Behind the scenes at the CNN headquarters worldwide

11/19/2010  |  JENNIFER CRUCE
field trip destination

This year, in the global headquarters of CNN Worldwide in Atlanta, the world’s first 24-hour news network quietly celebrated 30 years of reporting history. What emerged from the ingenious imagination of a renegade visionary has become the world’s largest and most respected news organization. Chances are you caught your first glimpse of aerial warfare watching Operation Desert Storm coverage, or of a real life royal wedding as Prince Charles and Lady Diana exchanged vows live on CNN and right in your own living room.

As CNN first went to air on June 1, 1980 TBS, Inc. founder Ted Turner dedicated the network to the American people, crediting its creation to America’s “thirst for understanding” and the “pioneering spirit of the cable industry.” Launched on a meager budget and staffed principally with newly-graduated journalists, CNN was initially dismissed as “Chicken Noodle News” by its broadcast competitors. But the entrepreneurial spirit and perseverance of CNN and its innovative, unprecedented coverage earned the network respect from the entire news industry. CNN set the standard for immediate and live coverage of worldwide events and raised the bar on what audiences expected from the news. And after 30 years, CNN continues to deliver stories as they unfold, bringing light to life’s defining moments.

Today, the CNN global headquarters still remains in downtown Atlanta, GA where the Inside the CNN Studio Tour offers students an opportunity to learn about how news is gathered, written and reported and to reflect on 30 years of recorded history, chronicled as it happened. Tours run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and feature exclusive behind-the-scenes views of the working studios and newsrooms of CNN, CNN En Espa’ol, HLN and CNN International. A popular class trip destination, the 55-minute guided walking tour is an exciting journey into the world of global broadcasting.

Visitors on the tour first ascend CNN Center’s famous eight story, 196-foot escalator into the 50-foot globe that serves as the entrance to the tour. In addition to the newsroom and studio views, tour stops include the Control Room Theater where video and audio feeds from the “heart of CNN” demonstrate the production of a live broadcast.

The tour also stops at a newly-remodeled, state-of-the-art weather and special effects presentation studio, featuring advanced rear-projection screen technology, advanced technology used by meteorologists to track storm systems. Additionally there are teleprompter and “magic wall” touch-screen demonstrations and a presentation of Chroma Key (green screen) technology used in weather studios and feature films.

Visitors also get an opportunity to “anchor” the news from a mock set up of the HLN news desk. Also featured on the tour is CNN’s new Studio 7 that was unveiled in spring 2010. This next-generation news studio is the latest high definition set in Atlanta and hosts broadcasts each weekday. 

Additional features on the tour route, including photo exhibits and a finale video in which some of CNN’s most famous anchors and correspondents discuss what it’s like to work in journalism, reporting for CNN, round out the tour experience.

The Inside the Studio Tour will soon make lesson plans with pre- and post-class trip activities tied to Georgia Performance Standards for grades 1-12, available on their Web site to accompany student tours of CNN. Written with the assistance of a former curriculum writer and teacher, the lesson plans will augment the current tour educational materials that were created and updated by CNN Student News. These materials offer expanded learning opportunities and correlate to National Standards for social studies, history, language arts, journalism and technology. Lesson plans correlated to Georgia Performance Standards for teacher-guided tours of the CNN Center atrium will also soon be available.

CNN Center features a visual time-line of events the network has covered in its 30 years on the air and much more to enhance the tour experience.

Thirty years ago, Ted Turner envisioned bringing accurate and breaking news from around the world to audiences everywhere. Today, all CNN-branded networks and services combined are available to more than one billion people in 212 countries and territories. The Inside CNN Studio Tour offers a rare chance to go behind the scenes of a major news network and to experience first-hand what it takes to share stories around the world.

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