Tonight I am watching a movie I've seen several times before, but am always amazed by, Live From Bagdad. It tells the story of the news men and women that were in Iraq in the days leading up to and during the first hours of the Gulf War in 1991. The story is told from the point of view of the CNN on-location producer Robert Wiener. At the time CNN was the first and only 24 hours news network, but hadn't yet made a serious name for itself. The Gulf War changed all that in one shocking, brilliant moment as the skys lit up over Bagdad and CNN had the only secured live feed back to the west.
At around 2:30 am on January 15th the bombs started dropping on Iraq and CNN went live. Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett & John Holliman began non-stop broadcasting describing the events unfolding as best they could for an audience that could only hear the bombs and the anti-aircraft guns in the distance. The broadcast was picked-up by all the major networks of the United States and around the world. These three men from CNN had a birds eye view of bombs dropping from the sky, and had the eloquence to describe the event. Not since the radio days of World War II were American audiences so captivated by radio style news broadcasting. From 2 am to 5 am, CNN ruled the kingdom of news. It would catapult them into the stratosphere, and give them the power to stay on top of the news business for many years and create a viable business model for 24 hour news. Today, we all expect our news anytime day or night; back then it was dinner time.
It is an interesting contrast to the start of the second Gulf War. With satellite phones and video phones, the press better prepared; no single network was able to take the day the way CNN was able to do in 1991. No network probably ever will have such great luck of timing and perseverance again, at least no in my lifetime.
Below is first few minutes of Bernard Shaws history making broadcast: