On Thursday, August 7, Reuters correspondent Margarita Antidze was the first to report on the escalating fighting in the South Ossetian town of Megvrekisi. The news organization was quick to mobilize print and video reporters the region. The first video segments appeared on the world’s television stations and online the next day.
Reuters has provided Beet.TV with the following account of how the war in Georgia has been covered:
Reuters coverage of the fighting in South Ossetia fronted newspapers and led broadcasts worldwide.
It brought the human suffering, the risks to the entire Caucasus
and of a broader conflagration to the attention of the world without departing
from Reuters core standards of impartial reporting and freedom from bias –
standards that are sorely tested by war.
Reuters already had a team of two text reporters and
a photographer in Tbilisi
and they were at the fore of the story early on. On Thursday, August
7 Reuters was alone in recognising that the latest clashes in South
Ossetia were more serious than the usual daily fare of skirmishes
between pro-Russian separatists and Georgian troops. Our correspondent
Margarita Antidze gave us a Megvrekisi dateline, in the thick of the action,
which no one else could match. The Reuters story didn’t just report, it
interpreted events: “Georgia’s
breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia enjoy the political and
financial backing of Russia,
but ex-Soviet Georgia
has allied itself with the West and is pushing for membership of NATO. It lies
at the heart of a region emerging as is a vital energy transit
Tiblisi is also the home to one of Reuters’ most
experienced combat cameramen, David Chkhikvishvili (Chkhikvishvili). Known as
‘Big Dato’ to his colleagues, he’s been working for Reuters in Georgia since 1993 and is a veteran of many of
the big stories including Chechnya,
Nagorno Karabach, Macedonia,
and Kosovo. It was his spectacular images of Georgian rockets being launched
into the night sky towards South Osettia that
greeted most viewers on Friday morning when they awoke to find that an armed
conflict had broken out overnight. The pictures were a major win for
Reuters, which was at least eight hours in front of the opposition on this
major global story.
Just before the start of hostilities, Reuters decided
to beef up its presence with extra text and TV reporters and
once fighting broke out, added staff from London
and Istanbul as
well as a satellite uplink to transmit live video of events as they unfolded.
Many of the live pictures of South Ossetia
that have run on the world’s broadcasters have come directly from Reuters,
courtesy of that satellite dish.
As fighting erupted
in earnest, Reuters
quickly moved in additional text, pix and TV reporters to give us
cover from the Georgia/South Ossetia border region and from Abkhazia,
pro-Russian region with designs on independence from Georgia. Reuters
crew into Abkhazia, where Reuters are one of the only independent
presences, and sent further TV staff and live transmission capacity
into North Ossetia. A Reuters cameraperson entered the South Osetian
capital of Tskhinvali as soon as it was
safe to do so, shooting some of the images of devastation that have
made bulletins all over the world. Thanks to Reuters links with
various broadcasters, we were also able to access video
of fighting from both sides of the conflict.
Tbilisi and Reuters Moscow editorial operations worked through the night
to keep the newsflow to our clients. The Reuters World Desk in
London, depleted by holidays and at the same time working on the
Olympics, kept turning over the story, pulled together instant analysis and
security analysts’ views and working with financial reporters to gauge the
scale of the market reaction – a sell-off in Russian stocks and the rouble,
weakness in emerging markets in general and a warning from credit ratings
agencies that Georgia faced a downgrade.
Reuters Video Operations in Iraq
In April, I interviewed Victor Antoine, Reuters TV
Editor for the Americas about the video news gathering operation in Iraq. Surely some of the lessons learned there have been helpful in covering the conflict in Georgia. I
republished the interview below.