With Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in town, New York stations are overcoming tight security to cover his various presentations.
Getting close to the controversial leader isn’t feasible, so the stations are relying on pool footage while deploying reporters to where he’s speaking for standups, commentary from protestors and passers-by and brief glimpses at his passing car.
They’re also offering video from his speech online, such as the 81-minute stream from Columbia University Monday on WCBS.com.
Despite the limited access, stations are deploying heavily around the city. WNBC senior vice president of news Dan Forman said the channel has put 30% more bodies on the street, thanks to the Iranian’s presence, than it typically would for the United Nations assembly.
WNBC also got some guest reporting from NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell, while Fox is relying on its duopoly.
As is its trademark, Fox’s WNYW also tapped viewers for insights. A poll on Good Day New York asked viewers to vote on whether Columbia University was cool or uncool to let Ahmadinejad speak, with 58% opting for cool. “We’re giving people a lot of opportunity to vent their opinion,” WNYW VP and news director Scott Matthews said, “and to offer their take on world events.”
The Ahmadinejad story is not only a global one, with world leaders assembling at the U.N., but a local one, as well, with countless commuters’ routines disrupted. WABC.com, for one, offers a full list of street closures around the U.N. “Traffic is tight, police barricades are up, roads are closed,” Forman said. “This week is always different [with the U.N. meeting], but it’s even more different this time with Ahmadinejad.”
Access and traffic aside, station managers said they’re happy to work in a city where major news seems to break every day. “That’s the great thing about covering news in New York,” said WCBS VP and news director David Friend. “One day you’re covering a steam pipe exploding, the next day it’s the arrival of an international figure.”