Fox Business Network’s Cheryl Casone, a veteran who’s been at CNN, CBS, and NBC News, has a rare opportunity this week to report from Syria.
Casone is traveling with a group of American investors through the Middle East for a series called “Opportunity: Investing in the Middle East” starting in Damascus, then heading to Ramallah, the West Bank, and eventually Jerusalem, where she’ll be reporting from the FOX bureau Wed-Fri. It’s the first time a business network has broadcast live from Syria and the first time in two years that any American network has broadcast live from there.
Over the weekend, Casone corresponded with us about her experiences reporting from the region:
Are there any specific challenges to broadcasting from Syria?
Besides the time it took to get the government to give me permission to enter the country with a crew, I think the challenge now is communication. Our Blackberries are only partially working and there is a seven-hour time difference so keeping in touch with New York as we coordinate our broadcast has been tough. Because the people here are not used to seeing an American news crew, we have constant monitors and escorts, something I’m not used to. But thanks to them I’m not writing this from a Syrian jail!
How did this particular opportunity came about and how was it arranged?
I had read a story about a well-known New York broker-dealer who had just opened up the Baghdad stock market to U.S investors for the first time. I introduced myself and set up a lunch. Before I knew it, he agreed to let me accompany him to his next country of focus: Syria. The country is still under U.S. sanctions, but the feeling is that the new administration will change that sometime this year. I’ve always had an interest in emerging markets, but there is a subset called frontier markets. There is a sense among some experts they will be the next markets to take off. So here I am six months laterâ€¦..in Damascus!
In general, what makes reporting in the Middle East different than reporting from other locations?
This is actually my first international trip on behalf of the network. The difference between this and domestic shoots is two-fold. Usually I have a satellite truck and more equipment when I’m on the road in the U.S. In Damascus, we are streaming our live broadcast so it’s less equipment. However, watching my photographer clear seven large cases through Syrian customs was an experience. They left no stone, or lens, unturned.
Having worked at a number of networks, what’s made your experience at FBN different?
When I first went to them with my idea for the “Opportunity: Investing in the Middle East” concept I wasn’t sure how it would be received. The idea that Americans may soon be investing in Syria and can now put money to work in the Palestinian territories was controversial. That Fox Business is willing to take risks speaks volumes about the kind of network we are. Why not challenge the traditional way of thinking? Why not discuss something the other guys are not? If my hunch is right, and these types of markets show solid returns in the next few years, then we were ahead of the game. I could be wrong but Fox Business is giving me the opportunity to find out.