Monday, 22 October
We start the week by moving an extra team into Turkey to complement Nic Robertson’s reporting from northern Iraq. Tensions are high and we have good help from our sister channel CNN Turk. If everything suddenly sparks, we’ll be in good shape to respond on both sides of the border.
But restraint prevails and instead we find ourselves focusing on California. Fires have spread across a vast area and it becomes our major story of the week. At first in our coverage, we drop the names of A-list celebs whose homes are under threat. But it is much more significant and we sense major interest from our international audience.
As well as all the human stories, there is focus on how the politicians respond after the debacle of Katrina. And California, with its big personalities and big lifestyles, is always an enormous attraction.
Tuesday, 23 October
We are getting powerful reports from California. I’m struck especially by the piece-to-camera by Larry Himmel, a correspondent from our local affiliate CBS8, who reported on his house of 25 years being razed to the ground.
As his belongings burned, he kept focused on his job with only a slight trace of emotion in his voice. Now that is dedication to the profession.
I find myself applying the London dinner-party housing market analysis. Either there are some pretty dumb vendors out there or they have some razor sharp estate agents selling properties that have a high chance of being engulfed by a wall of fire.
Wednesday, 24 October
We’ve turned the CNN bug at the bottom of the screen from red to green for the screening of Planet In Peril, a four-hour documentary from 13 countries which we’re airing over two days. The bug is a vivid green but it gets the point across.
The documentary has had a big impact across CNN – we laid on special preview screenings for London staff – and I was encouraged by the positive pick-up in the press. ‘When CNN announces it is to produce a documentary that will examine our changing planet, the viewer may be confident that the resulting creation is unlikely to involve Alan Titchmarsh in a Millets gilet,’observes The Sunday Times.
Wednesday evening and off to Berlin for the NewsXchange conference. I like Berlin. Not the prettiest city by any means but it has a real sense of gravitas. I also find it a very friendly city. The traffic moves and lots of people ride bikes. Everyone looks calm and serene. Not like London, where people ooze anger and agitation.
Tonight I dine out courtesy of Nigel Baker of APTN and catch up with Ferhat Boratav from CNN Turk and my boss, Tony Maddox.
Thursday, 25 October
Several hundred execs and on-air talent from across Europe have gathered for two days of media introspection. Lots of them seem to smoke. No ban here, for now. I bump into a couple of ex-BBC colleagues, John Angeli and Rob Freeman, for the first time in years. We discuss how newspapers are using video: the good, the bad and the ugly.
Meanwhile the conference is tackling Russia and Iran and there is another lamentably long list of journalists who have been killed over the past year. Delegates rise and stand in silence.
Star of the show today is Alan Johnston, who delivers an understated yet compelling account of his months held hostage in Gaza. He comes over exactly how he did after he had been released – modest, articulate yet candid about his fears. I ask him if he would go back to Gaza and he even manages to raise a laugh with his answer. He’d not want the BBC to have to launch another global Free Alan campaign, he says.
Tonight, we entertain colleagues from our affiliate channels around Europe and our marketing team have found an incredible venue, Axica, in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate. It’s a vast glass structure designed to resemble a fishbowl. The crystal sculptures hanging from the roof cost £1m and perched at the top of the building is a boardroom with plasma screens the size of my flat.
The dinner is a loud and lively affair. I eat too many chocolates.
Friday, 26 October
The NewsXchange conference begins the day by considering whether YouTube will open up the US election to greater participation and accountability or stifle debate and deaden politics because everyone’s too scared to crack a joke or speak their mind. It’s interesting how many of the discussions this year reference round to digital media. A lot can change in a few short years.