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Global Economic Crisis; The World of Fashion; Photographing the Candidates

Aired October 17, 2008 - 20:30:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, HOST: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney in London. Welcome to CNN's INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, your weekly look at the news and how the media covers it.
Coming up, along for the ride, as investors react to initiatives to shore up the world's financial markets. We assess how reporters have dealt with the economic crisis. Covering the catwalk, "The International Herald Tribune" Susie Menkes gives us a glimpse into the world of fashion. And in the picture, on the campaign trail, a unique view of the candidates in the U.S. presidential election.

But first, the story changes on a daily basis. We followed the ups and downs in the world's financial crisis. The economic turmoil has once again dominated the headlines. Earlier in the week, we saw huge gains and investor optimism over the international response to the struggling banking sector. Then it dwindled as worries over the strength of the global economic took center stage.

So it's been wall to wall coverage for about a month now. Let's get a sense of how the media are handling the story, and how reporters are keeping up. To help us with that, we're joined from New York by "Wall Street Journal" reporter and market beat columnist David Gaffen. In London, Martin Dixon, the deputy editor with "The Financial Times." And Katherine Griffiths, financial services editor with "The Daily Telegraph."

Thank you all very much indeed for joining us. My first question to you, David Geffen, how much has your workload changed in the last month to six weeks?

DAVID GAFFEN, REPORTER, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, it's certainly increased by quite a bit. What I'm usually doing with the blog I'm writing about the markets is a little bit of alternating between a quick snapshot of what's going on, and a little bit more analysis here and there. And sometimes I allow myself a little bit of time to breathe.

The last month or six weeks or so has been very intense. And so, it's been a struggle to try to cover every kind of asset market, because all of them have been affected by this. And so, there's a constant sort of stream of action that's going on. And so, I find myself doing more and more every minute, that's for sure.

SWEENEY: Martin Dixon of The FT, do you find it a steep learning curve to cope with everything that David has outlined? They're not only the financial crisis, but where it might extend next?

MARTIN DICKSON, DEPUTY EDITOR, FINANCIAL TIMES: I think everyone is - it's changing so much from day to day or has been changing so much from today day to day in ways that only a few weeks ago, it would seemed quite extraordinary. So just keeping up with that and the implications of it going forward has been very demanding for all our staff.

SWEENEY: Katherine Griffiths with "The Telegraph," how has the business journalism side of "The Telegraph" responded to this crisis? I mean, was there a moment where everybody realized this is something that isn't going to go away and we're in this for the long haul?

KATHERINE GRIFFITHS, FINANCIAL SERVICES EDITOR, DAILY TELEGRAPH: Yes, I think so. I think it's probably - that realization has happened over time. But certainly, now and for the last few weeks, there's no question people understand how important it is. And that's both on the business section and the people who are on home use as well. So there is a real realization. You wake up in the morning and it's all over the radio in the morning. And it's all over the TV. And that's unusual. And I think there's clearly no sign that's going away.

SWEENEY: I mean, obviously, with The FT, it's primarily a financial and business newspaper to begin with. But I'm wondering whether or not you've had to redeploy your staff to deal with the current crisis?

DICKSON: We have around the edges. I mean, the core staff who are covering the key areas of banking, politics, economics have been handling it. But there have been days when we've drafted in other people to help out. Just when the news flow has got quite extraordinary.

SWEENEY: The news flow has become extraordinary. And as Katherine was saying, it's also crossed into the mainstream media. And we actually went out on the streets and asked some people for their view on mainstreet, what they believe is happening on the markets, and how they feel journalists have been covering it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has been useful information. It is quite panic, though. It does seem very panicky out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very good because at least people try to realize that the affect of having tourist society. And they will be able to take some more action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The trends still good, still good because the messages are very, very sad. And they endure losses. So I still disagree about the coverage of French press.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's been obviously very, very scary what's going on. But I think there's probably been overdone. And I think probably the media's created a lot of unnecessary panic.


SWEENEY: OK, we just heard a quote though saying that I think it's probably overdone. I think the media has created a lot of unnecessary panic. David Gaffen, what is your view on that?

GAFFEN: I think that you're always going to find people who are going to believe that the media's creating some kind of panic, but the fact of the matter is is that we've seen in this last month the world banking system essentially closed down. And whether that's something that, you know, we can affect one way or another, there's no way that that can't be reported.

So I think that there's always someone who's going to say that there's a panic. Certainly there's a heightening of tension that sometimes people, I think, feel when they read newspapers, when they read online what's happening. That's for sure. And people are always cautioning you to try to strip your emotion out of these kinds of things.

SWEENEY: Katherine Griffiths, let me ask you, pick up on something David Gaffen said there about keeping the emotion out of it. I mean, catering increasingly to the mainstream and the crossing over the financial journalism has made in recent weeks, has there had to be an addressing of how financial journalism is covered for the man in the street?

GRIFFITHS: Yes, that's certainly true. I think in an ideal world, we would be able to deliver articles that are both simple and jargon free, but also offer something to people who really - are really experts in things. It's quite difficult to do that. So certainly, we've had to try and make sure that both people who read home news and don't often read business sections, and also the business community feel they're getting something from "The Telegraph."

I think on the point about whether or not the media's contributed to the situation, there has been a feeling that we have to be careful. Certainly, we all understand that panicky (INAUDIBLE) can lead to people queuing up and taking their money out of branches.

But at the same time, the seriousness of the situation is such that I think really we're just reporting the facts.

SWEENEY: And Martin Dickson, I see you nodding there, but I mean, is that how the approach The FT has taken reporting the facts, aware of the panic that you could cause, not necessarily just for the man in the street, but you know, much higher up the food chain?

DICKSON: Yes, I mean, we've been very aware of - that we mustn't create panic. But if there's panic out there, you have to in some way reflect it. And I think if the man in the street realized quite how close the financial system came to melting down, and heard that from the bankers involved, then they wouldn't be saying these things.

SWEENEY: David Gaffen, let me ask you a question, which I'm going to put to everyone. And I know it's unfair to start with you first, but as a financial journalist, are you sure that you know that the ins and outs of everything that's taking place and the fast pace it's been taking place over the last few weeks?

GAFFEN: I think it's interesting you feel like in some ways you're writing the first draft of history here. But I feel like by no means do you feel like you know all the ins and outs, especially with the way that this financial system has gotten more and more complex. This last year and a half has really been, you know, a big - there's been a big learning curve for a lot of people to understand more of these esoteric markets that have been affecting investors, not just the stock market.

So while I feel like there's definitely a lot that, you know, reporters know and they do understand, there's always something there, a little tidbit, something here and there, something that triggered some sort of change or feeling, different kind of sentiment that may have pushed people to sell stocks, for instance. And so, have we gotten the whole picture? It will emerge over time. But I think we've done a reasonably good job for now.

SWEENEY: Katherine Griffiths, I mean, presumably, it's been a learning curve for you as it has been for everybody over the last few weeks. Do you feel that you've got to grips with this story, that it unfolds another day and you've another learning curve to cement?

GRIFFITHS: No, I don't think I've remotely got to grips with it. I mean, I hope that I'm doing my very best to offer readers some insight into what's going on. I think the story has moved so much every day. And you speak to people who have been in this city for a long time. And they say they have learned a tremendous amount in the last few months compared to their whole career. So I think that's absolutely going on.

And I think the difficulty is on the one hand, you try to offer people simple explanations and just full analysis. But at the same time, you're looking for where the news is. You're looking for interesting angles. So it's both.

SWEENEY: It's both. Martin Dickson, I mean, are you comfortable with your knowledge of the ins and outs of this as this story changes. And what does this all say about the power of the media at the end of the day when we're all writing about things that we might not have understood in its entirety a few weeks ago?

DICKSON: Well, I think if you go back over a year ago to when it first started back in August 2007. A lot of people, bankers in particular thought it would blow through by Christmas. And they thought that because they thought they had a measure of the crisis and what was out there.

As we come to see, it has gone on for over a year because people didn't appreciate the nature of the instruments they were dealing with, the depth of them, their hidden nature. And all that has taken time to come out. And I don't think anyone can claim to be - have been up - fully up with events over that period.

And we certainly thought last August, August last year, that it was going to be a very long process. But I don't think anyone foresaw the depths we've got to now.

SWEENEY: Well, we have to leave it on that note. Thank you all for your honesty. Martin Dickson from The FT, David Gaffen in New York, and Katherine Griffiths here in London, thank you very much.

From Finance to fashion, she's been described as terribly feared, but totally respected. As designers show off their latest collections, we catch up with Susie Menkes on two decades as "The International Herald Tribune's" fashion editor.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. London, Paris, New York, and Milan, they're all synonymous with fashion. And if it's got to do with fashion, the chances are Susie Menkes has covered it.

This year, she's celebrating 20 years as fashion editor with "The International Herald Tribune." From Burberry to Chanel, she's reported on the brands, the people, and the stories.

Her contribution to fashion journalism hasn't gone unnoticed. In 2005, she was made a chevalier de legion d'honneur in France and has also received an OBE, an officer of the Order of the British Empire. Susie Menkes joins me now in the studio.

20 years, does it seem like it?

SUSIE MENKES, FASHION EDITOR, INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: It's flown by. So many different fashions, so many designers, and a lot of fun. A lot of hard work that's been good.

SWEENEY: Remind us how you got into the world of fashion in the first place.

MENKES: I started in fashion in England, working for "The Evening Standard" and for "The Times" in London. And then, I migrated to Paris to The International Herald Tribune."

I think my heart always been Paris because I was trained as a fashion designer there a long time ago. But you know what they say? If you can't do it, then write about it.

SWEENEY: And so you have continued to write about it. Have you noticed any difference in how fashion has been covered over the years?

MENKES: The tremendous change in fashion came really in fashion itself with all the ready to wear and all the new generation of designers. And then, their takeover of all the existing fashion houses.

But in journalism, the big bang was technological. I think the biggest thing has been the emergence of instant images of fashion, something unheard of 20 years ago.

SWEENEY: But when you were working, and as you still are, for "The Herald Tribune," it was always dealing with different time zones, Tokyo, London, New York. So in a way, were you already prepared for that technological development?

MENKES: When everybody talks now about fast fashion. And we think about that as the fact that the clothes get to the streets very quickly. But it really is even faster than that for us, because two minutes after a show ends, the pictures of that show can be around the world. And that's both great in terms of journalism. It means that we can respond very quickly to see what's going on.

But it's also a danger because you know the designers, especially the younger creative ones, they see their work blown across the world before they've had a chance to catch a breath.

SWEENEY: How would you describe your writings and reviews of shows in particular?

MENKES: You know, I was right for the people who are not there. I write the people so that I paint a picture for them, so that they can imagine it. And I still believe in this even now after all these years, and even now that everyone's blogging, and that you can click and see the images immediately.

Because I think that somebody who can see it, who's in the room, who hears the music, who sees the back loft, who takes the pulse, that is what goes into my reviews.

SWEENEY: Do you believe that that's what sets your writings and reviews apart from other writers?

MENKES: I feel a bit like a beacon that's left standing after the waters have receded because, you know, everybody used to report that I report now. And I (INAUDIBLE) never look at pictures when I write my story or everything is put inside my head.

And as business is quite rare now, in fact I have to take issue with some of these bloggers who are writing about what they haven't really seen. You know, to see something on a screen, and to see it not from its back view, only from the front without understanding the fabric, is not really seeing the show at all.

I like to feel that I can see it in the round of reporting that way.

SWEENEY: But take, for example, if there was a blogger at a fashion show and did see the garment in question and was writing about it, would you still feel that the blogger's opinion was as valid and perhaps without having seen how it's written as well written as yours could be.

MENKES: Yes, absolutely. I mean.

SWEENEY: You're not against blogging?

MENKES: Not at all. Great for bloggers. And it's a measure of how important bloggers can be in that they're actually getting invitations for fashion shows, some of them.

SWEENEY: Isn't that all very fast though, where people expect judgments to be quite quick? I mean, if you compare, for example, great books written a couple of hundred years ago, the detail and - that would have gone into writing that book, we now expect an advertisement on television in 30 seconds, the story as it were.

MENKES: I'd like to take you back to the last Prada collection. That's the one when all the models fell off their shoes. It was in Milan a couple weeks ago. And that show ended at 7:17. That is engraved on my heart, that time. And I had that story written at 7:29. At 7:30, they pressed the button. This is the evening. And it was running in the IHT and the edition by 8:00.

And people could read it then. You know, it was up online. People could read it right after the show ended. So we're pretty quick at "The Herald Tribune."

SWEENEY: Had you been always working like that, though, I wonder?

MENKES: I've always worked very quickly. And that's (INAUDIBLE) rather famous for having my laptop while doing it. And you know, one of my great memories. Fairly good one when John Galliano (ph) took us out to their site, to this incredible event. So incredible that people wandered around the gardens. And the show didn't get started until half past nine at night, which was really beyond our deadlines. And I was sitting there doing the show with my Blackberry, doing a count off by paragraph as I was watching the show. That was pretty magical.

SWEENEY: You've embraced technology. Let me ask you as we head into what seems to be the financial (INAUDIBLE), not a swamp, how - what impact do you think that's going to have on the fashion world and designing as we know it?

MENKES: History shows us that during times of bleak economic circumstances, fashion is at its most extravagant. And then it's very surprising, quite surprising to me. On the actual side of selling it's a different story. I think that the luxury people will probably keep their head above water because they're so geographically spread to so many different countries. The lowest ground, the cheap end, will certainly profit from this. People in the middle, I'm sure, are going to be very heavily squeezed.

SWEENEY: Well, what do you look for to go back to your writing. What is it you're looking for in a collection?

MENKES: When you look into designer, who you've seen that work before, maybe over a period, and Valentino, you know, he was going on for 45 years before he was tired. And then you're looking at the kind of stream of what a designer does and how this - and how the new collection relates to collections that have gone before.

With a new designer, and that's the most exciting, it's that moment when you get the buzz of fashion when everybody has what we call a fashion moment. And you just know by the pounding of your heart that this is something special and new and different. And that, of course, you want to capture.

SWEENEY: You have a hugely respectful audience in the fashion industry and among the designers, but you're also hugely feared by some? Does that bother you at all?

MENKES: I don't know whether I'm really so feared, you know. I - there's nothing I like better than a great collection. You know, I'm a great fashion enthusiast. I have a passion for fashion.

Of course, often if I'm disappointed, I'm quite severe because I know a designer can do better. Then that's the time I might unleash some nasty remarks. But I try to be constructive in my criticism. I really don't say that that was a hopeless collection. I try and say why I thought that. And that to me makes a difference.

SWEENEY: Could do better. Susie Menkes, thank you very much indeed.

Up close and personal, the media has been known to make or break a candidate in the race to the White House. And as the clock counts down to November 4th, we'll show you a view from inside the campaign trail by photographer Chris Morris.


SWEENEY: Welcome back. In less than three weeks, either Barack Obama or John McCain will be elected to the post of U.S. president, becoming the most powerful man on the planet. As the candidates try to win votes by images are everywhere. Rarely though do we see pictures of them from inside the campaign trail.

Photographer Christopher Morris has had unique access to political leaders over the years. Most recently following John McCain for "TIME" magazine. A selection of Morris' images are currently featured as an exhibition "My America of London's Host Gallery." Juanita Raj Pal went along to meet him.


MONITA RAJPAL, CNN ANCHOR: When you follow the campaign trail, tell me about some of the more poignant pieces that you've seen specifically?

CHRISTOPHER MORRIS, PHOTOGRAPHER: This is actually John McCain. These are actually harder moments to capture, a particular candidate by himself alone. This is actually him making a personal phone call to one of his children. So I kind of stand back not to be in his way. It's after an event. And just the loneliness of a candidate on the campaign.

RAJPAL: They're usually surrounded by their.

MORRIS: Surrounded, yes, after they speak, you'll have, you know, the campaign advisor, his aides. They're usually people always around the candidate. So it's.

RAJPAL: How restrictive is that for you?

MORRIS: I've had fairly good access with the McCains for some time. With this campaign manager, they realize that they can't have that give and take, one on one, with reporters just because for them, they understand that the reporters are really out to try to get him to say something. They're always out to get a candidate to say something that can be used.

This is Barack Obama. With politics, you know who somebody is. You can photograph somebody from behind, or just a section of their body. And we know who that person is.

RAJPAL: Very different from what you have done in the past in the 20 years prior.

MORRIS: I'm known as a conflict photographer.


MORRIS: I started with conflicts. And conflicts, everything is very chaotic. There's no order. Coming to America and trying to cover American politics is complete opposite.

RAJPAL: It's all about order.

MORRIS: The media, the way they move you around, it's called the bubble when you're with the president. Only the candidate you're moved in this very sterile bubble. And it's call the bubble because the Secret Service, you know, you're searched and you're clean. And if you leave that bubble, then the terminology they use is you're not dirty, meaning that you can have a weapon or somebody could have given you something.

So once you're inserted into that bubble, you can't leave. So when the candidate or the president moves, you move with them. And you can't leave that world. And it's a very sterile, almost like a sterile imperfect world.


MORRIS: It's like this (INAUDIBLE) here. It's a Secret Service agent in a garage, but it's kind of like this very "X Files" "Men in Black." But this is in the bubble. This is a secure area in the basement of where the president's motorcade is. And we're actually going into the motorcade.

A man in a suit in the field, it's something you don't see.


MORRIS: And it just fascinates me, this whole kind of like "Men in Black." These are the people that are protect the president. But to me, for me in the project of my America, it was trying to convey something more about the mood of the country.

RAJPAL: This has been shown in London. How do you think an international audience will take these proceedings and learn from it? What do you think they'll take from these photographs that we've taken?

MORRIS: I don't know. The - I know in the States, my photography, especially my (INAUDIBLE) it affects different people differently. Some people, it's very chilling and very frightening to them to see the kind of nationalism. You know.

RAJPAL: So what did you (INAUDIBLE) patriotism?

MORRIS: Yeah, it's kind of, you know, this whole blind patriotism. And - but I think Europeans, because they've seen the last, you know, eight, seven, eight years, you know. And they're very interested in American politics and where it's going to go.


SWEENEY: Photographer Christopher Morris speaking to Monita Rajpal.

Don't forget to check out our website. You can do that by logging on to to see the show again. And you can also view our archive, take part in the quick vote, and read the blog. The address again

And that is all for this edition of the program. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Thanks for joining us.