Editor at Large Ally Martell interviews CNN Hong Kong Reporter Anne Kruger who is originally from Toowoomba. Read about her youth, memories from USQ and her career highlights in this exclusive interview.
How did growing up in Toowoomba influence you?
Growing up in Toowoomba gave me the best of both worlds. Many of my friends at school came from agricultural areas and that gave me insight and perspective into the primary industries. While I was a ‘day’ student I visited various farming properties of my border friends when on holidays. I also loved how we could drive an hour and a half and be amongst cows in the paddock in one direction, or drive in a different direction and be in the City of Brisbane. I was also very fortunate to have been taught by some talented cultural teachers such as the late John Penny who taught me stage presence in our school musicals and an English teacher that taught us how to read Shakespeare. I guess Toowoomba instilled in me wonderful traditional family values and an understanding of how both regional/rural areas are just as important as the city to Australia’s identity and economy.
What are your favourite memories of uni? (USQ)
Where to begin? There are just so many! I made some wonderful friends in the music faculty, we all just seemed to gel, it was very easy and I formed some true friendships for the first time in a long time. My best friend Alison Chappell from USQ and I schemed together a few years after graduation to match-make my brother and her sister, so we were quite proud of ourselves when the pair married and even more so now that they have a gorgeous young family! The late Peter Rorke believed in the students and taught us skills that have been helpful throughout my career. Later as a post-grad I had Wendy Lorenz teach me piano and I felt like I was learning from a true master. Another life-saver for me was a studies skills course I took up at the start of my Bachelor of Arts studies at USQ. For the first time I actually learnt how to learn. All of a sudden I could recall reams of information with relative ease as I figured out I was a ‘visual’ learner and used the techniques outlined from the course. I went on to use the same skills in my career continuously as a journalist to recall information.
I later studied journalism subjects part-time while a cadet reporter at WIN News and The Chronicle. The department was very supportive when I moved to Singapore to work in radio. I needed to study through Distance Education – this was in the days before widespread use of email and online information. The journalism subjects were particularly helpful in learning about news values, how to write in news style and media law and ethics. This background gave me an important foundation and confidence boost!
Your career has taken you all over Australia and to Asia. What is your proudest career moment?
It was an interesting time for me when working at CNN and a lot was happening from the War in Iraq to SARs and the Bali Bombings. Working at CNN was a pinnacle that I had set my sights on and I also happened to have our children in the time I was working there. I will never forget presenting one of my first live bulletins when I was in the early stages of pregnancy with our daughter. Just as the ‘On-Air’ lights went on and the count-down began in my ear-piece … she began kicking! I was very proud to be sharing the moment with her! It’s hard to pick out one career moment though as in journalism it all builds and adds together – no experience is a waste as you put it back into the perspective you bring to your reporting. I like to think that I have remained even-headed and not too ‘proud’. I’ve witnessed many people that hunger for ‘fame’ from journalism, but they never seem satisfied. While I’ve always been ‘driven’, I’ve never let my career dictate or affect what is most important in life.
I always thought I’d retire from journalism practice and begin a new career as a University Lecturer and casual news reader. Well, I’m not quite sure that I’m in any way ready to ‘retire’ yet, but these are the roles I’m taking on now! I’ll be teaching journalism full time at Hong Kong University, which is a huge honour as the Journalism and Media Studies Centre of HKU is at the forefront of journalism education in Asia and is involved in some very exciting projects. Just for fun I’m also working for the public broadcaster here in Hong Kong (similar to the ABC) as a news reader. I have also recently finished writing a book for journalists titled “In the field: a reporters’ guide to Australian commodities’. It brings together formal economics training and information from experts such as Saul Eslake in an easily digestible form for journalists to apply to their work. It aims to strip away finance and economics jargon so it’s useful for many people, not just journalists. I draw a lot from my experiences working at the rural current affairs programme “Landline” so there are some interesting insights from the halls of the ABC!
How is raising a family in Hong Kong different compared to Toowoomba.
Home sickness is something that many expat families have to deal with. While living and working overseas can be very exciting, there is always that nostalgic pull to return ‘home’. Our children have beautiful memories of kindy and Prep in Toowoomba, we’re glad they got to form an understanding of ‘Aussie identity’ while living in Toowoomba. Living in Hong Kong we have been determined that we want our children to be open and accepting of different cultures and experiences. This includes learning the Chinese language properly and not complaining about new or different experiences. One of the biggest challenges for us though is the lack outside of space. We are fortunate to live near a well-resourced park but we have to make sure we regularly take the children there. It was much easier back in Australia when we could just open the back door and instruct them to run around the house, climb a tree or kick the footy! Another factor is the heat. While the children are very active in sports at school, it is hard work in summer. It’s not just the temperatures being in the 30’s, it’s more the high humidity levels that are difficult when combined with the heat. That was never an issue in Toowoomba!
One of your degrees is in classical music but do you have a favourite artist or composer?
I love playing Mozart sonatas on the piano, especially a bright Allegro fast first movement. But I also love the different tones and ‘colour’ from Debussy. My aim is to practise a few Chopin waltzes to keep in my fingers for life. Growing up I used to visit my grandmother’s neighbour – a beautiful elderly widow named Sofie, originally from France. I would always ask Sofie to play piano for me. Sofie was very humble about her playing and would always laugh at first and refuse, but I would pester her until she relented! Her main repertoire included Chopin Waltzes. I was inspired and in awe. To this day I am still in awe as I recall her fingers perfectly manipulating the colour and rhythms of those Chopin waltzes. She would have been in her eighties when she was playing for me. I imagine she must have had some amazing training and exposure to culture but she never spoke much about it.
Your work from WIN News to Landline to CNN required a different wardrobe and look. What style of clothes do you like best? I truly think I am a chameleon! I love to dress according to the occasion. To me it is a show of respect and understanding for my audience. I am drawn to quality and classical styles but all the better if they have a twist. Be it colour or fabric or cutting I admire styles that have a bit of thought to them. That doesn’t necessarily mean fussy or cluttered as sometimes simple, classic lines are the most alluring on women! My favourite outfit for Landline was a watermelon pink RM Williams’ button up cotton shirt. I felt appropriate and comfortable in that and I had the same feeling when wearing beautifully cut suits by designers such as Carla Zampatti or George Gross and Harry Who at the news desks of WIN and CNN. It all has to do with the moment, location and the occasion.
Where was your last holiday and what did you love about it?
My husband travels the world in his job and thankfully takes charge of all the planning of our holidays. He went ‘all out’ last holidays and planned two weeks’ skiing in Canada followed by a week in New York. While he planned all the logistics, accommodation etc, I however was in charge of where we ate! I can say we ate our way around all the best Italian restaurants in Vancouver and New York! The best thing about the skiing in Canada was that you work off the calories attempting to stay in one piece on the slopes. We also do as much touring ‘on foot’ as we can when on holidays, so I was confident my daily walk around Central Park meant I ‘earned’ my dinner each night in the generous restaurants of New York!
What are you reading now? (can be books, magazines etc hard copies or on a Kindle)
This is a very timely question now that I have just finished my Masters thesis and writing my own book. My shelf for the last year and a half has been filled with scholarly reference books on journalism, research techniques, economics and finance. Now for a little bit of a change I am reading ‘The Enneagram: Understanding yourself and others in your life’, by Carol Bagattini. This is a hard copy from a workshop I attended based on research by psychology professors at Stanford University. It explains how people are motivated by different priorities – so that when someone doesn’t ‘jump to it’ or react to situations as I would in life that doesn’t mean they don’t care, they just see the situation differently! It ties in to journalism as I’ve always been interested in finding out ‘what makes people tick’ and the Enneagram combines modern psychology with traditional wisdom to explain how we can use our gifts and strengths to combat our struggles and problems.
What would you like to be doing right now on the Darling Downs?
Winter on the Darling Downs is a treat, especially as I type this in hot and humid Hong Kong! If I could choose anything I would visit an art gallery during the day, attend a USQ concert, savour the food from Weis restaurant, marvel at the colours of the sky in the crisp, cool air as the sun sets, followed by a glass of red wine by a homely fire-place. Heaven.