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CNN Journalist Shares Brief Thoughts with PJM On “Arab Spring” Assignment

| On 13, Feb 2012

Nic Robertson of CNN poses in front of a burning oil refinery in the Middle East. (Photo courtesy of

Covering international events as they are happening can be an experience unlike many others in life. But, taking a front seat during revolutions that have been waiting decades or centuries to happen creates completely different headlines.

CNN’s Nic Robertson, a senior international correspondent, knows this type of adventure first-hand. He covered the 2011 uprisings in Egypt, Libya, and Syria — better known as “Arab Spring” and still continues to work in the area. This part of the world dominated global headlines for much of the year as people fought for democracy and other basic rights of expression we take for granted in the U.S.

Robertson took a few minutes to speak directly with Prune Juice Media after a non-televised CNN Dialogues panel at Emory University titled, “The Arab ‘Spring’: A Path to Democracy?” He offered us a first-hand perspective not often given by journalists. Robertson shared with PJM what it was like to watch tyranny fall in some of the most oppressed countries.

Here are a few of Robertson’s brief thoughts on his Arab Spring experience:

PJM: As a journalist, what was your experience like being in the middle of the [Arab Spring] revolutions? If you can, give a synopsis of the view of someone who was actually there, what you saw, and what that meant to you as a journalist.

PJM: It’s a big question. I know. [laughs]

NR: No, it’s a great question. I remember being on Tahrir Square when it was announced that Mubarak had stepped down. That emotion from the crowd and from the people feeds into you and it energizes you.

It’s a feeling I haven’t felt since I was in Romania in 1989 when [Nicolae] Ceaușescu was overthrown and the people were dancing in the streets. It’s a real energy and an emotion.

But then more recently in Syria there’s a situation where people are angry and desperate. The more passionate people are when you’re in the middle of them almost in a way it’s easier to communicate their message because you feel that passion, the desperateness of the situation to get their message out and across.

And also in those situations, one has to be careful not to say, “Oh these people are overemotional or they’re crazy.” They are not. They are normal people and they are expressing these emotions because of real feelings they are having. So I think it makes you more able to communicate and that’s our job. [Journalists are supposed to] get what people are saying and the raw feeling.

PJM: How did you mentally prepare yourself to go into that type of situation or to come out of it?

NR: Sometimes the coming out is harder because going-in you’re just in it and you’re dealing with it and working.

PJM: You kinda don’t know what to expect.

NR: Yeah. And when you come out of it, there’s a sort of feeling of decompression. You adjust back to more normal life. But I think going into that situation, the event itself takes over.

PJM: Well, thank you so much for sharing.

NR: I hope that helps you.

Well, it did help me. I have always wondered what it’s like to be on the ground reporting in those environments. Not only is the reporter telling the story, but they are trying to maintain their own safety. It’s a sacrifice viewers sometimes take for granted.

If nothing else, I hope you walk away with a slightly different perspective on international journalism from this interview.

Click here to follow Nic Robertson on Twitter.

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