Television: What to Watch

On Friday afternoon in a quaint tearoom near Manhattan's Park Avenue, I'm meeting Katty Kay, the 42-year-old DC-based anchor of BBC's evening news and regular guest analyst on The Chris Matthews Show. Her rating--unlike those of other female evening-news anchors--are climbing steadily. Maybe it's because with kay and her program, what you see is what you get. No slick graphics. No glitzy set. Furthermore, she considers herself a journalist, not a personality, which is why you won't find her glamour shot plastered on the sides of buses ("Although my mom would probably be delighted if it were," she laughs).

MC: Do you think the lack of fanfare is, ironically, why the BBC news is reaching over 1 million viewers a night in America?

KAY: Partly. We have a different approach. BBC news is not sensational, and it's not simplistic. We are very focused on newsgathering, and we don't make much of a fuss about it. I also think that since the 9/11 attack, there has been a real thirst in this country for objective, reliable reporting on foreign events, and that's why viewers turn to us.

MC: Did you always want to be a journalist?

KAY: The first job I had was in Zimbabwe as an aid worker. My friend who work for the BBC came down and said, "You're in this country. You should be doing stories." He produced a microphone, and I made my first piece. I was hooked.

MC: And then you traveled all over the world covering huge stories, such as the war in Kosovo and the end of apartheid in South Africa. In comparison, is working in Washington kind of a letdown?

KAY: It's actually, exciting in a different way. You know, I get to interview Bill Clinton one night and Mia Farrow the next.

MC: What's most challenging?

KAY: Trying to get politicians to tell you as close to the truth as possible. Cutting through the bullshit is always tough.

MC: On top of it all, you've got four kids...

KAY: Like every working mom, I have to juggle it, but I'm much more fortunate than other working moms who don't have a choice. I'm in the luxurious position of being able to turn something down if it gets in the way of spending time with my kids.

MC: Do motherhood and work ever overlap?

KAY: In Japan it was a bit of an issue. Japanese women tend to give up work when they marry--and especially when they have children. I was there doing an interview one time, and they have a formal procedure where you present your business card. So I put my hand in my pocket to produce my card for this Japanese financier and pulled out my baby's pacifier. The whole room went silent. I laughed and said, "Whoopsie--the perils of being a mother." They didn't find it funny.

MC: If you could interview anyone in the world, who would it be?

KAY: George W. Bush--in 10 years. I would ask him if he concedes invading Iraq was a terrible mistake. I don't think you would get much out of him if you interviewed him today.

Tune into BBC World News with Katty Kay at 6:30 p.m. EST on BBCWorld.

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