DUBAI: CNN will go live from its new state-of-the-art broadcast facility in Abu Dhabi on Monday, signifying a new chapter in the network’s commitment to the Middle East.
“The multimillion-dollar investment in what is state-of-the-art technology in Abu Dhabi gives us a real opportunity to increase our ambition in the work that we do,” Becky Anderson, managing editor of CNN Abu Dhabi, told Arab News.
She added: “In this era, more than any other, it’s so important for an organization like CNN to have one of its key international hubs here in the Middle East region; getting to see stories through the prism of the region is absolutely essential.”
Located in twofour54’s Yas Creative Hub, the new CNN bureau increases the scale and scope of the network’s operation in the UAE.
As one of CNN’s key international production hubs, alongside Atlanta, New York City, London and Hong Kong, the launch also marks the latest of several major investments in technology and editorial production for the channel.
The 80-square-meter studio will be home to CNN International’s flagship current affairs program, “Connect the World with Becky Anderson.”
Abu Dhabi has been a key hub in CNN’s global operation since 2009 when the network first opened its bureau in the UAE. The hub is one of four key bureaus and the investment in Abu Dhabi is mirrored by recent investment in CNN’s bureaus in London, New York City and Atlanta.
“What’s going on here very much fits into state-of-the-art investment in operations around the world, but this (region) is absolutely key both editorially and commercially for CNN,” Anderson said.
The new bureau is designed to enable multi-platform content creation, a must for media outlets in today’s increasingly technology-driven world. With artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT being able to write everything from essays to recipes, one wonders if the future of journalists and journalism is about to change.
Anderson, who has been in journalism for 25 years, said that in some ways everything has changed but in other ways things have stayed the same. Everything has changed in the way news is gathered and social media has played a part in that, she added.
“But there isn’t any substitute for being on the ground and getting that visceral experience,” she said.
“There’s no substitute for verification, balancing and fact-checking in our reporting, and I wouldn’t rely on AI to do any of that.”
Technology can help in broadcasting, publishing and providing different platforms for content but it fails to be a substitute for actual reporting, she said.
Anderson, who has more 35,000 followers on Instagram and almost 140,000 on Twitter, said that social media has “given us a wonderful way to deepen our relationship with our audience, and I really enjoy that.
“It means that we’re not restricted to the confines of the show or our other traditional platforms when it comes to sharing thoughts or discussing a story.”
It also serves journalists as a tool to give people a behind-the-scenes view into reporting, helping them “convey other aspects of a story beyond what we are sharing with our journalism,” she said.
But Anderson added: “It’s important to maintain some separation between work and personal life.”
She said: “Journalism is a calling, and it is never easy to decompress and detach oneself from what we do, especially when we are witnessing extreme situations, but it is really important to maintain that separation.”
Last December, hundreds of CNN employees were notified of layoffs in a memo sent by CEO Chris Licht, CNBC reported.
Earlier this year, News Corp, the parent company of outlets like The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, said that it would cut 5 percent of its workforce or 1,250 jobs, and Vox Media, the publisher of New York Magazine, Curbed and SB Nation, told employees it would ax about 7 percent of its staff.
Anderson, however, is optimistic about the future of CNN’s regional operations.
“We are an extremely successful operation here in Abu Dhabi, and the Middle East couldn’t be more important to CNN as a network,” she said.
“Our investment in the new bureau underscores our commitment to the region.
“I’m in charge and I’m very ambitious.”