Suzanne Malveaux helps run 'CNN Newsroom' weekdays


If you don't believe upward mobility is still alive in the workplace, try convincing Suzanne Malveaux.

In the same way her CNN colleague Candy Crowley came off a reporter's beat after many years to assume an anchor role (in Crowley's case, with the Sunday program "State of the Union"), Emmy winner Malveaux left the cable news network's political unit in January to relocate to its Atlanta headquarters. There, she now presides over a two-hour section of the weekday "CNN Newsroom."

"I think it's going really well," she says. "It's a new opportunity, a chance to flex a different set of muscles but bring 10 years of (covering) the White House to the desk. The first two weeks, to have had a story like Egypt erupting as it did ... it was just incredible to bring the perspective of having covered the Obama administration, the (second) Bush administration and the Clinton administration, having taken trips to the Middle East with them.

"I lived in Egypt as well," Malveaux adds, "so it was an opportunity to pick up the phone and call longtime Egyptian friends and find out how they were doing. Some were involved on the ground in Tahrir Square as part of the protests, and others had fled and were trying to figure out how to deal with it day to day with their families and kids. It was incredible to navigate that story."

The navigation was aided immensely by Malveaux's rich in-the-field background. "I was able to talk about going to visit the Middle East, and specifically Cairo, with former first lady Laura Bush. She was dealing with the same questions when we went there together, shortly after the elections when there was a lot of corruption around (former Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak's re-election.

"Mrs. Bush got a lot of criticism -- 'How can you and President Bush support this regime?' -- and like President Bush and President Obama, she visited with opposition leaders to try to counter some of that criticism. I was able to talk about how, in some ways, those issues had existed for as long as Mubarak was in power."

Despite having been a firsthand witness to such occasions, ex-NBC reporter Malveaux believes her chance to move to the CNN anchor desk "came at the perfect time. I had covered the White House for nearly a decade, and one of the greatest highlights of my career was the (2008 presidential) campaign. I was living out of a suitcase for a year, and I embraced that; it was an unbelievable, remarkable time for me professionally.

"I also wanted to experience the first two years of the Obama administration, what kind of president he would be. I'd primarily covered the Democrats, and I essentially followed the beginnings of Sen. Obama's campaign to being in Grant Square (in Chicago on election night).

"That was a great opportunity to get to know him and many of his close friends, family and associates in a much more personal way, a way you really can't now. That was a time when they were much more accessible and open, and people wanted to know who this guy was."

When those two years were up, the "CNN Newsroom" slot was open for Malveaux after the departure of former anchor Tony Harris; she is preceded weekdays by Kyra Phillips and followed by Ali Velshi and Brooke Baldwin.

"I had already been filling in for Wolf Blitzer on 'The Situation Room,' " Malveaux explains, and that gave her even more chances "to interview newsmakers and high-profile folks. It all kind of came together."

A contributor to Peabody- and duPont Award-winning coverage since joining CNN in 2002, Malveaux has seen many changes at the network and in cable news in general.

"You have to be aware of what your competitors are doing," she reasons. "I don't think it would be smart not to, but I feel like our mission (at CNN) is different. In some ways, we are competing with ourselves. We have CNN International, which really covers the world and has a broad scope.

"We've been able to partner correspondents like myself with those from International, who live where stories are happening and get into them in depth. What we try to do, and we're very clear about this, is to remain impartial and allow viewers to have both sides of a story. We give context and analysis and perspective, then we let people digest it and come up with their own conclusions."

And sometimes, those conclusions are expressed to Malveaux directly. "Everything moves a lot faster now," she reflects, "and we're using all sorts of social media to engage with the audience. One of our 'CNN Newsroom' features is to present viewers three (options of) stories they might not have seen, and we deliver the story they choose. Ten years ago, those kinds of things didn't exist."

A daughter of doctor and Merck Childhood Asthma Network executive director Floyd Malveaux, also a founder of the National Human Genome Center at Howard University, Malveaux hails from an accomplished family that includes her twin sister, Suzette -- a law professor -- and economist Julianne Malveaux as a cousin.

In weighing whether to become an anchor full time, Malveaux used CNN veteran Blitzer as a sounding board. "He often was someone I was able to reach out to specifically," she says, "because I was a part of his show." If the transition from correspondent to anchor has altered public perception of Malveaux, with more attention paid to how she reports what she reports, she claims she hasn't noticed it ... at least not yet.

"I can understand that it would happen, that people would focus on my perspective and context. I certainly hope I can give more context, since this is a bigger platform to do that. I just feel this is a natural transition and a natural fit, and I feel comfortable injecting my own perspective. There comes a point where you're ready to do something else, and I feel like this is a time for me to grow and develop another skill set."

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