CNNI’s Tony Maddox on the CNN Freedom Project: ‘[Modern Day Slavery] is clearly something which is very wrong and very wicked’

By Alex Weprin 

This week CNN International and launched the “CNN Freedom Project,” an initiative to highlight and help end the plight that is modern day slavery.

CNN International executive VP Tony Maddox is the one who conceived of the initiative, which will include segments integrated into CNNI’s normal programming, as well as full-length specials highlighting the issue. There is no culminating event here, and no end in sight. The initiative will go on as long as Maddox and his team decide to keep it going.

“This is not a story to passively cover, like a here’s one side, here is the other side, or both sides of the story sort of thing,” Maddox told TVNewser yesterday. “This is clearly something which is very wrong and very wicked, and something which we need to highlight and do in a consistent and repeated fashion.”


While Maddox and the CNNI and teams are spearheading the initiative, the content will be made available to the CNN domestic network, and Maddox expects some of it will be picked up.

“Some of these stories are focused in the U.S.,” Maddox says. “I am sure they will be picking up on certain stories and present them across the air.”

The Freedom project comes not long after Maddox added oversight of most of CNN’s domestic bureaus to his plate. Of course, as he joked in our conversation, right as he took over domestic newsgathering, international news heated up.

“We have had a lot on internationally. That is one of the ironies, isn’t it?” he said. “I was given these increased domestic responsibilities and suddenly internationally things light up. But even in that we have seen some genuine benefits of being able to involve different people in the coverage, and now we are in to the details of what is the best way of us combining assets.”

Some of that was apparent during the coverage of the situation in Egypt and throughout the Middle East, where CNN/U.S. would simulcast CNNI’s feed.

“I give [CNN/U.S. executive VP] Ken Jautz a lot of the credit for that, he is behind the initiative of us combining programming,” Maddox says. “In the past when we have had breaking news stories you would have CNNI doing its coverage and CNN/U.S. doing its coverage, and certainly in the field that was quite a challenge because you had to service two outputs.”

That sort of coverage is a model is one that viewers will likely see more of in the future.

“When the pressure points arise, when the big stories arise, it is like the new modus operandi for us, it has worked very well,” Maddox says.

For more on the CNN Freedom project, see Maddox’s op-ed, here.