Anderson Cooper doesn't think his work will necessarily change the world, but for the acclaimed CNN and CBS journalist, that isn't the point. His value, he says, is in "bearing witness to what's going on." Cooper visited Elon on April 7 with a trip that culminated in a special afternoon lecture to 2,400 people in Alumni Gym.
His talk, “A 360° Look at World Events,” touched on several topics, from his early days forging a press pass to gain access to wars in southeast Asia to his views on the state of the news media. He shared anecdotes from visiting Somalia and New Orleans, and from a recent interview President Barack Obama.
How does he think his show stands out from the competition on cable news? “As a newscaster, I believe in facts, not opinion,” Cooper said. “There’s far too much shouting already.”
The audience often laughed at the stories Cooper shared – he quipped that his Yale liberal arts degree didn’t get him much, and that students at Elon should consider themselves lucky – but he punctuated his talk with deep personal beliefs about human nature and the value to objective journalism.
On the proliferation of internet information sources:
“It’s more important than ever before to know where you information is coming from, to know the forces shaping it, and delivering it.”
On his experience covering Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005:
“So much of what happened there threatens to be forgotten,” Cooper said. He talked about an elderly woman who survived the storm with her son, only to die days later outside the New Orleans convention center when the pair found no food, water or assistance there, as they were led to believe. “Katrina may have been unprecedented, but it certainly wasn’t unpredicted.”
On covering wars and the need for journalists to delve deeper into Iraq and Afghanistan:
“Things look different when you’re looking at them through bulletproof glass.”
Cooper’s lecture was preceded by a news conference in the School of Communications and a question-and-answer opportunity for students in Whitley Auditorium. He later spoke with students and donors at the endowed academic scholarship event, sharing with guests about the importance of philanthropy in higher education.
During the Whitley Auditorium questioning, Cooper acknowledged the importance and opportunities of emerging media. But he also suggested that sometimes the use of Twitter and blogs and other social media by news organizations can be a bit forced.
He said he feels he’s being required to spend every waking moment producing some form of content, even when he has nothing to say.
“I like to have a few minutes of the day where I’m thinking – or sleeping!” he said. “If all you’re doing is reporting with these ‘tweets’ (messages sent via Twitter), that’s certainly a problem. But if it’s a way to make contact with viewers and keep people updated in real time, I see no problem with that.”
Since joining CNN in 2001, he has covered Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Sri Lanka and the war in Iraq. Cooper also anchored much of CNN’s live coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Vatican City as well as the Terri Schiavo story in Florida. For “America Votes 2004,” he moderated a Democratic presidential candidates forum the network sponsored with Rock the Vote.
In addition to reporting for CNN, Cooper also provides reports for CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
Before joining CNN, Cooper was an ABC News correspondent and host of the network’s reality program, “The Mole.” Cooper anchored ABC’s live, interactive news and interview program, “World News Now,” as well as providing reports for “World News Tonight,” “20/20” and “20/20 Downtown.” Previously, he was a New York-based correspondent for ABC News, reporting primarily for “World News Saturday/Sunday.”
Cooper joined ABC from Channel One News, where he served as chief international correspondent. During that time, he reported and produced stories from Bosnia, Iran, Israel, Russia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa and Vietnam. He also reported national stories that were broadcast over the Channel One News school television network and seen in more than 12,000 classrooms nationwide.
Cooper has won several awards for his work, including a National Headliners Award for his tsunami coverage, an Emmy Award for his contribution to ABC’s coverage of Princess Diana’s funeral; a Silver Plaque from the Chicago International Film Festival for his report from Sarajevo on the Bosnian civil war; a Bronze Telly for his coverage of famine in Somalia; a Bronze Award from the National Educational Film and Video Festival for a report on political Islam; and a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding TV Journalism for his 20/20 Downtown report on high school athlete Corey Johnson.
Cooper graduated from Yale University in 1989 with a bachelor of arts degree in political science. He also studied Vietnamese at the University of Hanoi. Cooper is based in New York City.