CNN Shutters Baghdad Bureau, the Last U.S. TV News Bureau in Iraq

By Alex Weprin 

CNN quietly closed its Baghdad bureau in the last few weeks, TVNewser has learned.

“While CNN is departing its current brick-and-mortar location in Baghdad, the network continues to maintain an editorial presence in Iraq through a dedicated team of CNN stringers and correspondent assignments as news warrants,” a CNN spokesperson confirms in a statement.

CNN was the last U.S. TV news organization to have a real bureau in Baghdad, as other channels shuttered their locations there over the last few years. The closure comes just a month after the U.S. remembered the 10 year anniversary of the war in Iraq, which has seen 4,487 American troops deaths, and thousands more Iraqis.

For CNN, it is also the end of an era.

The cable news channel has had a bureau in Iraq since 1990, before the first Gulf War. CNN’s bureau there has been closed for short periods of time, usually after the Iraqi government kicked out its journalists. The most notable example came in late 2002 (see photo above), just a few months before the U.S. invaded the country.

While Baghdad was the source of much news over the last 10 years, it has become less of a focus for all channels as the U.S. military presence there dwindles. NBC News, ABC News, CBS News and Fox News no longer have bureaus there, though they do maintain small support staffs (i.e. stringers) to assist crews that may travel to the country, and NBC and ABC each have one producer stationed there.

The scaling back in Baghdad is emblematic of a broader scaling back among TV news organizations when it comes to foreign bureaus. Expensive offices filled with staffers that only produce a handful of stories a year are going away in favor of correspondents or anchors who fly to wherever the story is on short notice. There are also mini-bureaus consisting of one reporter who shoots and cuts their own pieces.

Networks also increasingly rely on content partners from across the globe who can supply raw footage while reporters are en route.

Some international news channels, like the BBC and Al Jazeera, maintain bureaus in Iraq, though those networks do not have wide distribution in the U.S., if they have any at all.