Anyone who has followed royal news since that little wedding they hosted back in 2010 knows who Max Foster is. You also know that this CNN International Anchor and Royal Correspondent needs no introduction – but I will give him one anyway. Max, aka @MaxFosterCNN, is one of the guys that makes royal watching so enjoyable. He is always responsive to his intrigued Twitter followers (myself included) and is constantly approaching the news from a unqiue angle. But before he was hanging out with Prince Harry in Jamaican beach bars and filming world leaders at Buckingham Palace he was interviewing the likes of Anthony Hopkins and covering Pope John Paul II’s final days. Max was kind enough to let me badger him with questions about the day in the life of a top royal reporter.
If you think you were impressed with Max before, you’re in for a treat – especially if you’re a Harry fan. Lots of secrets and insider knowledge to be had with this one..
Many people reading this might only know you as a royal reporter, but you have covered incredible events and spoken with fascinating people throughout your career, who has been your favorite interview?
The greatest thing about journalism is the access it gives you to people, places and moments in history. Just meeting the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Julie Andrews is a privilege and I was glad I listened to a friend in publishing years ago who suggested I interview Stephanie Meyer as an author with potential. But one interview means a lot to me and that was with Anthony Hopkins. I was at University in Cardiff and a friend and I spotted him in a hotel. I was freelancing at Radio Wales and we left a note for him at reception asking for an interview. He replied with a letter a few weeks later saying he would be back in Cardiffand would do an interview. He spoke to me about not wanting to do a follow-up to Silence of the Lambs and about receiving a knighthood. They were both exclusive lines (at the time) and were picked up by the papers. The buzz of getting a story inspired me to go in to journalism.
Among those incredible global events, you have reported on some truly difficult topics – war, Pope John Paul II, natural disasters – what has been your most challenging assignment?
The Pope’s final days was definitely the most challenging. I had never anchored rolling coverage before and had only been at CNN a few months. There weren’t many scripts – only information about interviews and pictures that may or may not be coming in. The rest was ad libbing around a complex story that had huge significance to a lot of people. I got through it and have been lucky to be involved in all sorts of breaking news since then. It’s what CNN excels at and is the most exciting part of the job.
You have traveled around the globe covering a wide range of topics – what has been your favorite destination? If your reporting could take you anywhere in the world in 2013, where would you like to go?
I don’t actually travel nearly as much as my colleagues, some of whom literally live on the road, but travelling can be fun. The royal trips are always something to look forward to. Who can argue with hanging out with Prince Harry at a Jamaican beach bar?! Or sitting amongst vast crowds of cheering Canadians waiting to meet the new Duchess of Cambridge? Its hard work but gets you to places you would never expect to see.
While the royal wedding gave Kate a new title, it also brought a new one to you as well – CNN’s official Royal Correspondent. Did you ever envision your career taking this turn when you started at CNN years earlier?
I never set out to be a royal correspondent. My specialism was always business, but I was asked to report on the preparations for the royal wedding and I just through myself into it. We got some great access and the interest in the story just grew and grew. I interviewed everyone from the royal chef to the florist to the coachmen. And on the day itself, I anchored morning and evening shows from a spectacular purpose built and reported in between. It was the most amazing day. London had never felt so alive and for whatever reason this was one of the biggest stories of modern times, certainly the biggest outside broadcast. There are moments when you know you are witnessing history, or at least lasting moments, and this was one of those occasions. CNN’s coverage was phenomenal and a lot of people tuned in so, when I suggested making the royal correspondent role permanent, I was probably knocking against an open door. I felt that interest was going to grow in the royal family and I wanted to understand why there was that interest. What I do know is that The Queen, The Cambridge’s and Prince Harry are amongst the top ten stars in the world – I mean truly global stars, resonating everywhere.
What is your favorite story since covering the royal family? A moment or memory that stands out more than the rest?
Particular ‘moments’ were speaking to the crowds in the Mall the night before the wedding, Canada Day in Ottawa, Prince Harry deciding to race Usain Bolt in Jamaica, sitting in on a cabinet meeting in the Solomon Islands with the Duchess of Cambridge wearing a necklace emblazoned with ‘Princess Kate’… But filming arrivals at the back steps of Buckingham Palace at a reception for heads of state during the Olympics was one of the most powerful moments for me. The President of Russia, Secretary General of the United Nations, The First Lady of the United States, all tentatively making their way up the steps into the grand state rooms at the invitation of an octogenarian Queen. It was a reminder to me how powerful she is, despite just having a ceremonial role. She had this ability to create history and it’s because of history, but she’s just such a natural and so is The Duchess of Cambridge which is good news for the institution.
With the title of this blog I can’t not ask this question – can you share your favorite moment from Prince Harry’s tour?
It would be a day… in Jamaica. When he raced Usain Bolt, we already had our story, then he hugged the (republican) PM, reggae danced in blue swede shoes and impersonated Bob Marley during a state banquet. Every event became a story. It was exhausting keeping up with him but made for great coverage.
Earlier this year, you wrote what might be my favorite article on The Duchess of Cambridge yet – Kate Inc: A Corporate Approach to Royal Success – what inspired you to tell this story? What are your predictions for how “Kate Inc” will continue in the coming year?
Very kind. I was just discussing things with a palace source and it was an interesting line. A lot of people assume the royals are told what to do but that certainly isn’t the case at St James’ Palace. Kate, William and Harry make their own decisions and the people around them are there to advise and support them. I think that authenticity to what they do comes across and will be their best hope of ongoing success. They are modernising the ways things are done already and as long as they stay true to themselves, I think they will continue to do well. They do genuinely seem to be motivated by doing the best for Queen and country
Pretend someone reading this knows absolutely nothing about the royal family – what is the one thing you think they should know? Perhaps a secret you’ve picked up on over the years..
Being a royal isn’t as easy as it looks. Most events are very carefully planned and The Duchess of Cambridge for example will be thinking about everything she does. She just makes it look easy.
To say this has been exciting year for the royals would be a severe understatement, what is your favorite event you have covered this year?
My best event was Prince Harry’s tour. He was a great subject to cover, there was a lot of interest in the story and here’s another secret – the royal pack are a smart, fun bunch to work with and make travelling a pleasure. We like the bloggers too…
Choose one word to describe this past year in royal news.
Many thanks to Max for not only the interview, but his constant support of the royal bloggers and tweeters out there. We couldn’t keep up without him!