CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Reporting in Brussels: ‘I’ll Never Forget This Experience’

By Mark Joyella 

CNN’s Alisyn Camerota will be back in the studio in New York Monday, but the New Day anchor says reporting in Brussels this week served as a powerful reminder of just how much you can learn going directly to the story.

“Nothing substitutes for the field,” Camerota told TVNewser Friday as she drove to Paris to catch a flight home. “We anchors think we know everything because we read a lot and we research. Things are so much more dimensional and complicated when you see them for yourself. I’ll never forget this experience, having my eyes opened.”

Camerota was part of a large team of CNN journalists who traveled to Belgium in the first hours after terrorist attacks at the Brussels Airport, and a subway station in the central part of the city. She interviewed one of the survivors, Flanny Clain (above, with Camerota), a missionary who was at the airport that morning for a flight to the U.S. “It was intense to talk to her,” Camerota said. “She’s been badly burned, but she is strong and determined.”

After the terrorist attacks on Paris, Camerota had researched and read up on Molenbeek, the Brussels neighborhood where the Paris attackers had grown up. When Camerota’s producer suggested going there, she braced for a hostile reception. “I thought that it was going to be a possibly harrowing experience,” she said. “We truly thought we might be chased out of there and people wouldn’t talk to us.”

Instead, she told TVNewser, “we had the most stunning experience of seeing kids laughing and playing” and talking to people who call Molenbeek home, and raise their families there. “I’ll never again call it a hotbed of terrorism. It’s a town,” Camerota said.

CNN JournosGetting out of the studio also meant working side by side with some of CNN’s overseas correspondents, including Clarissa Ward and Nima Elbagir (with Camerota, left). “To see them in action–they were breaking stories, knocking down doors–it was just truly impressive to watch.”

It was also noteworthy: Camerota’s full six-person team of correspondents and producers were all women. “It was a first for me,” she said. CNN “has women on the frontlines. I’m sure they never think of themselves as female journalists. They’re just badass journalists.”