Victoria Brown, Executive Producer, CNN International Productions

When I moved to the UAE in 2009, it felt more like a homecoming than a relocation. Having grown up in the Gulf, I was back to help launch CNN’s first broadcasting hub in the Middle East. Little did I know that this move would grant me a front-row seat to witness not only the region’s profound transformation but also the dynamic shifts within my own industry. 

Over the past 15 years, my life in the UAE and CNN’s coverage of the region have undergone remarkable changes. Back then, we had a modest setup—a nightly news show, a weekly business show, “Marketplace Middle East”, and a monthly cultural feature, ‘Inside the Middle East.’ The bureau was predominantly male, and I found myself among the few women navigating this landscape. 

Fast-forward and the landscape in and outside our bureau has changed dramatically—mirroring the sweeping changes in the Middle East post-Arab Spring. We emerged as a female-led powerhouse, with Becky Anderson as Managing Editor, Anchor and our Abu Dhabi Bureau Chief, Caroline Faraj as our Vice President for Arabic Services based in Dubai, Eleni Giokos as Anchor and Correspondent, Paula Hancocks as our International Correspondent and me overseeing regional features as Executive Producer. With our mostly female team, we have broadened our content offering, showcasing the multitude of stories that define this region.

Our coverage has diversified, from launching ‘Decoded,’ our prime Dubai-based tech show hosted by CNN’s Anna Stewart, to chronicling Abu Dhabi’s entrepreneurial journey in ‘Start-up Trail’ to exploring Saudi Arabia’s hidden gems in our ‘Destination’ travel series. Every day, we debunk the notion that it’s all about sand dunes and camels. 

With a dynamic crew of strong producers and anchors – many of us female – from all corners of the globe we are not only shaping our content but our bureau, embracing diversity and rolling with the changes.

Thoughts for the industry 

Now, when you ask me about the future of our industry, I’d sum it up in one word – ‘evolution.’ Just like my life and career in the Gulf, the news industry is in a constant state of rapid transformation. The Middle East boasts some of the world’s most engaged social media users and with a tech-savvy, young population, news is no longer consumed just via TV but the majority of the time through smartphones. 

CNN’s philosophy? Go to the audience. In this landscape, my vision involves maintaining a focus on delivering a comprehensive range of stories. However, the key lies in ensuring that these narratives reach audiences through the platforms they actively use.

In Abu Dhabi, we’ve been quick to catch on. We’re shaking up our storytelling, experimenting with social-only series like our collaboration with Facebook on a Ramadan special, “Together Apart,” in 2020. We’re tailoring content that speaks to our viewers, utilizing data analytics to guide us. This entails not only identifying the topics that capture our audience’s interest but also leveraging analytics to inform and actively engage them. This forward-thinking approach positions us at the forefront of industry trends, ensuring that our content remains relevant, resonant, and tailored to the evolving preferences of our audience.

The city around me is transforming rapidly, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by a team of young Gen Z tech enthusiasts who keep me on my toes.

It’s an exciting time, not just to witness this change but to actively participate in the digital revolution unfolding before us. I may not have been around when Ted Turner shook up the news industry with a 24-hour channel in 1980, but I’m thrilled to be part of this new digital frontier, embracing change and steering my team toward a future that promises endless possibilities and even more stories to tell.