The day before his 30th anniversary at CNN, senior United Nation’s correspondent Richard Roth was doing his first live shots from his new (temporary) studio at the UN. It’s a cramped space down the hall from Al-Jazeera English, BBC, CBC, and NHK that the network is using while the UN completes reconstruction on the wing where the studio was formerly housed.
Roth’s cameraman tells senior producer Terence Burke to squash himself against the wall to get his reflection out of the shot while another staffer trips over some wires as Roth prepares to go on air. Between the four men, almost 90 years at the network are represented. “The way things are going, this is rare,” Roth says.
In addition to the studio switch, the morning TVNewser visited Roth was a particularly hectic one with Bill and Hillary Clinton attending a special conference on Haiti. On a busy day, Roth will do 12 live segments between CNN and CNNi. “Every day you’re shot out of a cannon in the morning,” Roth says. “That’s how 30 years can pass.”
With that many years under his belt, Roth has a unique perspective on TV news. “Competitors called CNN ‘chicken noodle news’ and it was thought that we were going be an instant failure,” he says. “There are very few CNN originals left and I feel good that maybe I’m carrying the flag for the original goals of our founder, Ted Turner,” stressing that “the news is the most important aspect of CNN bar none that we should be constantly focused on what is news.”
Roth says “it’s disappointing to see” the recent articles about ratings woes. “But I remember the days when we were in Times Square and we were trying to stop people for man-on-the-street interviews and they would say, “C-N-what? Is that an HBO thing?’ I can remember looking at a woman right in her eyes and saying, ‘No no, you know Ted Turner? He owns the Atlanta Braves, the baseball team…?’ So I look at where we’ve come, and we’re a brand name…CNN means news.”
“Richard’s a great guy, a great friend and a great journalist,” Turner tells TVNewser. “His reporting over the years has been superb and his passion for the UN speaks volumes. The media world wouldn’t be the same without the likes of Richard Roth.”
Only a few “CNN originals” have been with the network longer than Roth, and in the past year, he’s seen two long-time colleagues take their leave.
Lou Dobbs also started at CNN in 1980 and over the years, Roth admits they often butted heads on how the UN should be covered.