Last week a friend of mine, an old family friend, landed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Aamer Mansoor Trambu, a final year student of journalism in Mumbai, India. We had our usual exchange of life stories and recording of random video clips for our own music video (he wanted to showoff what he learned at the school of journalism and I wanted to showoff my Adobe After Effects skills).
After shooting a few clips on a hand held we decided to do something crazy. Visit random companies and pester them with million questions about their work. So we decided to head to CNN at Dubai Media City.
I want to get something off my chest before talking about this visit. Generally students – as far as the ones in my university – think its not possible to talk to people in industries they are interested in. This is because our college professors never encourage us nor tell us how to request CEO’s and managers to show us around. On the other hand many students aren’t interested themselves. If you try it the right way, companies would love to show you around as long as you truthfully tell them why you are there.
Anywho, I called 119 (Information services) and asked for CNN’s number. They didn’t have CNN listed, weird. We realized Dubai Media City has their own website listing all the companies in fields of News, TV, Publishing, Events, etc and Dubai Internet City for Software, Corporate Solutions, Telephony, ISPs, etc. Dubai Knowledge Village for Institutes, Colleges, etc. We got CNN’s number and called them up.
The operator didn’t seem to understand what we wanted because he asked us to drop in our CV. After a few minutes of explaining we were two students interested to know more about CNN Arabia’s daily function he transferred us to a sweet lady, Miss Samia. She asked us to meet the next day (14th Nov) at 12 pm. We could not believe it. CNN is just a call away!
The next morning I had to be in college for an hour to finish a MATLAB assignment; which I make a point to attend. Unfortunately, sitting for long at the computer lab caused an acute hip joint flair up (my Ankylosing Spondylitis) and took 20 min to get into the elevator a few meters away. As usual with A.S. randomness the pain subsided on my way back home. We got ready and took a cab to DMC but reached at 12:30, Late.
We reached and entered the nice building which had restaurants and coffee shops, took the lift to their floor. Everything was in place as it is in an office building, meaning we found our way to CNN without any problems. There was a guard sitting at the front desk, we asked for Miss Samia and he told us to wait. She came in a min later, asked if we would like to have something and took us to the main … hall, that was it, CNN middle east was just a hall with two rows of tables; a Senior editor (in a room), editors, maybe a few technicians and a journalist! This amazed us at first, we thought CNN, a huge brand of Time Warner, to be a whole floor of the building, but it was just a hall. She made it clear to us why. Technology and need. CNN’s parent company is in Atlanta, USA. CNN Dubai is for arabic.cnn.com and they basically write articles/reports in Arabic for the ME region from this office. Online videos on the Arabic website are edited, post-processed and translated here. Video footage/feeds come from all over the world to them, and again, technology has made it easier. All communications between various globally situated offices is done through the internet. They don’t need a huge office to broadcast their streams here. Its all done from UK for CNN International, Hong Kong for Asia Pacific and South-east Asia.
We asked about their role as journalists while getting news from ME, and said most of it comes from their own CNN sources or through AP, AFP, Routers etc. Each story has to be conformed at least by 2 sources before they can publish it. If they need to cover something important or live, they can rent a news van, hire a freelance journalist, cameraman and sound engineer. We ended the meeting by asking about internships. The most basic requirement is knowing Arabic and English and writing in both languages. Having skills related to media management (video editing, photography, handling cameras, basic networking etc) is a plus. I forgot to ask where did they get their awesome CNN carpet? A Persian blue with huge CNNI logo all over it. The whole meeting lasted for about 20 to 25 mins.
In the next article I will write about our impromptu visit to Geo TV (Pakistan’s #1 news channel).