NBC’s anchor-at-large Ann Curry is in Tehran at this hour, where she got the first U.S. interview with newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. CNN has already been promoting an interview Christiane Amanpour will get with Rouhani when he travels to New York later this month for the annual gathering at the U.N. Curry’s interview, conducted at the presidential compound a few hours ago, will begin airing tonight on “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.” The conversation touches on the crisis in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program, and Rouhani’s recent communication with President Obama.
With foreign affairs continuing to dominate headlines in September, these are heady days for reporters who thrive on covering global policy matters. Count among them Jim Sciutto, who returned to TV news last week as CNN’s Chief National Security Correspondent.
“Not a bad day to start, in the middle of a debate about military attacks on Syria,” Sciutto tells TVNewser, reflecting on his first day on air for his new employer.
Beijing was a good fit, Sciutto says, given his longtime fascination with the country. He majored in Chinese history at Yale, and is proficient in Mandarin.
The job was meaningful as well, he explains, because “I’d long had a dream of doing public service, and I’m glad I did it.” The diplomatic role, he stresses, is distinct from having worked in a political position or having taken a lucrative government-related consulting gig.
Still, Sciutto’s journalism homecoming prompted a difference-of-opinion debate on Twitter just last night.
“Turns out, it was a waste of US taxpayer $$ to move @jimsciuttoCNN to China to work for Obama. He didn’t stay long & now ‘reports’ for CNN,” tweeted media critic and Fox News contributor Richard Grenell.
Sciutto responded with a tweet of his own, inviting Grenell to “watch my reporting” and that ”my record stands.”
In an interview earlier this week, Sciutto told TVNewser he wouldn’t think twice about tough coverage of the administration’s handling of foreign policy. “I think I’m more fearless because I know more. I got a real education in so many of the national security issues, and foreign policy issues. It makes your questions smarter, and your stories smarter.”
It has not been a good week for Al Jazeera, the Qatar-backed international TV news organization.
German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that the NSA spied on internal Al Jazeera communications, according to documents obtained by Edward Snowden. Al Jazeera would be the first news organization that the NSA has been confirmed to be spying on.
Meanwhile, a handful of Al Jazeera journalists that were detained last week were freed by Egyptian authorities… but they were promptly deported from the country. The AP reports that correspondent Wayne Hay, camera operator Adil Bradlow and producer Russ Finn were deported for “working in Egypt without a permit or license to use satellite transmitters.”
Hay, a freelance journalist based in Thailand, is traveling back to his native New Zealand to rest.
Also an Egyptian court ordered that Al Jazeera’s Egyptian affiliate, along with three other channels, should be shut down for posing “a threat to national security.”
With cameras clicking and flashbulbs popping, and with the leaders of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia on either side of him, Pres. Obama spoke about the situation in Syria. Obama’s remarks were recorded by the pool and fed out around 2:45pmET. They followed Secy. of State John Kerry‘s remarks earlier with results from an unclassified U.S. investigation into a chemical weapons attack in Syria last week. The president:
“We are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act that would help make sure that not only Syria, but others around the world, understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban. Again, I repeat, we’re not considering any open-ended commitment. We’re not considering any boots on the ground approach.”
Scott Pelley anchored a special report on CBS along with Pentagon correspondent David Martin. David Muir anchored on ABC along with Martha Raddatz. And on NBC Lester Holt along with Andrea Mitchell reported on the President’s remarks. Christiane Amanpour who splits time on CNN and ABC, was part of the special report on CNN.
All eyes are turning to Syria, as escalated rhetoric suggests that a U.S. attack could be imminent. Unlike Iraq, which saw correspondents reporting while embedded with U.S. troops or from the balcony of their hotels, it is not nearly as clear whether U.S. networks will have the same presence in Syria.
It seems as though the situation is fluid for pretty much every network, so things will likely change before any potential U.S. action. That said, some outlets have people in place inside Syria, while others are working on it. Interestingly, two U.S. networks (NBC and ABC) are relying on UK correspondents for reports out of Damascus.
CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer arrived recently in Damascus (see photo to above), and is expected to be there for some time. She reported for the “CBS Evening News” and “CBS This Morning.” NBC News’ Richard Engel reported from Syria earlier this week, and is currently on the Turkey/Syria border. ITN’s Bill Neely is in Damascus (NBC and ITN share some content and correspondents), and has been reporting there for NBC, and Ayman Mohyeldin is reporting from Beirut. ABC News has chief foreign correspondent Terry Moran and Middle East correspondent Alexander Marquardt reporting from Beruit, Lebanon, Muhammad Lila from Antakaya, Turkey, Matt Gutman from the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Molly Hunter from Jerusalem and the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen contributing to ABC News coverage from Damascus.
On cable news:
A total of four journalists for Al Jazeera have been detained in Egypt by authorities there in recent days, including Al Jazeera English Bangkok-based correspondent Wayne Hay. The other Al Jazeera staffers being detained are camera operator Adil Bradlow and producers Russ Finn and Baher Mohammed.
“Al Jazeera calls for the Egyptian authorities to release all our staff unconditionally along with their belongings and equipment,” the channel says in a statement.
All four were detained while covering the ongoing crisis in Egypt, following the military coup. The AP reports that the Egyptian government is considering a ban on Al Jazeera’s local affiliate for “rumors and claims which are harmful to Egyptian national security and threaten the country’s unity.”
With all eyes on Syria, ABC News has announced plans to reopen a bureau in Beirut, Lebanon. The network’s first bureau there was opened in 1968 by Peter Jennings and closed in the 1990s.
“Beirut was a city Peter Jennings made his own. So it’s fitting – and timely – that ABC News is returning to a place that is one of the best listening posts in the Middle East,” managing editor of international news Jon Williams said in a statement.
ABC News correspondent Alexander Marquardt will be based in the Beirut bureau. In his first assignment since taking on the role of chief foreign correspondent, Terry Moran will report from Beirut on the escalating conflict in Syria for all ABC News platforms beginning today.
NBC News is handing chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel his own production unit, which will produce both short-form and long-form pieces for all NBC News broadcasts and platforms.
The company has also named Madeleine Haeringer as the EP of the unit. Haeringer worked closely with Engel for years, and was most recently senior producer of NBC worldwide newsgathering.
“The Engel unit will not only deliver robust, real-time coverage of breaking international news such as the chaos currently unfolding in Egypt — but also pursue longer-lead reporting, carry out investigations, secure newsmaker interviews, and uncover stories of human interest and global significance,” wrote David Verdi, senior VP of newsgathering in an email to staff obtained by TVNewser. “The unit will combine speed, access, and analysis to bring our viewers and readers to the front lines of international developments wherever they take place.”
NBC is in the process of staffing up the unit. More details in Verdi’s email, below.
Longtime Sky News camera operator Mick Deane was shot and killed in Cairo, Egypt this morning.
He was there with his team covering the violence in the capital city, as Egyptian security forces cleared public squares of supporters of ousted president Morsi. As noted by former CNN executive Eason Jordan, Deane was a camera operator for CNN based in Rome back in the 1980s.
“Mick was part of a Sky News team reporting on the disturbances in the city with Middle East Correspondent Sam Kiley when he was shot and wounded,” Sky News said in a statement. “Despite receiving medical treatment for his injuries, he died shortly afterwards.”
Sky News has more on Deane, here.
Over a hundred people are said to have been killed in the violence in the last 24 hours, including a few other journalists.
Egypt has become a dangerous place for reporters in recent months. A BBC correspondent was shot in the face by shotgun pellets in July, resulting in emergency surgery.
CNN’s Arwa Damon is also in Cairo covering the protests, and had to duck for cover during a report as automatic gunfire screamed past their location.