Rare Get-together for CNN’s Foreign Correspondents as They Reflect on 2011

By Chris Ariens 

CNN’s Anderson Cooper hosts a year end special with CNN’s foreign correspondents, including (l-r) Ben Wedeman, Arwa Damon and Nic Robertson

It’s a good thing today was a relatively quite international news day because most of CNN’s foreign correspondents were gathered in New York talking about about the incredible year that was. From the Arab Spring to the triple tragedy in Japan, reporters Nic Robertson, Ben Wedeman, Arwa Damon, Hala Gorani, Matthew Chance, Sara Sidner, Kyung Lah and Ivan Watson crowded into Piers Morgan’s studio at Time Warner Center where Anderson Cooper, who’s also reported from many of the world’s hotspots this year, lead the discussion.

CNN International EVP Tony Maddox tells TVNewser the get-together, which happens once every few years, “was the greatest gathering of foreign journalists on the planet.”

Before the taping we asked Robertson what is his most remarkable moment of this remarkable year. Robertson, who started as an engineer with CNN in 1990, says it was the uprising in Bahrain in February. “We were approaching Pearl Square and all hell was breaking loose.” Robertson used his iPhone to report live on CNN. Later, as he was rushed out of the area, he used the phone to record more video and his audio for a package that was edited in Atlanta. “That’s a far cry from 36 boxes of equipment we used to use,” added CNN EVP Ken Jautz

who worked alongside Robertson in the early 1990s when Jautz was based in Germany.

Cooper asked the correspondents what makes a good day of reporting: “When you’re there and something happens and you can go live,” answered Wedeman. “If you can capture a moment that encapsulates what’s going on, that’s it for me,” added Chance.

The discussion also focused on life on the front-lines and what happens when the action stops. Cooper asked the correspondents how they set apart the tragedies they report on and the personal emotions they feel.

“For me, it happens on the flight home… and the tears are all down my face. And then I walk through that door and I’m dad,” said London-based Robertson who has two daughters.

Many of the correspondents are already on their way home to cover the next big story. Damon (left) heads back to her home-base in Beirut tonight, before leaving for Baghdad as U.S. troops prepare to move out this month. We ask, what’s going to be the state of Egypt, and Libya and the rest of Middle East this time next year? Damon looks perplexed. She, and all her CNN colleagues say they never expected the events of 2011 and can only prepare for — and report on — 2012 as it unfolds.

The special will air later this month on CNN and CNN International.