Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Soup Cans Interview: Dan Harris

Each Sunday, we make sure to check out the first-rate Dan Harris anchor, in our opinion, one of the only weekend news programs worth watching: ABC's "World News Sunday." Here Harris tells Soup Cans, in an exclusive interview, about his stage fright, how he copes with criticism (constructive or not) and who he has to thank for helping him match his suits and ties.

What have been some of the most rewarding and challenging parts about anchoring "World News Sunday" over the last year and a half?

It's incredibly thrilling -- and also terrifying -- to have my hands on the steering wheel once a week. I still find it very challenging on many Sundays to figure out what the lead story should be. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to cajole the senior producers into stacking the show my way (even though I usually lose).

What did it feel like to return to your Alma mater, Colby College, in 2005 to deliver the Commencement?

It made me incredibly anxious. This may sound counterintuitive for a television reporter, but I have really bad stage fright. So speaking in front of a couple thousand people (some of whom were my former French professors) was daunting.

I was also a little bit sheepish. I mean, I can't imagine those kids wouldn't have rather had a cooler speaker than me.

That said, it was a huge honor. My parents were psyched.

You've done numerous reports on controversial subject matters, such as religion. How do you respond to those who are critical of you and your stories?

To state the obvious, being criticized is never fun. We correspondents have delicate constitutions; we like our inboxes to see a regular flow of "attaboy" notes. So the reverse can smart. However, once the sting subsides, criticism is often pretty useful. A few months back, the father of one of my fellow correspondents (who's a scientist) sent a very thoughtful critique of my coverage of a story on evolution. It changed my way of thinking about science stories.

You've described yourself as "fashion-dyslexic." Has this changed much?

There is no cure for this condition. However, my fiancée, Bianca, is very vigilant. She monitors my tie choices regularly. (This is embarrassing, but I also have some pictures in my closet of which ties go with which shirts.)

You've been to some of the most dangerous places in the world like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel, and Iraq. What's been the most worrisome situation you've ever found yourself involved in?

My personal favorite correspondent-in-danger story is from Torah Bora, back in 2002. I was shooting a standup, when some bullets started whistling overhead. Naturally, I got really scared and hit the ground. In the frame behind me, however, you could see that none of the Afghans were ducking. My crew gave me a lot of crap for that.

David Muir has told Soup Cans that he never wears his Red Sox cap in Yankee stadium. As a Boston native, do you?

David's a huge wimp.

Kidding. (The guy's like twice my size; he could kick my butt.)

I've never even actually been to a Yankees game.

Which of your stories are you most proud of?

I've got a story coming up next week (7/8, to be exact) that I think could be strong. "How To Buy A Child In Ten Hours." It's a Nightline investigation. We went to Haiti and negotiated to buy (but did not actually buy, of course) child slaves. Using hidden cameras, we found traffickers who were willing to sell us children -- any age, either sex -- for as little as $150. We also went out and met child slaves and their owners. Haiti has a huge child slavery problem; there are an estimated 300-thousand kids in servitude there. I had no idea about this -- or about the enormous problem of modern day slavery generally -- until I read a new book called "A Crime So Monstrous", by E. Benjamin Skinner. I recommend it.

The story I'd like to start covering more aggressively, however, is global warming. In my opinion, it's the most important problem in the world, and we (the media, the country, etc) are not talking about it enough.


Anonymous said...

Dan Harris is just the best!!! Not only can he deliver the news effectively, he also does it with that charming smile of his, just a delight to watch and listen to, plus he's hot, hehe...

Anonymous said...

Dan Harris is the best, absolutely!

Anonymous said...

Dan Harris is the one reporter, since the late Peter Jennings, that moves me enough to watch his broadcast every Sunday evening. He inspires me to better educate myself, and to hope for more. I am pleased immensely that he works on the same network that Peter loved. Thank you, Dan!

macIlvaine said...