• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Mila the Intern

Our mild-mannered Mila fights for truth, justice, and a new American way.

[Editor's note: In a five-month period, Mila interned at a think tank in D.C. and at CNN in Atlanta and New York]

Coming of Age in the CNN Newsroom

E-mail Print PDF

Neither an anthropologist, nor a colonizer be;

For research oft loses both aim and point,

And colonizers get beheaded by the free

If you really want to understand life in the village that is the CNN newsroom, ignore the uninterrupted stream of phone calls, the interrupted conversations and the people who have worked together for decades, but never found the time to get to know one another.

Don’t linger long over the table manners and sleeping patterns of the community. Don’t make an exhaustive study of how they dress.

Go native.

Start by learning the language. What happened to the package? Who is handling the Mideast? How to contact ‘The Row?’ Where to issue ‘The Wire?’   What does it mean to Audeamus?  And who is in the log?

To master Newspeak requires patience and a tolerance for ambiguity.

Don’t focus on the syllabillic chaos. See if someone will take you into his hut, give you a pipe to smoke, some kind of story to eat. Don’t worry about contaminating the culture—despite your strange language and manners, they will barely notice a primitive like you in their midst. Relax—you are invisible and safe.

Keep in mind that among the Newsroom folk, much of the communication is non verbal. And direct person-to-person contact is unusual. Machines handle it all. Emoticons substitute for smiles and an email without ‘thanks’ is the first sign of rudeness. Even if you try to make your life in the newsroom different, you will still be ‘looped into’ an endless flow of emails that will keep you glued to the monitor the entire work day. And your co-workers as a courtesy will make sure to loop you in.  Do not worry about protocols about social status and eye contact. Every tribesman will be looking down into his BlackBerry and iPhone.  Headphones are available at every computer station in case you wondered how they isolate their ears.

Don’t blush when a native accosts you with questions like: “Did we get the Whip?” or “Are we done with the teaser?” It is not a sexual advance. They either want a short report from the field -- usually on short notice -- or some colorful shamanistic exorcism to paralyze the TV audience from switching the channel before going to a commercial break.

Moments of playfulness, frivolity without consequences and friendly flirtations are rare, but tribeswomen still find time for plain bitchery.

Keep in mind that the folk of the Newsroom do not gorge on donuts. Their donuts are not Dunkin’. Rather, they feed Donuts into the NewSource and the word actually means a package that does not have a reporter’s signature.

When you have fathomed the clicks and tocks of Newspeak, you will have entered puberty and have some standing in the village. You will be afforded something. If you manage to do so in less than a year, make sure to share your method with CNN tribesmen. Many of them, who have lived in the tribe for years, still cannot tie the ends together.

You will no longer jump to attention when the chief says ‘Look Alive.’ You won’t make the mistake of replying that you CANNOT look alive because you ARE alive. He means yet another package that is to be taped as if ‘live’ but is not to be played in real time. The chief wants you and the correspondent in the field to start coordinating the release of the package.


A Kazakhstani Comrade in Queen Amanpour’s Court

E-mail Print PDF

The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy critiques wash out a Word of it.

Before the phantom of False morning died,
Methought an Intern at the Turner crie d,
"When all the Castle is prepared within,
"Why nods the drowsy Worshipper outside?"

And, as the Monday came, those who stood before
The Turner shouted-"Tear down the Wall!
"You know how little she will have to stay,
"And, once departed, may return again."

From the Rubayiat by Omar Khayyam (Modified)


The Tale of Amanpour

It happened while studying the CNN dynasties, kernels and tribes that I came across a curious stranger, a stranger who was known to the entire world. She wasn’t simply a head of yet another kernel. She reminded one of your Highness Princess Soraya and talked about things that appealed to me. As she talked in her baritone pitch, engaging a listener through emotions, she made it clear that everyone should care about Kim Jong-Il and his nuclear games, about the Occupied Lands and intractable problems of the Middle East, about Al-Qaeda, Pakistan and Obama’s trip to China. She called an interview her power and engaged in discussions with people of power. In her studio around the Oval glass Table she challenged kings, scholarly men, knights and diplomats. Her eye contact was indomitable and winning her smile seemed as difficult as winning the war in Afghanistan.

Naturally, when the talk of the courtiers at CNN revolved around Amanpour, she was hailed as the queen. In the Newsroom they commonly referred to her as “Her Majesty.” They said, “She is at a different level, she does hard politics and doesn’t buy bullshit.” Amanpour always got to the heart of the matter. Some even called her “Bloody Mary” and claimed that she spilled a lot of blood on her way to the throne, and this blood, as some argued, had nothing to do with the wars she covered.

From the moment I was assigned as a delegate to the Amanpour estate, I tried to imagine what it was like to be an Amanpour, what it takes to be one and what precisely it stands for. I dipped into the cyberspace, once again, to re-read her speeches, articles and bio entries. I immersed myself in the world ‘made by Amanpour’ and by the time I felt like I recovered from electrifying fascination and could proceed with contemplation, the week was gone and I was done. I came back to Atlanta to look back and craft a tale of Two Towns, Two Women and Two Worlds.


How the Comrade Imagined Amanpour before They Met and How the Image Was Slain

From the gossipmongers and servants of the court the comrade heard that Amanpour’s studio in New York is indeed a Windsor. They said that Amanpour fits her ambiance. Her court boasts the best collection of noble hounds that could compete only with the Baskervilles. She is tough. The description could fit the Bloodiest of Queens.

The Comrade put her shield afore herself and prepared for the snarls. She pictured an iron voice pronouncing a welcome, a guillotine on the moving podium and the sharp remarks of the execution hostess. Every guest – the comrade thought – must be getting a card with the signature “Oh Man Poor” and leave scorned. The verdicts issued by Amanpour could never be re-considered and the only option was to comply. Period. Amanpour’s territory seemed to be a place where all conversations get exhausted and all other questions are unnecessary. The comrade fearful of humiliating strokes collected all her strength and on Monday morning arrived to the Columbus Circle to discover….not America, but Amanpour.

The comrade entered the hall. It didn’t smell like blood. No visible signs of it either. No snarling, just a normal Monday morning exchange.

The comrade first recognized the Queen by her voice before noticing a woman in a hat, sunglasses and a black suit. Wave? Get closer and give her the Brezhnev hug? Can she be touched? Will it be against the protocol? Cautious about the rules, the comrade didn’t want to repeat the mistake of the first lady, Michele Obama, when she patted the royalty during a reception at the Buckingham Palace timed for the G-20.

The comrade was invited to the morning meeting. She passed by the queen. The queen gave her a quizzical look. Seemed like a perfect excuse for introduction. The comrade stretched out the hand. “Christiane,” the queen said smiling. The comrade was disarmed. The shield was needed no more.


Ten Bears Speaks

E-mail Print PDF


Ten Bears Speaks


Mila the Intern Pitches a Story to the Tribal Elders

Recovered from the Diary of John Dunbar

Mila the Intern: Ted Turner could have graduated with a degree in Classics. He could have become a Professor Emeritus of Greek and Latin. He could have become, what his father referred to as “a Classic snob” --an insular, impractical dreamer reasoning about reasoning.

Instead, Ted was a good son. He took to heart the impassioned words of his father who wrote Ted a letter in response to his decision to major in the Classics at Brown. Ted chose the path advised by his father -- to work with people who are “doing things, who have an interesting, not a decadent outlook.”

This World’s Untold Story would be about the man who created CNN. Without this man, television would not be what it is today. The news would not be as we know it.

Recently, Ted has been trying to give advice to CNN. But is CNN listening to its father?

Ted says to deliver serious news, more news, quality news. In an October interview with Bloomberg, Ted said that he wants to come back to CNN so it would get rid of “fluffy” news and expand its coverage (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=afyLWnoS2WlA).

CNN should heed Ted's fatherly advice to aim higher, do better, eliminate the small talk, the chatter, the dog-without-a head stories, and to become more international.

CNN can begin to fulfill its filial obligation by running Ted’s story in the World’s Untold Stories. The international audience--as opposed to the American public that already knows Turner’s story and can get this info from his autobiography and other books--does not know the story of the man for whom CNN has been a life’s work. The international audience now takes world news as a given, as a staple courtesy of this remarkable man. But CNN’s international audience should know more about his life, his aspirations, dreams, his hopes and why he thinks that news is important.

To tell Ted’s story as a World’s Untold Story would be to tell CNN’s own biography, its story. By doing so, CNN could show its commitment to do more, to do better and to become the unquestioned leader in delivering quality journalism to a worldwide audience for generations to come.

Wind in his Hair: This story is not a World’s Untold Story. Everyone knows this story. Teddy the Bear left our camp. I don’t care for this talk about the man. He is no longer Sioux. We should forget him. There is no honor in his words. I am not afraid of him. I will ride out to his camp and shoot some arrows into this white man. If he truly has medicine, he will not be hurt. If he has no medicine, he will be dead.


No headless dog stories

E-mail Print PDF

Have you ever met a dog that looks like a perfect copy of its owner?

Dogs and masters quite often look alike. So do the shows, the teams and the leading CNN anchors. This thought crossed my mind as I was trying to figure out how the anchors, their teams and the shows that they host differ from one another, what internal resemblances they acquire over time, how they adapt to external power dynamics and position themselves in the competing industry of news broadcast, how they interact, what topics they talk about and how they write their scripts.