Ahead of the arrival of world leaders and President Barack Obama for the NATO summit, thousands of journalists are expected to attend and cover the summit. One organizer says McCormick Place will be home to the biggest news conference in the world this weekend.
The Hyatt on Wacker is the pick-up and drop-off point for journalists covering the NATO summit this weekend. It is the only way to get inside the media center that is being set up for the 2,500 journalists from around the globe that will descend on Chicago.
Mini command centers are being set up by broadcast news outlets throughout the venue.
It’s a completely different atmosphere from the raucous goings-on just a few miles away, where anti-NATO protesters and Chicago Police are facing off in marches and demonstrations on the streets.
At McCormick Place, it’s so quiet, all you can hear is the buzz of overhead lights.
In the middle of this sea of empty work stations, French journalist Salim Badaoui arrived from Brussels Thursday night. He is covering the summit in Arabic for his news channel, France Vanguard Television.
Badaoui says the meetings here could become tense for France. Newly elected French President Francois Hollande reiterated to President Obama on Friday that he would stick with his campaign promise to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan by the end of the year - two years earlier than planned.
“It's not the agenda of NATO. The agenda of the NATO and the American administration is to stay in Afghanistan until the end of 2014,” Badaoui said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived in Chicago Friday afternoon for the NATO summit where the issue of French troop withdrawal and other security concerns in his home country will be front and center.
The arrivals of foreign dignitaries are being fed out live via satellite and the web from the media center at McCormick Place. Host TV is responsible for sending out the various feeds that will be downlinked by broadcast media outlets around the world.
Organizers say one of the technical challenges of having so many journalists reporting from one place is coordinating all of the wireless frequencies that broadcasters are using for their wireless microphones
Denise LaPlace and Louis Libin are in charge of tracking down any journalists using wireless microphones during their coverage and keeping track of the frequencies they are using.
“This is actually the biggest press conference in the world,” Libin said. “There are more rooms for press conferences than anyplace else. Almost 50 press conferences can go on at the same time. And if there’s only one press conference, with 50 journalists using wireless, that’s complicated. If you multiply that times 50, it’s almost inconceivable that we can make it work. That’s our challenge.”
If all goes according to plan, viewers, readers and listeners from around the world will be able to follow the latest world politics coming out of the summit -- without technical difficulties.