Jim Sciutto On His Return to Reporting: ‘I Think I’m More Fearless, Because I Know More’

By Alissa Krinsky 

With foreign affairs continuing to dominate headlines in September, these are heady days for reporters who thrive on covering global policy matters. Count among them Jim Sciutto, who returned to TV news last week as CNN’s Chief National Security Correspondent.

“Not a bad day to start, in the middle of a debate about military attacks on Syria,” Sciutto tells TVNewser, reflecting on his first day on air for his new employer.

Sciutto stepped away from television for nearly two years. In late 2011, he left longtime home ABC News to work abroad as chief of staff and senior adviser to U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke.

Beijing was a good fit, Sciutto says, given his longtime fascination with the country. He majored in Chinese history at Yale, and is proficient in Mandarin.

The job was meaningful as well, he explains, because “I’d long had a dream of doing public service, and I’m glad I did it.”  The diplomatic role, he stresses, is distinct from having worked in a political position or having taken a lucrative government-related consulting gig.

Still, Sciutto’s journalism homecoming prompted a difference-of-opinion debate on Twitter just last night.

“Turns out, it was a waste of US taxpayer $$ to move @jimsciuttoCNN to China to work for Obama. He didn’t stay long & now ‘reports’ for CNN,” tweeted media critic and Fox News contributor Richard Grenell.

Sciutto responded with a tweet of his own, inviting Grenell to “watch my reporting” and that “my record stands.”

In an interview earlier this week, Sciutto told TVNewser he wouldn’t think twice about tough coverage of the administration’s handling of foreign policy. “I think I’m more fearless because I know more. I got a real education in so many of the national security issues, and foreign policy issues. It makes your questions smarter, and your stories smarter.”

Scuitto says being on the ‘other side’ — as the subject of reports, rather than the reporter — only reinforced his belief in what journalists do. “There is an important mission in news, covering important stories intelligently.”

He joined CNN after also holding talks with ABC, which could not offer him the same type of reporting position. “They have Martha Radddatz!” Sciutto points out.

Sciutto now works at an organization that reunites him with a number of former ABC News colleagues, including Jake Tapper and Chris Cuomo. There’s an appeal to being at CNN, Sciutto says, which is “recommitting itself to hard news. There’s a lot of excitement here about how Jeff Zucker is re-energizing the place.”

The D.C.-based gig, Sciutto says, is “right up my alley,” allowing him to combine his interest in reporting both on foreign affairs and on the federal agencies responsible for global policy decisions.

His first day back last week was hectic but satisfying. “I went on the air half a dozen times, and the next day more. I hit the ground running, it was a blur. But I was excited to do it.”