The historic deal struck early Tuesday between Iran and world powers ended 20 months of negotiations aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program–and a long slog, albeit in Vienna, for journalists like NBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
“The last 24 hours have been a mixture of fascination at finally being briefed on the details of the final compromises, frantic deadlines juggling live coverage of breaking news on all of our platforms,” Mitchell told TVNewser from Vienna, where she says she feels like a witness to history. “Especially for someone whose early years at NBC News were spent covering the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 and ’80, this is potentially a transformational moment.”
History, of course, doesn’t always make for great TV. For Mitchell, whose job involved staking out negotiators involved in the painstakingly slow process of debating every single word of an agreement, it was a challenge to capture that sense of history. “I have the advantage of having covered nuclear energy years ago at NBC News as well as arms control during the Reagan years, so I am familiar with the technical discussion, but it is a visual challenge – especially because we weren’t given many photo opportunities,” Mitchell said. “I try to focus on storytelling, take advantage of still photos on social media and find a way to communicate the drama of these complex negotiations – truly an emotional roller coaster for the negotiators. It’s also important to do the stakeouts and try to get the players to talk on camera when they take breaks. But the power of this story is in the issues at stake, not the pictures.”
Getting the players on camera first involves an old trick that Mitchell learned: bring a box to stand on. “If you are 5’3″ like I am, having a loud voice doesn’t help if Kerry or Lavrov or any of the ministers can’t see you. So stand on something big.”
Mitchell did not go unnoticed, grabbing one of the first interviews with Secretary of State Kerry after the final deal was announced. That, however, meant missing a lot back home to be in Vienna. “I hated missing our neighborhood July 4th parade and of course my Dad’s 101st birthday. I missed a lot of other assignments – like the China hacking story that I’d been covering which came to a head and Hillary Clinton‘s campaign travel which I’ve been covering. The heat wave in Vienna didn’t help, or the wind and rain during my MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Reports show. And most of all I missed my husband (former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan), but we at least could FaceTime.”
Over the weekend, Mitchell filed an NBC News Firsthand report from Vienna, where she showed viewers the palace where negotiators were at work–and the tent where reporters were enduring that Vienna heat wave with limited access to air conditioning: