In conjunction with the Delta Zeta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the SU chapter of NABJ hosted CNN and 60 Minutes host Anderson Cooper as a component of the third annual Truth Be Told series on April 24.
Speaking for an hour and a half to students and faculty, Cooper shared anecdotes and stories from both his personal and professional journey.
Beginning his talk, Cooper told the audience that he never set out to be a TV anchor. After graduating with a Political Science degree from Yale University, he went to his mother, railroad heiress, Gloria Vanderbilt, who advised him to “follow his bliss” in whatever facet of live he was to pursue.
With that advice in toe, Cooper set out and began reporting from various places around the globe including a location in Africa where he first encountered a gun pointed at his face from opposition out of anger and had to talk his way through a road block to get to a story but through these experiences he learned something.
“If no one was going to give me a chance, I was going to make one for myself. If no one was going to give me an opportunity, I was going to create my own opportunity” he said.
Taking questions from moderators Kwasi Boadi and Kelvin Sherman, Cooper addressed diversity in the newsroom and the importance of its visibility.
“Diversity is critically important”, he said, “ It is important to have in the newsroom as an advocate for the truth of how stories are covered. We are in a golden age of information that’s going to improve our thinking.”
As a reporter who has encountered many tragic circumstances in the numerous warzones from which he has reported, Cooper said that his job as a correspondent is to be in place because someone else is not.
He continued that it is in the extremely emotionally grappling circumstances that being a distant observer in tragedies such as the Rwandan genocide, the coverage of the Haitian earthquake, and the Somalia conflict, won’t suffice as a journalist because it won’t make for adequate storytelling.
“It should keep you up at night, it should make you sick to your stomach, it should make you cry…when you’re alone later on or with your friends or whatever, I mean you should be appalled and moved by the things you see I think as a reporter because I think it makes you a better person and a better reporter,” he remarked.
In a digital age, where news is constantly and consistently on a 24-hour cycle, Cooper stated that the impact of social media and pressure he gets from his audience has not skewed his ethics.
As someone who advocates for accuracy and the truth he said, “I would rather be right than be first.”
Concluding his time with the audience, Cooper advised all students whether in the field of journalism or not to learn their voice and then learn to write in it and remarked that taking part in internship opportunities is vital.
“Learning what you don’t like to do is almost as important as learning what you like to do. Once you get a foot in the door someplace you have to out work and out hustle everyone around you.”