Coming from a small village in India and eventually working at CNN International in Atlanta, Rena Golden rose to become one of the most influential decision-makers in presenting world news to audiences around the globe.
Golden, a former CNN International senior vice president, was “one of the most talented journalists and managers I have ever worked with,” said Chris Cramer of New York City, former president of CNN International.
“Rena was feisty and passionate about both news and her staff,” he said. “She believed strongly in what CNN wanted to do with global news and had the ability to juggle news and business objectives with the soft skills that encouraged her staff to perform beyond their wildest dreams.”
Cramer said he and Golden partnered in the late 1990s in creating a regionalized version of CNN International, tailoringbroadcasts to the news interests and time zones of various world regions.
“Rena had a real skill in finding, hiring and nurturing a new slate of on-air talent,” Cramer said. “A few years later she almost singlehandedly rolled out a new look and feel for the network, which became the envy of news channels around the world.”
Rick Davis, CNN’s executive vice president of standards and practices, said Golden oversaw essentially four regional networks — CNN Asia, CNN Europe, Mideast & Africa, CNN Latin America and CNN-USA — “and yet she managed to stay on top of it all.”
With all that responsibility, he said, she also was a devoted wife and mother and a great and loyal friend.
She was innovative, too. It was her idea, Davis said, to package the best of Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” each week for rebroadcast on weekends, and it became a popular CNN International feature.
Rena Shaheen Zeya Golden, 51, died Wednesday at her Roswell home of complications from lymphoma. Her funeral will be at 4 p.m. Sunday at Temple Kol Emeth, Marietta. Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care is in charge of arrangements.
Born in Bettiah, India, she came to America at age 6 with her parents and siblings. She earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of North Carolina and a master’s in journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
She started at CNN as a producer after being told by an executive that viewers might not accept a news anchor with South Asian features, said her husband, Rob Golden. Rather than being defeated by such a bias, her husband said, she decided to push for greater diversity in hiring as she rose in her CNN career.
One of her hires was CNNI anchor Isha Sesay, who credited Golden with changing her life. “She took my dream and made it a reality,” Sesay said. “I am grateful for her guidance and constant kindness. Everybody should have a mentor like Rena.”
Golden’s husband said she left CNN to earn an MBA at Georgia State University because she was intent on heading an established digital media company.
Survivors in addition to her husband include a daughter and son, Sabrina Golden and Adam Golden, both of Roswell; her parents, Hassan and Rehana Zeya of Tampa, Fla.; three sisters, Gazelle Zeya of Land O’ Lakes, Fla., Seema Zeya of Fairfax, Va., and Uzra Zaya of Vienna, Va.; and a brother, Humayun Zeya of McLean, Va.
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