TV anchor for CNN
It’s the second day of Davos and the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum is in full swing. More than 2,300 business and political leaders are gathered in this Swiss alpine resort to "brainstorm creatively on the biggest challenges facing our businesses, our countries and humankind as a whole". It’s a tall order.
I arrived two days ago — Davos is three trains and three hours from Zurich, tucked up in the mountains — and the months of preparation are being put to the test. The team of more than 20 is flat out producing not just morning and evening programming, but also a special edition of CNN Connects, an hour-long live debate that will be broadcast this evening.
I’m moderating the debate and spend the morning rehearsing and doing more research. We have an impressive panel to debate ‘Europe’s Identity Crisis’. But what a topic to whip through in an hour!
One of our correspondents, Karl Penhaul, has spent months producing a documentary, filmed through the eyes of immigrants across Europe. We’ve selected some choice quotes from it, which are certain to get the debate going.
One of our panelists, the controversial Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is a women’s rights activist who advocates an end to the suppression of Muslim women through domestic violence and forced marriage.
Her views have made her a target of Muslim political extremists, so she lives in Amsterdam under police protection.
However, with a reported 5,000 police at Davos, her security detail is confident that she can appear.
Joining her is Jean-Francois Cope, French Government spokesman. With the French riots fresh in everyone’s mind I steer a careful line not to concentrate on him too much, but he has plenty to add to the debate on lessons learnt.
The President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the Vice- President of the European Commission, Günter Verheugen, former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and Economic Minister of Turkey, Ali Babacan, all make for a lively panel.
05:45. An early start… again. We wake to reports indicating that the militant Palestinian opposition group, Hamas, has snatched power from the ruling old guard. We’re quickly up and running with guests giving live reaction from Davos as the business news gives way to politics. In-between live reports, I prepare for another panel session.
This time I’m moderating an official WEF session: ‘Next Steps for Africa’. Among the panelists are Bono, who has grabbed headlines with the launch of a new global brand, Product Red, which will see a share of profits go to the fight against Aids in Africa, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown. It’s a high-profile session and the room is packed, with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt adding some Hollywood stardust to the audience.
From Africa to the Middle East, and at 7pm I’m interviewing Shimon Peres. He has just arrived from talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah about the implications of the Hamas victory for the region and the peace process.
There’s a slight altercation as we arrive; Peres’s PR isn’t granting any interviews to radio, BBC’s Today programme or otherwise. The interview is away from the Congress Centre and the room looks terrible, but Scottie, the cameraman, works miracles to get a decent shot. With the interview on tape we trudge back through the snow to the Congress Centre.
As night falls, the temperature has dropped even further.
I’m glad I have my snowboots to hand as I watch those who chose leather-soled heeled boots struggling in icy conditions. The interview is fed from the live point — a wooden platform and satellite truck at the rear of the Congress Centre.
With hours anchoring on air from the live point during the week, I feel I know it too well. Someone stole our heater a few days ago and we’ve been working with puny fan heaters ever since. But it looks fantastic on air, and who is to know that it actually overlooks a car park and we’re standing on a hastily-constructed strip of plywood under a white plastic tent?
It’s Friday night and the team are in celebratory mood. So am I when my 1am live is cancelled and I get to leave work at midnight. I meet the rest of the team in the bar of my hotel where we enjoy a few local drinks…
Davos is starting to wind down, and a few of us covering the meeting have been dispatched to Jerusalem, Dubai, Dharamsala and back to London. But we still have a number of high-profile interviews to go, including Queen Rania of Jordan and Michael Douglas, and the Hamas story is continuing to dominate the headlines.
Several colleagues are finishing pieces for today’s round-up programme. I’m leaving Davos for a short break, to go next door to Klosters, where the skiing is much better and the town isn’t teeming with WEF delegates.
After a full day and a morning spent skiing, it’s back to reality. I’m on the little mountain train, heading towards Zurich, ticket in hand — next stop Vienna as an emergency session of the International Atomic Energy Agency is called for the international community’s showdown with Iran over its alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapons programme.
I am due to anchor our European prime-time coverage and as I cross the square to the satellite truck I feel like it’s home from home. The engineers from Davos, Edwin and Andy, have driven the truck from Switzerland to Vienna via Poland and are there to meet me.
I interview two experts at Vienna University for the feature programme Global Challenges. They are crystal-ball gazing on the potential for DNA information to be used in preventative medicine.
As soon as I finish the interview I get a call saying the Iranian ambassador is ready to do an exclusive interview with CNN, and with that I’m out the door and on my way.