Abu Dhabi, Asharq Al-Awsat—Imane Lahrache is one of the youngest news anchors at Sky News Arabia. The Moroccan television presenter previously served as a business and news presenter on Russia Today Arabic, where she covered major political stories in the Arab world.
Imane Lahrache only graduated from university in 2010, and in just three short years, finds herself as one of the new faces of Sky News Arabia. In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, she speaks about her career so far, what makes a good television news presenter, and the importance of new media.
This interview has been edited for length.
Asharq Al-Awsat: How did you start your career as a journalist? How did you know that you chose the right profession?
Imane Lahrache: I always felt and continue to feel certain that I have made the right choice. It is something that became clear to me from the beginning. I went to the L’institut Supérieur de l’Information et Communication—Rabat [Higher Institute of Information and Communication-Rabat], majoring in audio-visual communication. During my studies, I gained good experience through work experience at some local daily newspapers and then working part-time at a number of private radio stations. Immediately after graduation in 2010, I joined the Russia Today Arabic television channel as a news editor and then later a business news anchor. I have only recently joined Sky News Arabia.
Q: What was the first news story you covered?
I investigated the issue of smuggling in eastern Morocco, where Spanish and Algerian goods were being transferred by trains across the desert to central and western Morocco. I also reported on how smugglers escape overseers, whether under a false identity or by means of bribery. I still have a copy of the newspaper issue that this article was published in, and I was so proud of it. As for television, I honestly cannot remember the first story that i reported on. However, my start in this field coincided with the eruption of the Arab Spring. I covered the Tunisian and the Egyptian revolutions and so I became knowledgeable about the affairs of both countries.
Q: What news story you do you wish you could cover?
Now, without doubt, I’d like to cover the events taking place on the ground in Syria.
Q: Who is your journalistic role-model?
I cannot specify one journalist as a role-model. Since I was a child, I would spend the entire day watching news on Moroccan, Arab, and French television, along with my father. I always dreamt of being a news anchor or journalist. Therefore, I have been exposed to different schools and styles of journalism.
For example, I like [Sky News Arabia presenter] Mohannad Al-Khatib’s way of running his show, as well as Muntaha Al-Ramahi, who I have watched ever since her time at Al Jazeera. On France 2, I think that David Pujadas broadcasting style is peerless.
Q: Who are your favorite Arab and international authors?
I read all sorts of editorials and opinion pieces. I do not always agree or disagree with certain writers. In fact, it depends on the subject and the perspective of the article.
Q: Who is your favorite Morocco journalist or news anchor?
To be honest, I do not watch Moroccan television frequently. In fact, I believe that they need to develop so they catch up with the level of the rest of the Arab media. They have not broken ranks with the official and traditional state media in Morocco. Nevertheless, I love the Mubashara Makum programme which is hosted by Jami’ Klhassan, whether we are talking about its content or its style.
Q: How do you divide your time between writing articles, editing a magazine, and anchoring a news show?
I sometimes write articles for Sky News Arabia’s website for fun, as well as because I love to develop my writing skills. Writing articles give me the opportunity to convey my own opinions to my television viewers who only see me reading the news and interviewing guests objectively.
Q: How many hours do you work per week? Do you spend much time with your family?
I live by myself in the UAE, so the more hours I spend working the better. I love my job so much; however, one has to have a life outside work. Even though I do not live with my family, I keep in touch with them almost daily. I make some time for my friends, hobbies, and even meditation.
Q: Do you have a special staff to help you on your TV show and the magazine?
The nature of news requires that everyone from the general-manager, news manager, editors, and reporters, to the technicians and others, work together as one time, each according to their own abilities and specialization.
We meet daily to highlight key issues and then I discuss the most significant items and interviews with the news manger.
Q: What’s your view of new media? Do you think this could replace more traditional forms of media?
To be sure, I belong to the new generation and am accustomed to modern technology, viewing this as being more than necessary. There can be no doubt that those who cannot adapt to the new technology will not survive and we have seen many professions disappear.
Media is media whether on radio, TV, the internet, or social networking websites. Media provides an indispensable service to the public, more than any other profession.
As you can see, all TV channels now have accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in order to actively promote themselves. These channels make sure to promote any scoops via social media in order to increase their following. On the other hand, we have noticed how several news channels have taken to broadcasting video clips of difficult to access areas from the internet. So I think it is a complementary relationship.
Q: Do you think it is important for journalists to specialize in specific areas or issues, such as journalists specializing in Al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, or Iraq, for example?
The new media is based on mobile reporters. For example, you see reporters one day covering events in Egypt and on another in Iraq without much difference. A professional reporter can cover anything anywhere without the need to be knowledgeable about everything.
It is impossible. To be honest, I do not like the concept of specialization because, with the passage of time, it might compromise one’s objectivity. At the end of the day, journalists are human beings and they might get confused. Therefore, they should keep their subject matter at arm’s length so that they can have a comprehensive overview of the situation.
Moreover, having reporters specialize in specific areas might cause division among the staff in the newsroom, something that could affect the essence of journalism which is basically a collective activity.
Q: What blog or website do you follow everyday?
I visit the websites of many local, Arab, and international newspapers on a daily basis, given the nature of my profession which requires me to familiarize myself with different opinions.
Q: What advice would you give young journalists who are just starting out in the business?
I advise them to believe in themselves and their abilities to develop and to heed the advice of more experienced journalists.
Q: What characteristics would you say a good journalist or television anchor possesses?
Adaptability, such as the ability to work with anyone, regardless of their style or personality.
I think the most important condition is professionalism.
Q: Can you describe what it means to be a successful journalist?
A successful journalist must be a successful person. The two things are interrelated. I am somehow obsessive because [about this] because I am still in the early stages of my career and I still have time to improve and secure a special niche for myself.
Q: In your opinion, what has been your best, or most successful, news story?
What I do today is better than what I did yesterday, while I hope that what I do tomorrow will be better than what I am doing today.