CNN International Chief on Cost of Coverage: ‘You don’t know the half of it’

By Alex Weprin 

CNN International executive VP Tony Maddox speaks to B&C‘s George Winslow about the coverage of Somalia and London, and the cost of covering international incidents.

When you have a year like this with a lot of big international stories, has that really ramped up some of your costs?

You don’t know the half of it. It has been a year of significant investment in our ongoing news coverage. But we want to invest in quality news coverage. It is what the brand is about, and we see increases in our audiences when we have those really big news stories. For our distribution partners, it also helps to reinforce the idea that CNN is a vital service and a distinctive service. That is an important message for us when we talk about renewing our distribution rates. Although it involves investment, it is ultimately good for business.

Maddox was also asked about “fly-In” reporting, which has become increasingly common as foreign bureaus get shut down for financial reasons:

These big international stories have come at a time when a lot of U.S. news organizations have shut down many of their international bureaus. Where does that leave the U.S. TV industry in terms of covering international events?

It is always possible to fly into stories. We fly into stories. We are not always permanently based in some of the places that we go to. But frankly I think the audience cares about authenticity. I think they know whether or not you are committed to a story, whether or not you have the background knowledge and a genuine expertise. If they see [CNN’s] Arwa Damon reporting on Syria, [its apparent that she speaks Arabic] and has grown up in that region and that she knows the region. There is an expertise and an authenticity there that is very difficult to achieve if your journalism consists of helicoptering into a place for 24 to 48 hours and then leaving again. Ultimately, that doesn’t give you the same quality of coverage and the same level of intelligence, no matter how well-intended.

You can read the full B&C interview, here.