AWARD-WINNING journalist Manveen Rana is set to launch a daily podcast show with the Times on Monday (16).
The former investigative reporter for Radio 4 and BBC News had made global waves with her project named The Dhnie Family, which documented a “Syrian family’s perilous journey from living as refugees in Jordan to Europe”.
Rana, 39, said she was “excited” about being part of the new series titled Stories of Our Times.
“Podcasts offer listeners the chance to cut out the noise of modern life and really engage with a story,” she said, promising “compelling storytelling”.
Talking of storytelling, Rana recalled trailing the Dhnie family, with no access to even restrooms—“unshaded unshaded by day and freezing by night”.
During the journey, she faced a life-altering dilemma at a remote Serbian village shop. Left with just a euro, Rana, who was starving for two days, had to choose between buying chocolate and charging her phone to post updates from her journey.
“I was so tempted [to buy the chocolate], I can’t tell you,” Rana told the Times. “But I chose journalism.”
During her 17-year career at the BBC, Rana made a mark with sensational investigations such as sexual misconduct allegations at Save the Children charity and shady deals of Bell Pottinger and the Gupta family in South Africa.
“One of the things I fought for at the BBC was the ability to do stories in depth, she said. “You really struggle at the Today programme, or the Ten O’Clock News, to go beyond three or four minutes.”
One such in-depth reporting assignment saw her kidnapped in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, where she had spent nearly two years.
Rana said: “I was kidnapped, around the time they were kidnapping people to get the highest price from Isis, just before the beheadings started. I came within a gnat’s whisker of being raped and killed several times, which was not much fun either. I was exceptionally lucky.”
Rana had been taken hostage by a man and a woman, who, after hours of an ordeal, dumped her atop a mountain, “with nothing—no phone or money—and no way of getting back, with Beirut twinkling in the distance”.
“I was in shock,” she said. “I remember talking really loudly to myself to show I was still alive.”
Rana’s “in-depth” probe into sexual misconduct at Save the Children resulted in “horrendous amounts of legal pressure”, with the charity reportedly spending £100,000 on the case.
Eventually, however, a Charity Commission inquiry accused the Save the Children of “serious failures and mismanagement”.
And the charity apologised: “We are profoundly sorry that we let the women and our organisation down.”
On the new journey with Stories of Our Times, Rana hopes to “tap into younger podcast listeners”, as she promises to combine good journalism with “the depth and the compelling storytelling that you can create with a podcast”.
She said: “For anyone trying to navigate the modern world, that’s a godsend!”