Saturday, September 23, 2006

Weekend Fun: My (Indirect) Interview With Anderson Cooper

Have you ever wondered what you might say if you ever ran into a journalist or politician in an airport or someplace? Just me then? See, after watching the country more or less go to crap over the last few years I've increasingly been thinking of things I'd like to say or ask of those in power and those holding those in power accountable. However, I live in St. Louis and I've only ever even been on an airplane twice in my life, so I figured I would never get the opportunity.

Then last spring I found out that Tonight Show intern Ross Mathews would be interviewing Anderson Cooper for his blog and he was requesting questions. I thought to myself, "hey, I've got questions. What the hell?" So I emailed Ross some questions I had been holding in my head for quite a while, just waiting for a journalist to cross my path. Ross, BTW, is a really cool guy. Very enthusiastic. He then emailed me back right away to say he received my questions and they were really good. After some waiting, I found that one of the questions Ross used in the interview was mine:
My Question: Lately there seems to be an endless strain of depressing news - Iraq, Katrina, corruption, scandal, global warming, and the list goes on. As someone who is immersed in all of this on a daily basis, how do you keep yourself from getting down?

Anderson's Answer: I think it’s easy to focus on the bad news, but it’s important to remember that human beings are capable of anything. Great acts of brutality and barbarism, but also extraordinary acts of kindness and compassion. I find that comforting. Terrible things happen, but the world keeps spinning.
So that was pretty cool. Then a few weeks back my pal Stillife went to a talk Anderson had with Charlie Rose at the 92nd Street Y. She mentioned they might take questions, so I decided to send one with her. And guess what? It was the first one they asked. Anyway, here's excerpts from Stillife's most excellent recap:
The auditorium was packed. We had good seats – Row G near the center. As we were seated, we were given index cards to write questions for Anderson – I wrote Eliza’s question, “Do you think it’s more important to tell stories that people want to hear or stories they need to hear?”

Then came the Q&A session. My (Eliza’s) question was the first one that Charlie read. Both Anderson and Charlie said that it was a really good question. Anderson said (are you listening, Eliza?), “Realistically, it’s gotta be a mix - if all you’re going for is ratings it’s pretty easy to program a whole show” on that basis. He said that fortunately, CNN says that not all ratings are crated equal. He talked about staying in Israel after other reporters had gone home and said that people weren’t writing in begging him to stay there. “I’d rather be able to sleep at night.”

That left him wide open for the next question: Charlie asked him, “What have you done that prevented you from sleeping at night?”

Anderson said, “A lot! Why do you think so many people use Ambien?”
Okay, so nothing groundbreaking here. The answers have been pretty much what one might expect, but now I've got the bug. My new completely pointless goal is to somehow get a full interview out of Mr. Cooper. I figure ten questions total ought to do it. So, assuming my math is correct and assuming I will continue to be able to indirectly ask Anderson a question every three months or so (and what could possibly go wrong there?), I expect to have the interview completed sometime around September 2008. Stay tuned!

So what was the point of this post? Well, not all that much actually, but I thought I'd open up the floor. What career related question would you like to ask Anderson, or any journalist for that matter?


Anonymous Kevin Hayden said...

Q: Witnessing human suffering caused by powerful politicians around the globe, I presume you've developed a perspective that inoculates you from getting too emotionally close to their pain. But have there been times in your career where you wanted to chuck your press pass and scream or cry or rage at the perpetrators?

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people think CNN is marketing you as a star and a personaliy not as a journalist. How does that make you feel?

1:38 PM  
Anonymous nancy nurse said...

Look out with the Ambien Anderson you have a lot of alcholic ancestors.

1:46 PM  
Blogger midnite6367 said...

How do you respond to journalists and viewers who believe that you have a tendency to insert yourself into the stories you cover and that your "personal" style of reporting is something that should never be done by a reporter.

*This is only a question, and not MY opinion, I enjoy that aspect of AC's reporting.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Sharla said...

Hmmm. A few weeks back CNN asked viewers to video themselves asking Anderson a question and so I did. I should have written it down or practiced it, of course, because I'm sure I looked like a dork :) Anyhow, THEY asked US what we would want to know about Iraq. I said that I wanted to know more about the normal Iraqi people- I was sick of seeing all the crazy people on TV and villianizing them. What is it like to live your life there? That's what I asked.

But for a personal question for Mr. Cooper.... hmmm. I kind of agree with anonymous. He's being marketed as a sex symbol (for a good reason!) instead of the highly intelligent man that he is. I would probably ask him "according to your book [Dispatches from the Edge], you found your "bliss" with journalism. But, if you WEREN'T a journalist, what do you think you would be doing instead?"

5:23 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

Good questions guys.

Re: Kevin
There are a couple of bits in Anderson's book that allude to feelings like that. And of course there was the infamous Landrieu smackdown, which was tame compared to what I would have wanted to say. It's funny, for someone dubbed the "emo anchor", Anderson is pretty matter of fact when it comes to all the tragedy he's seen.

Re: Anon
That's a good one. Personally I think it's ridiculous how CNN hitches their wagon to just one or two people. Anderson's under contract, but God forbid what if something happened? CNN would be in a bind. They should just let the work speak for itself.

Re: nancy nurse
I don't think we need to bring up his ancestors, but I hope he steers clear of the Ambien. After all, it was watching 360 that I learned Ambien is EVIL. Yes, 360 taught me that Ambien and Myspace are both forces of darkness. Heh.

Re: midnite
I like the reporter's notebooks too. They're only a minute or so, so it's not like it's a big deal.

Re: sharla
Oh, you're braver than I am. I post to the blog, but I would never send video of myself.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Sharla said...

Oh yes. I fluffed the hair, did the makeup, stared at myself in the mirror, and then recorded myself. My voice was shaking :)

10:25 PM  
Blogger Leishalynn said...


Should the Fourth Estate report impartially on politics? Can it provide a moral compass for the United States, or should it simply parrot the facts?

Is there any chance that the media will redeem itself by telling the truth about political posturing leading up to a war in Iran? Or will it fail us again, as it did before Iraq?

Is the Fourth Estate, along with the U.S. Supreme Court and the office of the President, going the way of those other once trusted and respected institutions, and becoming nothing more than a puppet for the powerful & wealthy? Is there anything we can do to stop this sickening decline?

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leishalynn, those are excellent questions that I'd love to get an answer for from AC or any other journalist. I'm not even sure they'd be capable of an honest answer.

4:53 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

I agree anon. Those are great questions and you're probably right that none of them would be capable of an honest answer.

As far as Iran goes I think it might be up to We The People to make sure they don't fail us again. One thing that irks me about Anderson is I've heard him get defensive before when asked about the lead up to Iraq. The New York Times and Washington Post did mea culpas for their coverage, why can't he just admit that the media as a whole sucked when it came to the prewar reporting?

5:37 PM  
Anonymous full circle said...

why can't he just admit that the media as a whole sucked when it came to the prewar reporting?

That's something that bothers me about Anderson too and I don't know why he won't own up to how the media screwed up.

6:26 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

Did 360 even exist in early 2003? I don't think Anderson even did much prewar reporting, so I don't see the problem. Unless of course that's the exact problem. Maybe he doesn't want to criticize when they can't criticize him back. But hey, I do it all the time. ;)

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I keep hearing something about Anderson being a "cheerleader" for the US's Iraq invasion. He was reporting on CNN in 2003, just not on his own program, he did a lot of sub-anchoring around that time. I don't know exactly what he was supposed to have said, but it's implied that he felt the decision to go in was right.

8:05 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

Hmm, haven't heard that, but they were basically all cheerleaders, so I wouldn't be surprised. That doesn't mean he personally felt that way though.

9:26 PM  

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