SUPPORTING GREAT TELEVISION

CNN, Transmitting from ‘the Center of Hell’

In Flashbacks on January 16, 2011 at 12:00 am

CNN’s Peter Arnett described the bombing of Baghdad on the Persian Gulf war’s first night. (Screen cap)

On January 16, 1991, as American bombs began falling on Baghdad, CNN became one of the few news organizations to transmit live from the warzone.

Most newspaper editors had ordered their reporters to flee the Iraqi capital and the broadcast networks had lost their telephone lines, but CNN preserved theirs, making the cable channel the world’s window on Baghdad during the first night of the Persian Gulf war.

There was no video feed, so viewers saw graphics as CNN’s Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett and John Holliman described what they were witnessing from their ninth-floor room at the Al-Rashid Hotel.

“It feels like we’re in the center of hell,” Shaw declared.

CNN continued its vivid coverage for 17 hours, when the Iraqi government finally pulled the plug, but by then, the journalistic bona fides of the decade-old channel – which had once been dismissed as “Chicken Noodle News” – were firmly established.

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