Hisham Bourar joined Alhurra Television as its White House correspondent shortly after the U.S.-based Arabic-language channel was launched in 2004. He’s come to love his position, which gives him the rare opportunity of reporting from an up-close perspective on the most powerful person in the world, and is now part of a fast-growing operation at Alhurra. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
What are your most memorable moments from the 12 years you’ve served as Alhurra’s White House correspondent?“There are many, but certainly covering the election of the first African-American president stands out. To be in the front row of this historical moment is something I will always be proud of as an American and as a journalist.”
What has surprised you the most in your stint at the White House?
“Maybe how little information or access you can get after so much effort.”
Being a White House correspondent is a glamorous yet very stressful job. How do you cope with all of the pressures and not let them interfere with your work?
“I believe the passion and love I have for my job help me manage the stress that comes with the territory. Every time I walk into the North Lawn of the White House I feel like I need to pinch myself that I am not dreaming. Here, I am walking into this amazing place that has seen so many events that shaped history and affected the entire world.”
You did a 1 on 1 interview with President George W. Bush in 2008. Describe what it’s like interviewing the president of the United States.
“That was another memorable moment you don’t forget. The interview took place toward the end of President Bush’s second term, so he was reflecting on his decisions concerning the Middle East during his eight years and his legacy. It was certainly one of those interviews that you work so hard to produce and hope to get as much news as possible out of it. You prepare so many questions and race against time to squeeze in as many topics as you can to, but then they tell you your time is up.”
You are reporting on the White House for an international audience. What are the primary differences-similarities between a correspondent like yourself and one reporting for an American audience?
“I believe it makes our task more difficult because you don’t simply translate the political jargon alone but the concepts of the system itself to an audience that does not necessarily follow the daily grind of American politics. When reporting live on air you have to be able to instantaneously phrase your information in a language that is not only understandable but also relatable to your target audience without boring them or getting them lost in the weeds.”
You’ve interviewed a series of dignitaries over the years, including Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani. Is there a certain style that you employ when asking questions of such high-ranking political and diplomatic figures? Is it difficult at times to get them to answer a question in full?
“It is true that politicians are by definition trained to stick to talking points no matter what you do. But you should always try to phrase questions in a manner that limits their ability “to waffle” or dodge the question, while staying alert and listening closely. You also need to be able to reformulate your questions on the fly based on their answers in order to pin them down where you need to.”
After studying Communications in college at the University of Leeds in England, where were you thinking of doing with your life?
“I have always wanted to be a broadcast journalist, and I never imagined myself in a different profession.”
You worked for the BBC and ANN in London prior to coming to Alhurra in 2004. How did you wind up at Alhurra?
“I was starting a PhD dissertation on the presidentialization of British politics, and this was the perfect opportunity for a U.S. political junkie like me to be in Washington at a very interesting period in American history.”
What convinced you that this was the right path?
“The idea behind this venture and the energy and passion of the people involved in the launch of Alhurra.”
Give me three adjectives that best describe Alhurra Television?
“Free, fair and growing.”
With 19 years of experience as a professional journalist, could you imagine doing this anywhere else?
“I had done it before at 10 Downing Street, but I like it here better.”