Nick Wrenn

22.04.04

Obvious leading stories for today’s morning meeting: Basra and Diana pictures.

Reaction from the suicide bombings in Basra gives us a chance to examine again the differences in approach between the British and American troops in Iraq. Weary though of hearing about “softly softly” tactics. Thought that was a programme my folks used to watch in the early 70s.

In Iraq we’re trying to find out about the human tragedies too, but these stories are difficult to tell.

Moving crews around Iraq is very dangerous and the safety of our staff is the first factor to consider when planning coverage.

No surprise that CBS took flak on Fleet Street for airing those Diana pictures.

And no surprise that there’s plenty of interest in the US as Diana remains a figure of fascination over there. I remember being in America when she died and people would come up to me saying: “I’m so sorry about your loss.” The photos of course have been around for a long time and there’s no way CNN is showing them. But there’s a strong debate and plenty of opinions for us to reflect in our piece.

Talking of icons, our World Sport anchor, Don Riddell, just got back from Argentina. He was blown away by the vigil for Maradona. Those pictures of him the day before he fell ill were staggering. And the legend status may not survive much longer.

Don says youngsters over there find it hard to see him as anything other than a sad bloated man who appears on TV and rambles on about Castro.

23.04.04

Whatever went bang on that railway line in North Korea, it was huge.

We have our Beijing correspondent Jamie Florcruz with a videophone, correspondent Sohn Jie-Ae in Seoul and plenty of guests talking about the aid effort, North Korea’s secret society and the rail system. But nobody has any video. With a scramble underway for hard facts, it’s fertile ground for conspiracy theories so I read on the web that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had travelled through hours before the explosion.

After work, drinks for a couple in the newsroom who are off to tie the knot at an Elvis wedding in Las Vegas.

It’s the first sunny Friday of the season so Carnaby Street is singing and swaying.

There’s an Irish pub over the road that is a regular haunt. This marriage thing is catching. Our correspondent, Rym Brahimi, announces she is leaving to marry Prince Ali of Jordan.

25.04.04

The European Union expansion has given us a chance to explore the nooks and crannies of the continent.

Any story with the key phrases “EU and politics” is a tough sell. But our teams have produced some compelling tales which we’ve been able to run as special series on our shows, building up to 1 May. Richard Quest, the early morning anchor, has busted out of his daily routine to spend two weeks in planes, trains and automobiles across eastern Europe in a camper van. Today he was in the Czech Republic hunting Skoda enthusiasts who still insist on driving around in the old crappy models.

Reminded me of a colleague on my first newspaper who ignored all advice and insisted on buying a Skoda out of sympathy for oppressed communist workers, only for the engine to explode five miles from the garage.

26.04.04

Conflict flares again in Fallujah.

Some of the big US networks have pooled resources in Iraq to ensure we all cover the stories but minimise the risk to staff. Today CNN has Karl Penhaul working for this pool in Fallujah and the live pictures coming back show the intensity of the battle, fire and thick smoke rising from buildings. This a day after the Coalition suggested progress in talks to find a peaceful solution to the standoff.

Karl is one of the reporters we have used to get to trouble spots quickly.

He uses a lightweight camera and a laptop to report live, edit pictures and sound and file packages back to base on the internet. This technology allows reporters to move and operate quickly in the field. And because they don’t carry much kit they are less conspicuous.

Karl’s the kind of bloke who just glances at this kind of stuff and gets it straight away.

Every afternoon there’s a conference call with Atlanta who are five hours behind and planning their day.

We talk about a report highlighting the failed terrorist attacks in Jordan, which includes interviews with the suspects.

27.04.04

Richard Quest has moved onto Vilnius, Lithuania, and has gone clubbing.

The camera lens attracted the young ladies, I was told.

A morning meeting at ITN. CNN has a strong affiliate relationship with ITN. During the Iraq War CNN staff worked in their newsroom. Love the building there at Gray’s Inn Road, all glass and big open space. I worked there with Reuters for a while and there was always a good buzz about the place.

On the news side we stayed a while live in South Africa for Freedom Day – great pictures – then switched to Gaddafi in Brussels. It was a pretty surreal scene with the tent and the female bodyguards in combat gear.

28.04.04

Our newsroom couple got married in Las Vegas. The nightshift were able to watch live via webcam. Elvis conducted the ceremony, starting proceedings with a rendition of ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love.’ Gearing up for the EU Expansion special on Saturday. We plan live broadcasts from Dublin and Warsaw.

But Richard Quest is not so chipper: great unpleasantness for 12 hours following a visit to a medieval theme restaurant. He suspects it was the chicken liver paté.

Our Lagos correspondent, Jeff Koinange, is in town judging the African Journalist of the Year Award nominations, an event CNN sponsors.

Jeff breezes over to the newsdesk with a big smile. Later I see him taking time to sit down and talk with our interns. Also back in town, senior correspondent Walt Rodgers. Walt led from the front on our coverage of the war in Iraq last year. Just back from another spell there, he confirms reports of a rapidly deteriorating situation.

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