Every year, when the United Nations General Assembly meets in New York, and heads of state buzz around the city in black cars and helicopters, two things are certain: New Yorkers will grouse about street closings on the east side of midtown Manhattan as a consequence of heightened security; and world leaders will make their rounds among the major journalistic organizations in the nation’s media capital to get some face time in the news.
This week, TIME reporters and editors were fortunate to have exclusive interviews with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (who will be TIME’s 10 Questions interviewee in next week’s edition), Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
On Thursday morning, the day after Gaddafi’s rambling, 90-minute diatribe in front of the GA, I accompanied two of TIME’s top editors to meet the man his handlers said was to be referred to as “brother leader.” That’s easier to say out loud than King of Kings, which is the former Libyan army officer’s latest self-proclaimed moniker. (I have long wondered why this man, who has been in power since a 1969 coup when he was an army captain, has remained a colonel and never promoted himself to general.)
His staff was curious about the video camera for a magazine interview, which is pretty common. People still don’t grasp that there is practically no such thing as a print-only publication anymore. Perceptions are slowly changing. There was a Libyan TV crew there as well, documenting the Brother Leader’s every meeting. So they allowed me to shoot — at least for a few minutes. Six minutes into the interview, one of brother-leader Gaddafi’s top handlers began pointing to his watch. A few minutes later, Gaddafi said, in English, “you must stop.” I stalled to try to have a conversation about continuing, but the handlers began unplugging the audio cables from my camera and pushing me away from the scene. The editors were allowed to continue their interview, and Gaddafi became more relaxed — now that the cameras were gone — and they chatted for a half-hour longer.
Later that afternoon, Kofi Annan was warm and gracious, and had come to our offices to do the 10 Questions interview in a three-camera shoot. Continue reading “The Axis of Video”