Friday, October 13, 2006


Nick Robertson, one of the original Boys From Baghdad gives us his take about the evolution of newsgathering.

CNN’s Nic Robertson on assignment in Pakistan: “We are breaking the mould. It has been exciting to be at the heart of this, smashing conventions in broadcasting.” Back in 1991 when I had just joined CNN as a satellite flyaway engineer, I was lucky enough to be part of the crew in Baghdad, Iraq, as the allied forces started their assault on the country. At the start of the war, I was in charge of the technology that gave CNN the now world-famous communications advantage. We were not allowed to bring our satellite-TV transmitter into Iraq, so I smuggled in a massive satellite telephone and had to keep our technical gear running during the war. Initially, this involved running a dedicated four-wire communications circuit that gave us the unique ability to broadcast live from Iraq without relying on Baghdad TV’s transmission facilities. When the telephone exchange which the signal relied on was bombed, we resorted to my smuggled satellite telephone. Five days after the war broke out, we received permission to bring our satellite dish into the country. I returned to Jordan and came back a week later with a satellite TV transmitter. This was no small feat. The kit was so substantial that we could only bring it into the country by driving a truck up the main road between Amman and Baghdad — a sitting target for allied bombers. Without that technology, CNN’s historic coverage of the Gulf war would never have been possible. The satellite dish had enabled us to cover the Amaria shelter bombing, where hundreds of civilians were killed — a defining moment in the war for many people. But it was John Holliman’s, Bernard Shaw’s and Peter Arnett’s reporting on the fourwire on the first night of the war that really captured people’s imagination. We were completely cut off in Baghdad with no idea of the impact we had on the outside world, particularly in the early days of the war. It was not until I left Iraq that I began to fully appreciate what we had achieved. Since then, changes in newsgathering technology have transformed the way we work. As I progress from engineer to cameraman, producer and correspondent, I have been on the frontline working with emerging new technology, particularly the new digital newsgathering (DNG) technology that is now shaping the way we operate. We have come a long way from the days of the 30kg suitcase sized satellite telephone that I had smuggled into Baghdad in 1991. We now work with a handheld battery-powered device, only slightly larger than a cell phone. You can fit everything you need to go live in a small backpack. You can now file from remote locations with difficult communications and limited power sources. It is a liberating feeling. DNG really puts us into the heart of a story, and allows us to broadcast live pictures within minutes of changes in a story without having to go back to base. It somehow seems to personify what CNN is about. The network’s founder, Ted Turner, started pushing boundaries when he launched the revolutionary idea of a 24-hour news channel. We pushed the boundaries with our four-wire in Baghdad and, now, we are doing it with our live reporting from the core of a story. Transmission quality today is great using the Apple G4 laptop, and will only get better. Last year, using the latest version of our live software on the G4 and a hotel Internet connection in Riyadh, we did a live hit for CNN which everyone thought was broadcast by satellite because the quality was so good. We expect to go even further this year with the Apple G5, which is equipped with a faster processor, and, very importantly, much wider bandwidth satellite phone and satellite modems almost equivalent to broadband. The future is really good. We are breaking the mould. It has been exciting to be at the heart of this, smashing conventions in broadcasting. Nic Robertson is CNN’s senior international correspondent.

2 comentarios:

marie said...

Technology has really advanced alot in such a short amount of time. :)

I use one of those tiny Sony Vaio laptops for work. It is very portable and weighs about 5lbs.

My other laptop is a HP widescreen. I do use it for classes and scrapbooking, but I love to use it during long waits at the airport.

I bet they also have the adapters used on airplanes. Some commercial carriers have outlets at each seat that can be used to power laptops, DVD players, cell phones, etc.

ivy said...

I always wondered how some of these wonders of technology look. I often catch myself figuring out if a live report is via laptop or sattellite. -) Using laptops for live streams is amazing. Imagine how much quality will improve in 2-3 years with new generation of computers and transmitting options


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