CNN/US: From Atlanta to San Francisco,
25 Years of Journalism

Christiane Amanpour:
CNN's Chief International Correspondent Covers the World

Nic Robertson Looks at the Changing Face of
Newsgathering Technology


CNNI: From Jerusalem to Johannesburg,
25 Years of Journalism

Jerusalem, Walt Rodgers, CNN's Senior International Correspondent
and Former Jerusalem Bureau Chief

Beirut, Brent Sadler, CNN's Beirut Bureau Chief 

Havana, Lucia Newman, CNN's Havana Bureau Chief

Berlin, Chris Burns, CNN Correspondent, Based in Berlin 

Mexico City, Harris Whitbeck, CNN Latin American Correspondent

Hong Kong and Beijing, Mike Chinoy, CNN's Senior Asia Correspondent 

Moscow, Jill Dougherty, CNN's Moscow Bureau Chief

New Delhi, Satinder Bindra, CNN's New Delhi Bureau Chief

Johannesburg, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Former CNN Johannesburg Bureau Chief






Jerusalem is a city like no other where the more things change, the more they stay the same. One would have to be blind not to see the new buildings, the expanding Jewish settlements and housing projects reaching out everywhere encircling what were quaint Arab villages and nomads encampments. In the south, they reach well beyond Bethlehem toward Hebron. The same real estate which also extends north making the Palestinian city of Ramallah, now a reluctant bedroom community of Jerusalem.

To Palestinian Arabs, the Jewish need to expand devours their patrimony, land owned for generations by their forbearers. Yet for many Jews, burgeoning growth of Jerusalem fulfills a dream, reclaiming the city which connects the Biblical Judea and Samaria. Jerusalem remains the only city where Bible texts are used to resolve 21st century real estate disputes.

History is beneath every stone there. Standing on the veranda of my flat in Jerusalem, I recall gazing out to the Jordan River valley and imagining the whirlwind and chariot of fire gathering up heavenward the prophet Elijah 3000 years ago.

Along the Haas promenade park, below my balcony, archeologists discovered the tomb of Caiaphas, the high priest who conspired to convict and execute Jesus 22 millennia ago. The very name of my Jerusalem neighborhood, Abu Tor bespoke of Jersualem the unchanging.

Eight hundred years ago, the great Muslim Warrior, Salahadin named Abu Tor, in honor of one of his favorite generals whom he nick-named "Abu Tor" – Father Bull because of the general rode into battle against Christian crusaders on the back of a bull. And all of them Elijah, Caiaphas and Salahadin are relative newcomers...Islamic historians trace the Arab Cananites and Jebusites, back 5000 years in Jerusalem...

Stone upon stone, line upon line...ancient Jerusalem lies well below it all. The so-called "old city," which is really Ottoman Turk, is relatively modern. In the Middle East ruins only become foundations for new cities. For example, the pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the lame man is now 60 or 70 feet below the present surface of the city. Dig down 50 feet in Jerusalem, 15 meters or so and you can find Roman Jerusalem, the city of Pontius Pilate.

Yet the land and the stones shift. The Biblical King David's palace where he looked out on Bathsheba bathing and fell in lust is now a Palestinian neighborhood. Then gaze left across Biblical the brook of Cedron and there is a Jewish cemetery dating back to Hezekiah and Isaiah. The Jew's proprietary vision of Jerusalem is as eternal as the Arabs.

For centuries, generations of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews repeated the Psalm "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget not her cunning," an unrelenting Jewish vow to return and occupy a land called Holy since the Jewish disapora.

Actually, the phrase "Holy Land" is also relatively modern, evolving in perhaps the 3rd or 4th century B.C.E. or A.D. But, Jerusalem has long been considered by many Jews and Christians to be the center of the world. Forty kilometers south, in Hebron some Orthodox Jews believe beneath the Tomb of the Patriarchs lies the entrance to the Garden of Eden.

So, with its "Jerusalem limestone" architechture, the white stones of the city have become the metaphor for both building and continuity, the new and the old. Be careful turning over those stones.

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I live in a complex and fascinating city that was once described as the terrorism capital of the world. It was the most dangerous place on the planet for a journalist to work let alone live during the brutal days of Lebanon's terrifying civil war in the 1980s.

Once famed as the jewel of the Mediterranean, Beirut's stunning beauty turned into an ugly beast. A sparkling and vibrant city was trashed by urban warfare in a concrete jungle waged by rival Christian and Muslim militias. There were no rules of engagement. No quarter given. The world watched in horror as the nation tore itself apart.

The long exhausting and ruinous war began to turn slowly to peace after the warring sides began to lay down their arms after a negotiated settlement signed in 1989. But it took until 1991 to really start to settle down.

For the next 14 years, a process of remarkable change transformed embattled Beirut into a proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes.

Having lived the war, I found it thrilling to witness the emergence of peace and reconstruction.

An insatiable drive to reconstruct was led by Rafic Hariri, a billionaire businessman who envisioned a new Beirut where Christians and Muslims could live side-by-side in a city of splendor.

Year by year, his dream slowly took shape. Hariri was not universally popular, but he had power and money, transforming old frontlines into shining examples of reconstruction.

Designer-label shopping became de rigueur. Armani, Gucci, Louis Vuitton opened high-end boutiques. A thriving café society was built on pavements that seem to be lined with gold in the newly reconstructed parts of Beirut.

On one side of the street, secular Lebanese showed off their assets while veiled Muslim women, drinking coffee and smoking traditional water pipes, did their own thing. Co-existence was working.

After 25 years, the world was rediscovering Lebanon. Last year more than a million tourists, mostly wealthy Gulf Arabs, flocked to Lebanon, breaking records. The country was bouncing back.

But on Feb. 14, that all changed. A day normally associated with love turned into hate. A massive bomb blast killed Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. His armored convoy was reduced to a cinder in an area he rebuilt. I reported the carnage at ground level, my mind reeling, immediately thrown back to the dark days of civil war.

After that downtown Beirut withered and died, emptying in a flash. Hariri's assassination triggered widespread upheaval, igniting pent-up resistance to virtual Syrian occupation of Lebanon that had prevailed for decades.

It gave birth to the so-called Lebanese opposition. But people power faced deadly attempts to prevent democratic change. Car bombs returned in the dead of night. The country was split into rival pro and anti-Syrian camps with growing fears history might repeat itself.

The United Nations has persuaded the authorities to close the road in front of our buildings, fearing a bomb attack. A mountain of sandbags protects walls of potentially lethal glass at the U.N. embassy.

Beirut does not feel so safe any more. The Hariri dream turned into a sudden nightmare, which war-weary Lebanese can only hope, will end in peace.

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In 1959, Havana was one of the most glamorous and modern cities in the Americas, a place where the latest fashions made their debut almost at the same time as in Paris and New York. Today, one has to look at the once majestic Cuban capital at sunset and with eyes half closed, in order to imagine it as it might once have been. In better light, it is too easy to see how the city is crumbling to pieces, its Art Deco, Rococo and Spanish Colonial buildings – the ones that are still standing – crying out for paint and repair. Havana looks like a city that's been through a terrible war, and in a way it has.

After the 1959 revolution, Cuba's Communist government ignored the capital, especially historic Old Havana (La Habana Vieja), in favor of developing other parts of the country. Even after UNESCO declared the old city a World Heritage site, the deterioration was allowed to continue., until finally in the 1990s, with the help of many countries, especially Spain, an ambitious reconstruction effort was launched.

Under the direction of the Historian of Havana, Eusebio Leal, the results have been nothing less than spectacular. Although it is too late to save hundreds of historic buildings, little by little large areas of the old quarter are coming back to life: colonial and turn of the century hotels, taverns and restaurants, old pharmacies and even La Plaza Vieja (the Old Plaza) seem to have been reborn. Old Havana has understandably become a key tourist attraction, but it is much more than that.

The silver lining of having been abandoned for so long is that unlike any other capitals in the hemisphere, Havana has managed to maintain its distinctive architectural flavor and style. Here, there was no construction boom in the 1960s, no modernization of any kind, which is why Havana looks like it was frozen in time.

There are no McDonalds, Burger Kings or Kentucky Fried Chickens littering the landscape. In fact, the only publicity is political: larger than life posters of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara accompanied by the revolutionary slogan of the month can be seen on most of the main avenues. Fortunately, Old Havana has been spared from the brunt of the political eyesores, perhaps as a concession to the tourists.

Another thing that time and neglect has not been able to erase is the vibrant atmosphere of the old quarter. Unlike other historic centers, Old Havana is densely populated with ordinary people. Artists, doctors, laborers, pimps and hustlers coexist in the city's narrow streets, from where you can always hear music playing, see people dancing or playing dominoes. The locals hang out of their balconies, waving their hands and shouting at each other as they lower buckets from their apartments to the street in order to pull up everything from water to food.

There isn't enough money in the world to save a lot of this extraordinary city, where at least one building collapses a day, no longer able to resist the decay. But there is at least the consolation that what is being rescued of this city built by the Spaniards in 1519 will likely now receive the respect and admiration it deserves.

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It hits me every time I go jogging. Near my apartment in former East Berlin, I jog through the ghost of the Berlin Wall, crossing its "death strip" along which more than a thousand died trying to cross.

A quarter century earlier, I crossed through Checkpoint Charlie when it was an armed-to-the teeth flashpoint of the Cold War. Now, in what I had witnessed as the gray and depressing east, I live and work in the most exciting and hippest part of Berlin. No wonder tourism posted a record in Berlin last year; you even see it in the change you carry – Euro coins from all over the continent.

Irony – tragic or comical or both – and layers of history, are everywhere. On the East Berlin side of Brandenburg Gate, where in 1999, I marked the 10th anniversary of the fall of the wall with Christiane Amanpour, is now the most glamorous hotel in Berlin. Nearby, British architect Norman Foster put a new glass dome on a Reichstag where lawmakers opted to keep the graffiti profanities of Russian troops who trashed it.

The sprawling Foreign Ministry was once the Communists' center of power – the Central Committee and Politburo's so-called "House of a Thousand Windows," and then the Nazis' Reichsbank. Today's Finance Ministry was the Communists' former Labor Ministry, now still adorned with the Socialist Realism-style workers' mural, as well as being Goering's Air Transport Ministry. On top of Hitler's bunker is a sports center, and a stone's throw from that, the new Holocaust Memorial.

But Berlin is also a construction site, a work in progress even 60 years after the war. Near or on the wall's route are shining new government buildings, next to others under renovation, pockmarked with wartime bullet holes. The U.S. Embassy on the Pariser Platz next to Brandenburg Gate was leveled in the war and is finally being rebuilt.

And, as if the late Communist leader Eric Honecker had the last laugh, his TV tower, dubbed "the asparagus," is still the tallest structure in Berlin, a throwback from the time when both sides used Berlin as a showcase, as a worker's paradise or an island of capitalism in a sea of red.

The high-rise Potsdamer Platz, a no-man's land during the Cold War, is the starkest tribute to Berlin's phoenix-like rise from the ashes. The Haeckesche Markt, once part of Berlin's Jewish quarter, is a hub of art and nightlife in former East Berlin. Plaques in the sidewalk remember Jews who once lived there and died in the Holocaust.

Away from the tourist areas, it's often another story. Unemployment in former East Berlin still runs at around 20 percent, and neo-Nazis have a following in some of those often still-gray depressed neighborhoods with the pungent smell of coal fires. About 40 percent of those in the east still vote for the former Communist party.

The city itself is deep in debt, virtually bankrupt some say, struggling with a massive cultural budget from two Berlins, an infrastructure sadly in need of repair and a huge bureaucracy. And it again carries both the burden and the status as capital since the government moved from Bonn in 2000.

All of this makes for the charm of Berlin, if you can handle it. Rubbing elbows on the U-bahn with the old-time east and west Berliners, the Bonn government types, the rockers, the ravers, the artists and the tourists from everywhere and crossing so many imaginary divides in a city that's still on a fault line.

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When I first arrived in Mexico City 11 years ago, I encountered acapital citythat was in the throes of political, cultural and economic change. After decades of dominance by a single political party, the government was transitioning to full democracy.

The economy had been open to foreign investment for at least 10 years, but I still met people who remembered waiting in line for hours to enter the first McDonald's to operate in the city. An entire artistic movement arose from opposition efforts to ridicule then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, with street vendors hawking masks of the leader blamed for causing the economic debacle of 1994, which resulted in the wiping out of a good part of the middle class.

And the streets of the city were also scenes of intense political demonstrations in support of the Zapatista rebels who blasted onto the world scene by dramatically taking control of several towns in the southern state of Chiapas – scenes that to most Mexicans were inconceivable. To modern Mexicans, their revolution was long over and their country was one of peace and stability, a model for its more volatile neighbors to the South.

While these changes were dramatic and had quick, direct effects on the lives of millions of Mexicans, other more discreet yet just as inexorable forces of change were at work.

In 1994, Mexico became part of the largest trading block in the world; NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, catapulted the country into the big leagues of commerce. Goods started flowing in, jobs were created along the northern border with the United States and foreign businesses opened up shop to establish footholds in what was perceived as the new land of opportunity.

Eleven years ago, I was hard pressed to find a decent movie theater, much less one that might screen independent art films. Today, Mexican movie chains not only dominate the market in the capital and points beyond, but they have expanded to Central and South America. Locally owned restaurants and hotels compete proudly with the international chain establishments. Mexican fashion and art are at the forefront, and twice a year the capital becomes the scene of prestigious fashion shows and art auctions that are attended by people from around the world.

The influx of new money, new people and new business opportunities has created a sense of vibrancy that is rare in other Latin American capitals. Mexico City, or El De Efe as its know to locals, has weathered the turmoil of change with aplomb. The city, which has always been a crossroads of culture, commerce and political ideas, is taking on its new role as a major global player in the arts, commerce and geopolitics with gusto.

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When I opened the CNN Beijing bureau in 1987, our office was located at 20 Wangfujing St., the capital's main thoroughfare, not far from Tiananmen Square. Back then, it was a quiet, tree-lined street. Apart from the clatter of ancient green and yellow electric trams, the noise of cars was usually not loud enough to drown out the tingling of bells from thousands of bicycles and pedicabs. By early evening, Wangfujing was dark and deserted. Socialist austerity still held sway. The sign of the British Embassy pub where we often escaped the rigors of the Chinese capital was not entirely an exaggeration. "Beijing Nightlife Tour," it read. "Daily: 7-7:30 pm."

But the winds of change were beginning to blow through Beijing. Soon after arriving, my crew and I covered China's first International Cosmetic Exhibition. Under the numbing conformity of Maoism, all makeup had previously been banned as "capitalist decadence." Even with the cautious relaxation of the late 1980s, cosmetics were still widely viewed as a forbidden pleasure. Yet thousands of young women lined up and jostled with police for a chance to get inside. My crew and I joked about covering a "makeup riot." But it was sign of the deep public yearning for greater individual freedom and self-expression.

A few months ago, I was back on Wangfujing Street. It has been turned into one gigantic, glossy shopping mall, indistinguishable from those found in Hong Kong, Singapore or Atlanta. Department stores selling the latest fashions, high-tech gadgets, and – yes – makeup, were packed with hip, affluent young Chinese wearing stylish clothes and packing mobile telephones. Outside, the traffic jams were enormous, and the air was choked with pollution from so many cars. After dark, this once-deserted thoroughfare pulsated with neon signs, noisy nightspots and expensive restaurants.

The transformation of Beijing – indeed of much of China – is the result of the country's market-style economic reforms. Covering the change has been a central part of my CNN beat for two decades. Despite the absence of an open political system, for most ordinary residents of Beijing, life has improved beyond recognition. The austerity and social controls of earlier years have given way to greater personal freedom than, arguably, at any time in Chinese history. From art to music to film to business, Beijing today is where it's at.

Covering the dramatic changes  in China has also meant following the transformation of Hong Kong. In the late 1980s, the then-British colony was where those of us based in Beijing went for "R &R," to buy clothing, medicine, western food – even nappies and dog food – and to recover from the rigors of the Chinese capital. Hong Kong was a riot of energy and color, an orgy of building construction, watched over by a somewhat quaint British colonial establishment.

Today, the British have gone. Hong Kong is a "Special Administrative Region" of China. Its political and business focus is definitely oriented towards Beijing, which, in its capitalist life-style, increasingly resembles what was once the jewel in Britain's imperial crown. Mandarin Chinese competes with the local Cantonese dialect on Hong Kong's streets, as tourists and businessmen from the mainland pour in.  It's a different feel. Hong Kong is no longer the last Western outpost in the East, what one old China hand once described as "a capitalist pimple on the derriere of Communist China." As China modernizes, the territory and the mainland, for better or worse, are becoming more alike.

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The other night I joined some friends at one of Moscow's trendiest restaurants, a Part-club, part-art gallery with huge, glossy black and white photos of heavily muscled young men in speedos.

Hard to discuss President Vladimir Putin's latest political moves when your eyes are constantly being diverted by a parade of young "New Russians", dressed in Western designer clothes, gliding past tables, smoking cigarettes, as the latest dance music fills the room.

I flash back to a dinner in Russia 25 years ago. A huge, fluorescent-lit room, a waitress who sullenly saunters over to my table and hands me a mimeographed, barely legible menu, signed and sealed like a government document.

"I'll take the meat," I said. "We don't have any," she snapped. "Well then, the chicken." "We don't have that either."

I cut to the chase: "What do you have???" "Black bread and Soviet champagne." "I'll take it," I said. At least it was cheap.

Moscow in 1980 now seems like another planet. The city was dark, grey and somehow menacing. The streets were almost empty of traffic, except for shiny black Volga sedans streaking down the monstrous boulevards, windows shuttered with grey curtains, shielding Communist bosses from the public's gaze.

GUM, the main department store on Red Square, was smelly and dank, offering for sale a paltry collection of ugly shoes made in East Germany.

Food stores had cases filled with sausage…and sausage. Vegetables meant pickled tomatoes from Bulgaria.

Except for members of the Communist Party, who left their wives at home in Moscow as hostages, Russians couldn't travel.

Churches, closed or destroyed by the Bolsheviks, stood in disrepair.

Today, Moscow is brightly lit, its pre-revolutionary buildings restored and painted in pastel color of blue, green, pink and yellow. Luxury high-rise apartment buildings are mushrooming across the capital.

Streets are filled with privately owned cars, imported and Russian-made. The city government keeps building highways but still can't keep up with an explosion of three million automobiles.

GUM department store has been restored to its 19 th century splendor and houses a plethora of designer boutiques.

Russians travel – a lot, especially to to Europe, Asia and the United States. A half million traveled to Turkey last year.

The faithful have re-built and re-opened churches, restoring their gold cupolas – and the right to worship freely.

Kutuzovsky Prospect, the main thoroughfare on which tanks rolled toward the Russian White House to put down a rebellion by Parliamentary members in 1993 is now lined with ultra-chic stores and coffee shops. When I look down on the avenue from the CNN office from which our cameras rolled on the armed standoff, I see coffee shops and an expensive Italian restaurant.

All this change has come with head-spinning speed, sweeping some Russians into the nascent middle class, while leaving others behind in abject poverty.

In spite of its glittery consumer revolution, Moscow increasingly is a city of the super-rich and the super-poor. The capital now has at least 32 billionaires, more than New York, yet many retired Russians often survive on pensions of less than $50 a month.

During the presidency of Boris Yeltsin, the government appointed a commission to develop a "national idea," the essence of what Russia is today. The commission eventually disbanded, unable to pull together the disparate strands of where Russia is headed.

Perhaps it's just moving too fast. Or maybe, Russia will always be a work in progress. Almost 200 years ago, the Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev wrote: "Russia cannot be understood with one's mind….one can only believe in it." 

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If there's one place in India that reflects the country's new-found global aspirations and the rising power of 300 million middle-class Indians, it's the country's capital, New Delhi.

The minute you drive out of the airport you can see the energy that's driving the city's 14 million residents to new heights. Roads are being widened everywhere, a new $2.5 billion Metro is nearing completion and the two new satellite cities of Gurgaon and Noida are fast becoming the core of a booming outsourcing business.

Life in New Delhi now starts late in the evening as hundreds of white vans dart dangerously through the traffic carrying another load of young Indians to hundreds of call centers which operate on U.S. time. It's in these centers that women enjoy the same opportunities as men and can interact freely, destroying a centuries old tradition that saw them staying mainly at home to look after their families.

The young Indians who work in the outsourcing industry earn up to $400 a month. Though low by Western standards, this is still considered a top salarry in India. Armed with credit cards – something their parents' generation didn't have access to – these free-spending Indians patronize the dozens of new malls, shopping centers and coffee parlors mushrooming everywhere. Adding to their confidence and sense of well-being is a real estate and stock market boom that shows no signs of slowing down.

From once being a place where there was little to do but hobnob with the influential bureaucrats and politicians who drove around the city in their Indian-made, colonial-era white Ambassador cars, the country's capital now invites international businessmen keen to invest in the new opportunities here. Twenty-five years ago, it was hard to find a functioning phone in the city. Now a cell phone has become such a potent symbol of upward mobility it's hard for phone companies to cater to the booming demand.

Economic prosperity is creating its fair share of problems, though. There are more than four million vehicles on the capital's roads, and visitors swear they have never seen worse drivers. Thousands die every year in traffic accidents and authorities have been ineffective in curbing what is clearly both a safety and image issue. Commuting remains a nightmare, with hundreds of thousands suffering from respiratory illnesses brought about by the alarming level of pollution. Four years ago, India's Supreme Court ordered all buses to convert from diesel to a less polluting fuel – compressed natural gas. The move has improved conditions, but New Delhi still has one of the world's worst environmental records. Hundreds of thousands of residents lack toilets and the river Jamuna, on which banks the city's foundations were first laid thousands of years ago, looks more like an overflowing sewer.

For all the city's new found prosperity, many residents complain about the growing number of homeless and the city's high crime rate. Women have been raped and abducted in broad daylight and until these problems are sorted out New Delhi can only pretend to be a world-class city.

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In 1980, gold was selling at $850 per ounce, but the reputation of Egoli – the City of Gold — was far from golden, it's luster dimming in the face of unyielding, often brutal apartheid. The increasingly restive and oppressed black majority and its leadership-in-exile moved daily towards making the country, including Johannesburg, "ungovernable." The whites of Johannesburg tended to be more progressive, but they, too, lived by apartheid's rules and suffered the world's condemnation of them as "the polecats of the world."

Twenty-five years later, gold is selling at only $430 an ounce and apartheid has died. But Johannesburg has a new luster emanatingfrom the glow of a rainbow — a multiracial society in progress. Though imperfect, it's turning Jozie, as the city is known among the hip urban, into "the New York of Africa." Fast-paced and in your face, Jozie's population of almost three million is now surrounded by an infinite variety of classy bars, discos and jazz clubs, many four- and one five-star restaurants, commodious hotels, art museums and glittering shopping malls born of rapid urban sprawl, featuring everything from Louis Vuitton Shops to a growing number of new Afro- chic boutiques. Friends of mine from as far away as Tanzania have been known to make the four-plus hour flight to Johannesburg just to hit the mall in Sandton, the new "heart of the city," a ten-minute expressway ride north of the old central business district.

Johannesburg is now home to some 74 percent of the country's corporate headquarters, and according to the Centre for Development Enterprise, generates more than 35 percent of South Africa's gross domestic product, with its stock exchange eleven times larger than the next biggest stock exchange on the continent.

Jozie's fast-growing reputation as a city with money to be made has lured immigrants from as far away in the west as Nigeria and Ethiopia in the east. Many have crowded into the abandoned, poorly maintained residences of the central business district, parts of which have become overrun by street hawkers and crime. But city leaders are conducting a major campaign against grime and crime, with close-captioned ?? CCTV cameras strategically placed, cutting crime in some areas by as much as 98 percent in the last year.

Still, Johannesburg is faced with major challenges as it attempts to establish itself as a world-class city. The city remains plagued by high rates of poverty and unemployment, a largely unskilled workforce, an AIDS epidemic reducing life expectancy to a projected 44 years by 2010, sagging economic performance and infrastructure development lagging behind its megalopic (is this a word?) expansion.

Yet, Mbazima Shilowa, premier of the province, says he's pinning his hopes on Johannesburg's strength as a city of contrasts and diversity.

"You can sample the conditions and culture of first world cities like London or New York as well as the conditions and culture of the African cities of Accra and Lagos, (referring to all black townships surrounding the central city) – all within the city of Johannesburg."

Egoli may be the city of yesteryear, but, says Shilowa, "Johannesburg is indeed the jewel in our country's crown."

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CNN/US: From Atlanta to San Francisco,
25 Years of Journalism

Gary Tuchman, Correspondent, Atlanta Bureau

I was told many things when my bosses at CNN were considering hiring me as a correspondent in 1990, but the one thing I remember best is that if CNN liked me, and I liked them, I would cover some of the biggest stories of our time. Those are words most journalists want to hear. I was sold. And it turned out to be an understatement.

Nearly 15 years later, I have had the honor of helping to write the first draft of history all over the United States and in many parts of the world. Much of what I have reported on has inspired me. But so much of it has shocked and saddened me.

Sept. 11, 2001 is an obvious case in point.

Although I am based in Atlanta now, my first 10 years with CNN were spent in New York, so the attack on the World Trade Center was very personal. I reported from Ground Zero for weeks; the nearly 3,000 people killed and the physical devastation of the area still seem hard to believe. Since the attacks, I have been to Afghanistan to cover the battle against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and then to Iraq to report on the war as an embedded reporter with the U.S. Air Force.

Before we flew with Air Force pilots on missions over Iraq, we had to take a quickie course in skydiving in case we had to evacuate the aircraft in the event it was shot down. It's one of numerous times over the years I've taken pause if the risk was worth the job. The answer has always been "yes."

The Oklahoma City bombing, the crash of TWA flight 800, devastating hurricanes -- these are all stories seared in my memory.

The immense flooding of the Missisippi River in 1993, the crowded refugee camp of Cuban rafters at Guantanamo Bay, huge blizzards and ice storms over the years -- those are images I will never forget.

I cover stories ranging from A to Z and revel in that. While I cover wars and tragedy, I also cover entertainment and sports. Covering the auction of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' personal items in New York was fascinating. Covering the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run derby in 1998 was amazing for a journalist who happens to love baseball.

But it's the sad stories that stay with you, remain ingrained in your consciousness. I will always remember the desperately poor and often very sick children I met in Afghanistan. At first, we would give them money when they would come up to us. We would give them food that we had. But there was only so much we could do for so many people who needed so much help. What we could do best was to tell their stories to the world. And that is precisely what we did, and what we do.

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John Zarrella, Miami Bureau Chief/Correspondent

In November 1983, I was given the privilege of opening CNN's first bureau in Miami – a three-room storage area attached to a warehouse at a public broadcasting station in North Miami. As our home for three years, the one-window bureau had used furniture and start-up equipment shipped from Atlanta. The budget those days didn't leave room for niceties, so we ended up driving the equipment into the ground.

As a Miami-based team, our job was to gather news in a state that certainly didn't lack for news. The drug war was in full swing in Florida with cocaine was pouring into the southern part of the state. Every week, we reported on new seizures, noting how cocaine had been stuffed into pulleys, freezers and even cans of yams.

In those first years, when the reports weren't about drugs, they were often about the unusually cold weather taking its toll across the state. We spent many nights shivering in orange groves with growers as they watching their livelihoods freeze on the branches.

It was one of those cold snaps that doomed the Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986. I was standing on the edge of a lagoon near the countdown clock when the shuttle exploded.

While a tragic time for NASA and the nation, it proved to be an historic moment for CNN. Other networks had dismissed shuttle launches as routine, even though teacher Christa McAuliffe was on board the Challenger as the first U.S. civilian in space. That left CNN as the only network carrying the launch live. To this day, I believe our unmatched coverage of the disaster defined CNN as the world's news leader.

Over the years, we have been at the center of seemingly endless major news events that focused the nation's and the world's attention on Florida.

Following the invasion of Panama at the end of 1989, Gen. Manuel Noriega was brought to Miami to stand trial. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew flattened southern Florida. In 1999, after two fishermen found Elian Gonzalez floating at sea, a months-long battle raged over whether he should be returned to his father in Cuba, culminating in a police raid. In November 2000, a butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County and hanging chads on punch cards elsewhere landed the presidential election in the courts. In 2004, four hurricanes crisscrossed the state. This year, Terri Schiavo was disconnected from a feeding tube and died after the fight to keep her alive went all the way to the White House and the Supreme Court.

Why Florida? Why so often? It's probably a little bit of a lot of things: geography, explosive growth, politics and an exciting mix of cultures. Or maybe, as some suggest, it's just the heat. And if you can live with that, there is no better place to be a reporter.

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Stacia Deshishku, Supervising Producer, Dallas Bureau

At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, the news wires reported a large gas explosion in Oklahoma City. Soon they tapped out details much more devastating: A building explosion. Dozens dead and injured. Babies in the building!

At the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, Dallas bureau chief Tony Clark and his team were 100 miles away in a different direction, covering the second anniversary of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas. A frantic call from the national desk in Atlanta ordered them to race north to Oklahoma City. Within 24 hours, CNN had more than 60 reporters, camera crews, producers and engineers at the scene.

When the Dallas team arrived at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, they were devastated. Half of the nine-story building was blown away. The interior walls and concrete floors had caved in, leaving twisted metal and insulation dangling. Burning cars lay strewn along the street, many teetering on their roofs. Rescue workers carried dead children from the rubble, their toys and broken glass resting on the streets below.

Since that day, the Oklahoma City bombing has dominated the swork of the Dallas bureau. The bureau temporarily moved to Denver in 1997 to cover the trials of bombing co-conspirators Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Staffers lived in short-term apartments for months, often spending 18 hours a day on the courthouse steps. When McVeigh was executed in Terre Haute, Ind., on June 11, 2001, correspondent Ed Lavandera talked to family members and friends of the victims as they stood among the 168 chairs of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

On April 19, the world marked the 10-year anniversary of the bombing by remembering those who died and celebrating the lives of the survivors. Again, the Dallas bureau team made the trek north, as we will never be able to completely say goodbye to this story or the families who have spent so many hours with us trying to make sure the world remembers their loved ones.

But numerous other stories from the region have dominated the headlines since the Dallas bureau first opened it doors in 1980. For all of those stories – from the early coverage of the space shuttle program to the Shuttle Columbia explosion in 2003, from baby Jessica's fall into the well to Enron's fall from grace, from the Texas S&L crisis of the 1980s to the presidential bids of George W. Bush and Ross Perot – the Dallas bureau has been there.

Along with CNN, the Dallas bureau celebrates its 25 th birthday, and as we look back over the myriad of past news stories with fondness, we peer into the future with excitement for all the next adventures opportunities yet to come.

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Christiane Amanpour:
CNN's Chief International Correspondent
Covers the World


I started at CNN 22 years ago, with no experience but a huge amount of drive and determination. I wanted to see the world and report on its dramatic events. I grew up with CNN and was there for many of its groundbreaking, brand-making triumphs.

The Gulf War thrust CNN into the media stratosphere. We who worked there understood and appreciated the media revolution that Ted Turner was creating. We believed that we were on the cutting edge of broadcasting history. For the first time ever, not only had a 24-hour television news channel been created, but when Ted took CNN global, that, too, was an exhilarating first for television.

During the first Gulf War, there was almost as much buzz about CNN as about the war. Leaders, both allies and enemies, found themselves talking to each other over our network, reporters found themselves telling stories from all fronts, live and around the clock. The first sound and pictures of bombing of Baghdad in 1991 electrified the world and those images remain seared in our collective consciousness and defined a whole era of news coverage.

CNN set the standard that others have spent the intervening years copying. I remember then, as a junior reporter, not getting the plum assignment: Baghdad. I was sent to Saudi Arabia, where there was much commentary in the local press about CNN sending an all-girl team to the famously male-oriented kingdom. For not only was I the reporter, but our camera crew was also all-female. It paid off too. Far from being limited by our gender, we actually got some good scoops like the first pictures of Saddam's tanks at the border between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. That happened because a prince took a shine to us girls and drove us in his personal fleet of cars past all the security and soldiers who had been instructed to send journalists back! The looks from our much more experienced male colleagues back at base were a real sight!

Back then, the equipment needed to broadcast live was huge and cumbersome and expensive to move around. In the intervening years, it has shrunk to the size of a laptop computer, so now we can go literally to any corner of the earth, any remote mountain top, rain forest or tsunami-ravaged coastline, and broadcast live at will. Traveling with wonderful CNN colleagues all over the Balkans, Africa, Middle East and points beyond, I realize what a unique operation this is.

At CNN, I have witnessed most of the epoch-making events of the end of the 20 th century and the dangerous new world that the 21 st century has ushered in. Although we were the only 24-hour news network at the time, there is much more competition now, and yet after 25 years, CNN still is one of the most recognized brand names in the world. Its chunky bright red logo is the eternal symbol of excellence, credibility, truth and trust. We plan to keep it that way for the next 25 years!

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Changing Face of Newsgathering Technology


Back in 1991, I had just joined CNN as a satellite flyaway engineer and was lucky enough to be part of the crew in Baghdad as the allied forces started their assault on Iraq.

I was in charge of the technology that gave CNN that now world-famous communications advantage at the start of the war. We had not been allowed to bring our satellite TV transmitter into Iraq, so I had smuggled a massive satellite telephone into the country and had to keep our technical gear running in the event of war. Initially this involved running a dedicated four-wire communications circuit that gave us the unique ability to broadcast live from Iraq without relying on the Baghdad TV station or PTT. And when the telephone exchange that the signal relied on was bombed, we resorted to my smuggled satellite telephone.

Five days after the outbreak of the war, we received permission to bring our satellite dish into the country. I returned to Jordan and came back a week later with a satellite TV transmitter. This was no small feat. The kit was so substantial that we could only bring it into the country by driving a truck up the main road between Amman and Baghdad, a sitting target for allied bombers.

Without that technology, CNN's historic coverage of the Gulf War would never have been possible. The satellite dish enabled us to cover the Amaria shelter bombing, where hundreds of civilians were killed: a defining moment in the war for many people. But it was John Holliman's, Bernard Shaw's and Peter Arnett's reporting on the four-wire on the first night of the war that really captured peoples' imagination. We were completely cut off inside Baghdad and had no idea of the impact we were having on the outside world, particularly in the early days. It wasn't until I left Iraq, that I began to fully appreciate what we had achieved.

Since then changes in newsgathering technology have transformed the way we work. As I have progressed from engineer to cameraman to producer to correspondent, I have been on the frontline working with emerging new technology, particularly the new Digital Newsgathering Technology (DNG) that is now shaping the way we operate. From the days of the 30kg suitcase-sized satellite telephone that I smuggled into Baghdad in 1991, we now work with a hand-held battery powered device, only slightly larger than a cell phone. You can fit everything you need to go live in a small backpack. You can now file from remote locations with difficult communications and limited power sources. It is a liberating feeling.

DNG really puts us into the heart of a story and allows us to broadcast live pictures within minutes, following changes in a story without having to go back to base. It somehow seems to personify what CNN is about. Ted Turner started pushing the boundaries when he launched the revolutionary idea of a 24-hour news channel. We pushed the boundaries with our four-wire in Baghdad. And now we are doing it with our live reporting from the heart of a story.

Quality today is great using the G4 laptop and will only get better. Last year, using the latest version of our live software on the G4 and a hotel Internet connection in Riyadh, we did a live hit for CNN that everyone thought was broadcast by satellite because the quality was so good. We expect to go even further this year with the G5, equipped with a faster processor and, very importantly, much wider bandwidth sat phone and sat modems almost equivalent to broadband. The future is really good.

We are breaking the mold. It's been exciting to be at the heart of this, smashing the conventions in broadcasting.

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