‘I FIND EVERYTHING FASCINATING’

In the hushed bedlam of a TV news room where things often go horribly wrong — hilarious bloopers that viewers at homes never get to see — she's always cool, calm and collected.

By Vijay Dandige (Contributor)

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Published: Fri 15 Jul 2005, 3:52 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:18 PM

Once, as she was reading the news, she noticed that the cameraman had dozed off in his chair and was snoring. Being on air and unable to get up or shout to wake him up, she thought up a simple idea: she started crumpling the papers she had finished reading into small balls and began lobbing them at him during news breaks.

The cameraman woke up just in time, avoiding what could have been a faux pas for a reputed TV channel. That same ability to keep unruffled amidst the most trying of vexations and distractions is the special forte of Nima Abu-Wardeh, the region's high-profile media personality. She is the presenter of BBC World's weekly financial programme, Middle East Business Report, which is broadcast from Dubai.

She has covered prestigious events, among others, the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos and Geneva, the Islamic Development Bank annual meeting in Burkina Faso and the economic crisis in Argentina. At the beginning of the second Intifada, Nima produced and presented ‘Palestine Under Occupation’, on The Business Channel and Channel 33.

Before joining BBC, she started up The Financial Times Television's Arabic desk in London, worked as an anchor for Arab News Network, had a stint in Al Jazeerah's London office, and was producer and presenter of the Business Channel in Dubai. Nima Abu-Wardeh was honoured last week for her achievements by Khaleej Times in association with Coral International Hotels, Resorts and Spas; she is the fourth of many prominent UAE personalities to be presented each month with the Coral International Hotels, Resorts and Spas Trophy for excellence in their respective fields.

At a specially organised luncheon in the hotel, she was presented the trophy by Fadi Mazkour, Business Development Director, Coral International Hotels, Resorts and Spas. Also present on the occasion were Mohammed Elkahla, Hotel Manager, Coral Deira, Jan Harrison and Nadege Noblet, the hotel's Human Resources and Communication and PR managers.

Athletic, exuding boundless energy and exuberance, Nima is down-to-earth, natural, totally unaffected, despite being in the perpetual tumult of media spotlight. Simply attired in a turquoise sweatshirt, white trousers and wearing a necklace of beads that once belonged to her grandmother, she looks like a typical girl-next-door. But that could be deceptive because she confronts on her shows, Heads of State, Prime Ministers and Finance Ministers of countries with the same gusto with which she tackles everything else in her life. “I find everything fascinating,” she says.

Of British-Palestinian descent, she was born in England where she did her initial schooling. When she was seven, she moved to Kuwait where she had to learn Arabic the hard way. “I was chucked into an Arabic milieu and really had to struggle to learn the language,” she says. Some years later, she went back to England and attended the University of Kent, for her medical engineering degree. While doing her masters in health service, she began doing an Arabic TV show, six days a week. She also started writing articles for magazines.

Nima doesn't think it odd that she studied medical engineering and ended up with a media career. “It all makes sense when you think about it. Everything in life has one single link that connects you to the next step. I started my TV career doing medical reports, because I had medical background,” she says. Later, when The Financial Times launched a bilingual project, she went over to FTTV because she was bilingual and had TV experience.

While doing TV work, she took some courses in TV broadcasting. “What I studied enabled me to go to these various links to where I am today. I was doing something that came naturally to me. So, it's no big deal that I wasn't trained as a media person.” Which is why she thinks that a good journalist ought to be a well-rounded person. “Someone who has common sense, a good intellect and reads a lot, not a blinkered person. If you've a varied background, it allows you to go into many more things,” she says.

Nima believes her dual lineage has worked both ways, in her favour as well as against. “It's an advantage in the sense that I made a conscious decision to learn Arabic and so have succeeded in creating a niche. I can explain the Arab perspective. At the same time, it's a disadvantage because people can use it against me, to say I am not objective.”

Young girls constantly come up to Nima and tell her, “I want to be like you.” What does she tell them? “I tell them just keep at it. I call it the woodpecker approach; you keep chipping away. If you've real passion, you will succeed, in whatever shape or form it may be.” Equally, she thinks it's important to think naturally. “For instance, a lot of people don't volunteer for jobs, just to get experience,” she says. “I find many people are blinkered; they operate within boundaries. I tell them to do something, instead of complaining about lack of opportunities or whatever. If you volunteer for work, you build up a momentum. And one day when you apply, you already got experience. I've been actually called for a job. I volunteered for work and that made me known to people.” Many youngsters go for the media career because of its glamour or fame. But for Nima success doesn't mean big things: the trappings of money, power or fame.



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