It was Friday morning in Atlanta 20th July 2012. I just got up and was getting ready to go out for my early morning breakfast before heading to the World largest aquarium when a breaking news from CNN rooted me to the spot.
Early that morning in Aurora, Colorado, a lone gunman wearing a bullet proof vest had walked calmly into a theater screening the movie "Batman: The Dark Knight Rises" with four weapons and had sprayed bullets into the audience, killing 14 and wounding at least 50. The man was later identified as 24 year old James Eagar Holmes.
As I continued to follow the unfolding drama of this breaking news, I can not but start to appreciate more of the people behind the scenes bringing the latest piece of information to us at neck breaking speed which I am certain would be valuable to the families of victims of the tragic incident.
Only the day before, I took a tour of the CNN Center located at Atlanta. As we walked through the guided tour through the various stages of how the news are processed before they are broadcast to the public, I am simply dumbfounded.
Here, within the building housed all the various departments that managed CNN, but more importantly are the heart of the news room where every bit of global happenings are channeled through, their contents verified, news scripted and ultimately broadcast to the public. Herein are the studios of the various channels under CNN where live presentations are being filmed as we walked around the building.
The technology used is phenomenal. We were shown the Magic Board which apparently cost over USD300K and how it was used to give weather forecast and how at a touch of the screen, the presenter could easily zoom into a particular area or open up another window, much like how we would play with an iPad, just that this iPad is over 4 feet tall and 8 feet wide!
We were also shown how presenters are guided through their presentations with prompters as well as the challenges they faced. We were informed that although some presenters were shown seemingly very knowledgeable of the subject they are presenting but in actual facts, some of the facts were only feed to them via the prompter where they have no previous preparation or knowledge, especially on Breaking news.
Touring CNN Center is not complete without a view of the news room. Here, you will see rows and rows of tables and computers and the people behind them. At any one point in time, we were informed that there could be at least 100 of them there and the number could well swelled up to 300 in event of world breaking news such as the 9-11 incident. Bits of information that came through, contents verified, scripted and passed on the news presenter at the front of the news room which also double as a small studio would just take a matter of minutes. One can imagine the organized chaos and the stress that these guys must be going through in order to break the news to the world at neck breaking speed.
Here, at the CNN Center, we are only looking at the point where news have been gathered, fed back, processed and broadcast. There are still hundreds of reporters out there in the field, some braving enemy fire to bring to us the latest unraveling of a country's struggle or the mass killing of innocents by a few power hungry dictators. At the lobby of the building lies one of the Humvees that were used by CNN reporters during the Iraq War in 2003. This vehicle was literally a moving CNN station, where news are processed and broadcast within the war zone. It also doubled up as the living quarters of a technician, a driver and an cameraman.
This tour definitely opened up my eyes to the work needed to keep us all updated on the happenings globally and I have learnt to appreciate each news that I watch just a little more ....
I flew past Colorado over Aurora the following day on my way from Atlanta to San Francisco and it kept me thinking what a tragedy it was and what could have triggered a man to do such heinous crime.