Richard Roth on 20 Years Covering the U.N. General Assembly: ‘It’s really getting to see the world’

By Merrill Knox Comment

As the U.N. General Assembly wraps up this afternoon, Richard Roth is reflecting on 20 years of covering the annual event for CNN.

“All the countries of the world come here, so I think of it as a combination: the World Cup of soccer meets the Super Bowl,” Roth told TVNewser Monday afternoon. “For us, it’s really getting to see the world.”

There are several moments over the past two decades that stick out in Roth’s mind, from then-President Bill Clinton shaking hands with Cuba’s Fidel Castro in the U.N. hallway in 2000 to Muammar Gaddafi ripping out pages of the U.N. charter during his 2011 speech. Through it all, he says he’s learned a few tricks to keep viewers engaged.

“[I try to] be as conversational as possible,” Roth said. “Don’t treat the viewer as an idiot, but don’t overwhelm them with U.N. jargon or unnecessary stats.”

And in his 20 years, Roth says the greatest lesson he’s learned is to always be prepared.

“The U.N. system will always surprise you. You’re often asked on air, ‘what will happen? What do you think will happen?'” Roth said. “It’s a crazy world, and when it’s all in your lap here at the U.N., you can’t predict what will happen.”