CNN anchor Andrew Stevens on the challenges of reporting on Occupy Central

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 2.32.45 pmAndrew Stevens has been working until the early hours of the morning to cover the unfolding drama on the streets of Hong Kong as the Occupy Central pro-democracy protests have gripped the city and the attention of the international media.

In this Q&A with Mumbrella, Stevens talks about the experience of covering one of the biggest stories of the year.

Occupy Central spread to different parts of the city. How have you planned where your team should be positioned and when?

We have team members in key areas who call us if something is happening. We can then quickly deploy a cameraman and correspondent if necessary. Our teams rotate so we have people on the ground 24 hours a day. We also monitor twitter feeds from protest organisers and local media.

Andrew Stevens (standing) at Occupy Central

Andrew Stevens (centre) at Occupy Central

What has it been like reporting on a sit-in situation like Occupy Central from a practical perspective?

It means long hours and rotating staff on a 24 hour roster but because of the nature of these protests it is relatively easy to move around and make sure we have plenty of supplies like food, water and equipment. We set up a satellite dish near the main protest site which co-ordinates with the CNN news desk on coverage and troop movements.

What has the response been like from protesters, the police and government officials to journalists such as yourself asking questions?

All round it has been very easy to report on this protest. Student and Occupy leaders have for the most part been easy to access. The government has kept to press conferences and emails.

How have you reported on what is essentially a leaderless movement; how does that work?

There are leaders in the student protests and the Occupy protests with whom we are in regular contact. We also spend a lot of time at the sites speaking to protesters.

What’s been the most useful app or other technology you’ve used to stay on top of the information flow?

FireChat is a new app used by protesters which is basically a chat room to mobilise and supply information to people on the streets [Mumbrella spoke to FireChat creator, Micha Benoliel, about the “Occupy effect” for the app]. We also use Twitter.

I noticed that one reporter, Tom Grundy, was hit by an anti-Occupy Central protester in Mong Kok. Have you found yourself in a similar situation?

No, not at all. My experience has been quite the opposite. Students cannot do enough to help. At one stage I was in Mong Kok where there were violent confrontations but I was not personally threatened.

Joshua Wong on the cover of Time

Joshua Wong on the cover of Time

What do you feel has been the most powerful individual story to emerge from the Occupy Central protests since they began on Sunday?

I think the rise of 17-year-old head of protest group Scholarism, Joshua Wong, is probably the most powerful individual case but as a collective I think Hong Kong students have found their political voice. It’s an awakening for many of them and a declaration that they think differently to their parents.

What is your favourite photograph taken of the scenes at Occupy Central that best encapsulates the nature of events since Sunday, and why?

Andrew Stevens Tweeted Occupy Central pictureThere have been many. The symbol of the umbrella has been a powerful image, particularly when protesters were being hit by tear gas. It has become a very powerful symbol. One simple one I tweeted was the back of a man’s t-shirt which I thought went to the heart of the protest said “Our home. Our say”.

What are your thoughts on the future of press freedom in Hong Kong depending on the outcome of Occupy Central?

I am hopeful for press freedom in Hong Kong, but it is something that has to be protected and nurtured constantly. This movement has brought out a strong sense of identity among students so I think it bodes well for freedom of the press here.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella Asia newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing