Exclusive: CNN’s Faith Karimi Talks About Working At The Globe’s News Powerhouse, Lupita Nyong’o And Missing Kenya


She’s the Digital News Desk editor at CNN.com headquarters at Atlanta, Georgia. Originally from Kenya, Faith Karimi is a bubbly young lady who has beaten the odds to rise to her stellar space. Working for the CNN is a wild dream for many, but as for her, it is more than that. She reveals how it is working for CNN in my interview with her. The tenacious, industrious and passionate Karimi has been working with CNN since 2009. She started off her journalism career by working for U.S. publications, doing a variety of tasks; from editing to contributing to sports.

In 2002, she got an opportunity to be an intern at the New York Times’ Bureau in Nairobi. Karimi has been a two-time Chips Winn Scholar for her excellence in academics. She’s a Masters graduate from Grambling State University in Louisiana (Mass Communications.) Having won numerous awards – such as best columnist accolade from the Society of Professional Journalists – and worked closely with some of the world’s best journalists in the newsroom (think Rosemary Church, John King, Isha Sesay, Zain Asher & Zain Verjee), she’s indeed done a lot for her age. She’s an excellent content creator and user of new media as she believes in the future of news being digital. Apart from bringing you breaking news and reporting the most vital news in the world, here’s what more about Faith.

Me: What’s your vision for your home country?

Faith: Better economy and more freedom of the press. I also long for those days when we never had to worry about Al Shabaab attacks.

Me: What’s that one moment that you experienced while already working with CNN that made you feel belittled?

Faith: I can’t think of any moment I felt this way. I’m so lucky I work with people who value my input, especially when it comes to issues related to Africa. CNN is like the U.N., so many people from different cultures and backgrounds, so we consult each other a lot. In a way, everyone brings different perspectives.

Me: As a journalist with one of the most influential journalism houses on the planet, there’s the pressure that comes with your position, especially your line being digital. How do you cope with stress…what are some of the fun stuff that you do to unwind?

Faith: I ride my bike or jog after an especially crazy day, and that always calms my nerves. I also love to catch up with my close friends or travel to new places. Sometimes I’ll look at a map, pick a random place and just go. Some of my most memorable times have been from such  trips.

Me: What’s that thing that you really loved but kept pulling you back in your goals that you had to let go?

Faith: Sleeping! I used to love sleeping — I still do  — if there was an Olympic sport for sleeping, I’d have a few gold medals. CNN operates 24 hours, and I work the overnight shift, so  I’m up all night four days a week. But I’ve had to cut back on sleeping during the day even when I work at night so I can get other things done.

Me: What’s it like working with CNN? How’s your typical workday?

cnn atlanta
CNN Atlanta, where Faith Karimi is based

Faith: I love, love what I do!  Sometimes when I walk into CNN,  I still tell myself, ‘wow, I can’t believe I work here. ‘ I’ve always wanted to be a journalist since I was a kid, but  never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be at CNN. My typical work day: I come  to work at 9:30 p.m., and depending on my assignment for the night, we have meetings to discuss the big stories for cnn.com and what direction our overnight team will take them, what fresh angles we can pursue, etc.  We also meet with teams from the TV side to hear what their big stories are so the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. After meetings, it’s crank time — writing, editing, talking to correspondents on the ground, and keeping an eye on social media and the competition to make sure we’re not missing any big stories. The best part about my job is that it’s unpredictable — the game plan can change in a heartbeat if a big story breaks. You  never get bored.

Me: You’ve attended various conferences as a keynote speaker and as a person, you are amazing and inspiring. What are some of the lessons you’ve learnt while engaging in empowerment projects?

Faith: One thing I’ve learned is that we’re all going through the same struggles, the same fears, etc. I used to think a woman from let’s say, Germany, would not have much in common with a woman from Kenya. But attending these events has  made me realize we are all more alike than we’re different.

Me: What do you miss most about Kenya?

Faith: I miss the food and the social life! In Kenya, weekends are for fun and socializing, so when I’m there, I get to see friends and family more, and have a much fuller life. In the U.S., people work all the time and are so spread out, you need a lot of advance planning to visit someone. So you can’t really be impulsive.

Me: Do you plan to come home soon?

Faith: I visit Kenya at least once a year —  I’m so lucky I get to do that.  On moving permanently, absolutely!  I love what I’m doing now, but at some point, I’ll start planning my move back.

This is what Faith does, creating amazing, global-perspective stories for CNN
This is what Faith does, creating amazing, global-perspective stories for CNN

Me: Not so long ago, Soni Methu joined the news organization as the correspondent and host for Inside Africa. How does it feel being joined by a fellow Kenyan, representing the nation’s talent and contribution to global harmony and development?

Faith: So proud of Soni, and excited to have a Kenyan doing Inside Africa! There are so many Kenyans doing big things out there, Lupita, etc. Every time we have a Kenyan on an international platform, all those stereotypes  people have are abolished, so hoping to see not just more Kenyans doing big things, but Africans in general.

Me: What’s your phobia?

Faith: I’m kinda ashamed to say this …. but I’m still afraid of the dark. I sleep with the TV on so I can have some background light and noise.

Me: Favorite book of all time?

Faith: Little Red Riding Hood. When I was a kid, my dad used to drop us off at the library in the morning when school was closed, and pick us up in the evening. That was the first book I remember reading, and it made me fall in love with books.   I keep a copy of it on my book shelf because it reminds me of my childhood days.

Me: What would you do if you woke up and found yourself in a spaceship, headed to a far away?

Faith: I would be so excited that I was going to see something different and out of this world! Then I’d ask the captain if we have wireless Internet so I can tweet and Instagram the adventure.

Me: What’s your favorite Kenyan dish and do you still enjoy it while in the US? Faith: Farmer’s Choice sausages! We don’t have them in the U.S., so I eat like 10 a day when I visit Kenya. I love them so much, my brother brings me some to the airport whenever he’s picking me up at JKIA.

Me: At the office, who has mentored you over the years since joining CNN? How important is itand why do you think young people should have mentors?

Faith: I went to university in the U.S., so I met a lot of great professors and amazing journalists  along the way. To this day, I still talk to a couple of them for career advice. Their help has been invaluable, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to have mentors. We all need a little help navigating this crazy world.

Me: What are some of the major challenges you’ve had in your journalism career?

Faith: The challenges were mostly when I was getting started.  I had a hard time finding jobs —   some media recruiters assumed my English was substandard just because I was a foreigner, so it took a lot of hard work and proving myself to get opportunities. Me: What does the future in journalism look like?

future_of_news

Faith: The future of journalism looks very digital and mobile. Our generation gets most of its news via mobile devices, and that’s where we are all headed now. Everything will be on our fingertips.

Me: When’s your birthday and what’s the best/worst gift you’ve ever gotten on that special day

Faith: My birthday is June 6.  The worst gift? Hmmmm … I’m not so big on specific gifts, anytime someone is thoughtful enough to take the time to get me something, I consider it an honor. But my best gift ever was a letter my mother wrote to  me on my first birthday in the U.S. I was only 18 and having  a hard time adjusting to life here. In the letter, she said she named me Faith because she knew I’d need a lot of faith someday — like at that point in my life. She died the same year she wrote that letter, so I treasured it even more. I carry it with me everywhere.

You can read Faith’s articles, ranging from politics to lifestyle at CNN.com

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