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Dana Bash’s ‘Badass’ Video Series Breaks Barriers for CNN

Variety logo Variety 6/6/2017 Brian Steinberg
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With a new series, Dana Bash will shine a brighter light on female politicians as well as the emerging capabilities of CNN.

The cable-news outlet’s Chief Political Correspondent will on Tuesday launch a seven-part series, “Badass Women of Washington,” which profiles such political luminaries as Senator Dianne Feinstein; U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao; Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro, and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. In a surprising moment, Bash asks Senator Feinstein for her recollections of the 1978 murder of Harvey Milk, a request that gives her pause, but then prompts her to revisit a memory that clearly still haunts her.

“You can see she sort of stops herself, takes a breath and groans before saying out loud, ‘I never talk about it,’” says Bash.

Bash’s interviews, five and a half to seven and a half minutes in length, will show up on CNN, but they will live more fully online – another signal of the Time Warner outlet’s growing digital ambitions. In recent months, CNN has hired a bevy of digital journalists to boost its online political-news presence, launching daily newsletters and podcasts. The company has also launched a new technology portal.

“This is not something I would have been able to do just a couple of years ago,” says Bash.  The series can be found at http://www.cnn.com/badasswomen.

The idea was to talk to various female politicos who have broken barriers throughout their careers. Secretary Chao, for instance, is the first Asian-American woman to serve in a Presdient’s Cabinet. Senator Masto is the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate.  Representative Jeanne Shaheen will talk about the balance between running for office and having a family.

The series lets viewers see the politicians in a very different light. On TV, they are often called upon to respond to this breaking-news issue or that White House policy. But in Bash’s series, they have room to breathe.

These reports “are very different, and some are very intimate,” she notes. “It’s nice to take a breath, take a step back, and have these conversations with these people.”

Bash has been having conversations with Capitol Hill residents for years. She joined CNN in the late 1990s as an editor and producer, and spent time covering the U.S. Senate. “I was kind of the pesky producer who would bother people in the hall for information or a quote or whatever it was,” she says.

The idea for the series was sparked after the 2016 presidential election, she said. She and colleagues began asking what the decision meant for women, and Bash began seeking out women from across the political spectrum. “There are already so many women in Washington doing really great work who have broken barriers and who are not necessarily well-known – in some cases, unsung,” she says, “It took on a life of its own from there.”

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