections but I want Americans to understand what is going on in the world.”

While broadcast journalism is tough, Zakaria notes that writing is the hardest thing he does.

“It’s intellectually taxing,” said Zakaria, who still writes for The Washington Post.

The journalism students were very engaged during Zakaria’s talk and asked questions of their own, especially about the future of journalism as a career.

“During my day, the biggest difference is the structure,” said Zakaria, who recalled about 25 big institutions that journalists could go to for jobs. “If you got a job at one of those feeders, you were on a track.”

He notes that the industry is in a state of turmoil due to technology and that there was a more defined path when he was young.

“Now, everyone is an entrepreneur,” said Zakaria. “You have to have an individual voice, brand and perspective.”

But technology also makes it easier because of the different social media platforms available. It is just more of an insecure path because of the unclear future it comes with, according to Zakaria.

“To stand out, you have to really do something different,” said Zakaria. “Find your market and how to sell it. Every week, you have to have an idea.”

Zakaria was also asked if he has experienced any unfair judgment due to his ethnicity and he shared that with his colleagues and classmates, he always felt included and welcomed.

“I had a very charmed life in America,” said Zakaria. “But social media is creating an alternate reality.”

He shared that the past few years, he received racist emails, comments and tweets and noted that the comments are hardly about his work.

“It’s always about the color of my skin, my country of origin, my religion,” said Zakaria. “It shattered the sense of the America I’d known.”

But Zakaria told the students to put themselves out there anyway.

“People are going to take shots at you and it’s not going to be fair,” said Zakaria. “But you’ve got to have the temperament.”

He said that his temperance is a huge part of why he is able to do what he does.

Zakaria also had an evening lecture as part of the Barrick Lecture Series open to the university staff, students and public that centered on the topic of liberal education.

“He emphasized the importance of a liberal arts education which is what I’m studying,” said Joseph Dagher, a 20-year-old UNLV senior, majoring in political science. “It’s always nice to be assured that your degree is worth something.”

Dagher said that he found the lecture inspiring, especially when Zakaria said that, “It’s important to make a living, but it’s also important to make a life.”

Most of the people who attended Zakaria’s lecture were staff from the university and members of the public. Only a small number of the audience were students.

“I really want to stress to other fellow students the importance of attending these lecture series,” said Dagher. “The university provides these lectures free of charge to students and you really gain insight knowledge on the world.”

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