Martin Savidge, a veteran journalist of NBC News and CNN, is the anchor of Worldfocus.
I guess you could say I was born into this international thing.
I popped out in Lachine, Quebec, Canada to British parents who not long after moved to America and became U.S. citizens. That’s three countries in a single sentence. Growing up we would make trips back to the U.K. for visits, which whetted my appetite for more travel.
It’s part of the reason I became a journalist. In order to know, you had to go. In other words, you had to travel to get the story. Starting out in Champaign/Urbana, Illinois, there wasn’t much foreign travel. The same was true of my next stop, Peoria, but things changed when I got to Cleveland, Ohio.
I was able to convince my news director that going overseas wasn’t going overboard when it came to news coverage that mattered to Clevelanders. As a result I went to Russia, Ukraine, Thailand, Vietnam, Britain and France.
That reporting caught the eye of CNN, where I traveled next, and for nine years the world was my beat. Initially, I was an anchor and worked on just about every show the network had on both domestic CNN and CNN-International.
I eventually convinced the network to put me in the field rather than just behind a desk. I became CNN’s first anchor permanently assigned to the field. That took me to the gates of Buckingham Palace for the death of Princess Diana, to Amman for the death of King Hussein and to Sydney for the 2000 games. I witnessed the handover of the Panama Canal and in Havana the handover of a little boy named Elian. I covered the fighting for Kosovo, traveled beneath the Ionian sea in a submarine and reported the atrocities of East Timor. Then came 9/11. I spent six weeks at ground zero in New York and three more years in at least six other war zones including Iraq and Afghanistan, from Kashmir to the DMZ.
Ironically, I felt the closest to the world not overseas but here in America, in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. I was now working for NBC. I rode the storm out in the Superdome then moved to the street where we reported and struggled to live for days.
At the convention center, people would beg us to take them out when we left the city. I had to explain that only our reports left via satellite; we remained. If we couldn’t take them, they asked if I could please call their families to let them know they were alive.
Not all of those trapped by the storm were from New Orleans. There were many tourists from all over the world. People would scribble the telephone numbers of loved ones on bits of paper and garbage and slip them into my pocket. I promised I would call later that night from my satellite phone — it was my only connection to the outside world. Most of the time my calls were answered by machines. So I’d leave a simple message in English, telling them who I was and that “I saw your mom today” or “I saw your dad or son or daughter. They are okay. They are safe.” Then I would hang up.
Not long after, my phone began to ring. On the other end of the line, I heard sobs — and in broken English, delivered in all kinds of accents, the words “thank you.”
Never have I felt so close to those so far away. We had made a connection, a connection that had made all the difference.
I can’t promise every night on Worldfocus will be as dramatic, but we will be able to communicate. It’s a whole world of opportunity.
— Martin Savidge