DMC Professor Cynde Strand part of CNN team that won Emmy for coverage of Ukraine invasion

October 17, 2023
Elizabeth Syverson '23

The 44th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards ceremony in New York recognized Saint Michael’s adjunct Digital Media and Communications Professor Cynde Strand and her CNN team for their breaking news coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

While the team’s award-winning coverage culminated with an Emmy win on September 27 this year, their work began nearly a year and a half earlier in February 2022, when CNN began preparing for the Russian invasion.

“Reporting and support teams were ready throughout Ukraine and the region, including a reporting team at a key location on the


                                                                                                         Cynde Strand

Russian side of the Ukrainian border,” Strand explained.

“Satellite images supported intelligence that a Russian invasion of Ukraine was imminent. We expected the invasion to start sometime in the evening of February 23, 2022, so key CNN people around the world were on an open phone line to coordinate getting the story to all CNN platforms quickly once confirmed and to coordinate ensuing coverage,” she said.

When the news broke, Strand was overseeing the coverage. Strand said Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared on Russian state television to announce a “special military operation.” Shortly after, Russia fired missiles into multiple Ukrainian cities and Russian tanks made their way across the border.

“Putin’s war had begun,” Strand said.

Despite the multitude of conflicts around the world that Strand has covered during her long and storied career at CNN, she said that certain harsh realities of news coverage don’t get easier.

“It is most difficult to think about what will happen to the civilians, the elderly, and the children, who— through no fault of their own— are often trapped in the fighting, forced to flee their homes at a moment’s notice or face much worse,” Strand said.

After the news broke, Strand began directing coverage. She said that from her desk in Seoul, South Korea, she coordinated live reporters around the world, altered confirmed news lines to advance the story, ensured that each video was translated and verified before use, and most importantly, monitored the safety of the teams on the ground.

“Being the director of coverage is like conducting a symphony with each section of the orchestra playing its part,” Strand said. “Coverage on this scale is a huge team effort, and I must stress the word team,” Strand said.

She noted that it’s easy for the audience to forget about the local CNN staff and freelancers who play a vital role in covering international news.

Strand’s “Ukraine Desk” in Seoul, South Korea, where she directed Ukraine coverage during the overnight hours in U.S. time.

During her career at CNN, Strand has won multiple Emmys for international news coverage. Having retired from CNN several years ago, Strand said that returning to be part of the award-winning team felt like coming home.

“I will always be a journalist, and as I pass on some of my knowledge and experience, these kinds of awards validate the importance of robust, independent, fact-based journalism,” Strand said.

Strand brings her experiences from the field into the classroom now. She joined Saint Michael’s as an adjunct professor in 2022 and currently serves as an advisor for The Defender, the College’s student-run newspaper along with fellow former broadcast journalist Tess Stimson. During the first week of one of her classes, she asked students to design their own coverage plan for a war in Ukraine.

“What we came up with in class was very close to the plan we had put in place at CNN,” Strand said.

She also teaches important life skills such as pitching, writing, and interviewing, in addition to an examination of the “tough choices” that journalists face around ethics and bias.

Strand advises students to add as many skills as they can to their “professional tool belt” during their time at college.

“I started at CNN in an entry level position,” she said. “I tried to learn as many skills as possible and I said ‘yes’ to any opportunity that came my way.”

“The knowledge you gain here at Saint Michael’s College is invaluable and will be part of your toolbelt for life,” she said. “Look for opportunities to step out of your comfort zone, try new things, and meet a variety of people.”

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