Using a cameraphone to cover Iraq for CNN

By Nic Robertson

As I climbed out of our armoured car at the Iraqi checkpoint my heart was pounding.

I knew what I had to do, but now the moment had come: would I buckle? I had been trying out new mobile phones to see how they could be used to support CNN’s field newsgathering. Test clips had showed that the phones delivered amazing quality pictures easily.

We are starting to get the technology on air. This is a new tool in our armoury. It helps us not just to tell the story, but to use it to get pictures on air first, and more importantly, get pictures where some don’t want those shots seen. Which brings me back to Baghdad.

As I walked around the armoured car I made sure I’d hit the red button to activate the recording. With an hour’s record time and 1 gigabyte of memory, I knew I could let it roll on. But would I have the nerve to point it at the armed guards at the checkpoint we wanted to film? Holding the phone by the screen and the lens towards the gunmen, I stepped out from behind the car and tried to nonchalantly strike up a conversation with our producer while carefully aiming the phone. It worked. We got exclusive pictures of the underground bunker where Iraq’s new government had allegedly been torturing its citizens.

Within a few hours the shots were e-mailed and broadcast on air. Soon there will be no waiting, we’ll be able to broadcast live right form the spot with our mobile phones. Please don’t ask if I’d have the nerve to do that at a checkpoint.

Nic Robertson is senior international correspondent for CNN.

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