30 Most Impactful TV Newsers of the Past 15 Years: Anderson Cooper

By A.J. Katz Comment

To mark the 15th anniversary of TVNewser this month, Adweek honored the 30 Most Impactful TV Newsers of the Past 15 Years, spotlighting the personalities and execs who were instrumental in the industry’s incredible decade-and-a-half evolution. TVNewser will be presenting expanded versions of each honoree’s interview.

Anderson Cooper

  • Job now: anchor, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN; correspondent, 60 Minutes, CBS
  • Job 15 years ago: anchor, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN

Adweek: What were you doing 15 years ago, in January 2004? 

Anderson Cooper: I had been at CNN for two years at that point. In January I was hosting the New Year’s Eve celebration from Times Square for my second time I think.  I was still doing it solo, and as my regular gig, I had a show on CNN at 7 p.m.

What’s your favorite professional moment of the past 15 years?

It’s hard to pick one moment, but the opportunity to go to the frontlines of stories, and be on the breaking wave of history has been the great privilege of my life.  Whether it was reporting on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in 2005, or the earthquake in Haiti, to be able to bear witness and give people a voice is an extraordinary thing, and I feel so blessed to be able to do that.

What is the biggest way that TV news has changed over the past 15 years?

Some of the technology now allows us to be live in places we never could broadcast live from 15 years ago. I spent hours in a Coast Guard helicopter during the floods in Houston broadcasting live while they were rescuing people from rooftops.  Also the speed of the news cycle is so fast now. People used to talk about a 24 hour news cycle. It now seems to be like a 24 second cycle.

Who have you learned the most from in your career? 

I’ve learned the most from my executive producers and producers over the years.  David Neuman and Mitchell Koss at Channel One, Kathy O’Hearn and Kathy Christensen at ABC News, and Charlie Moore at CNN.  Also Jon Klein and Jeff Zucker are great producers, and the team of producers and correspondents at 60 Minutes have also taught me a lot.

Which of your competitors do you most admire?

I don’t view people as competitors.  The correspondent I most admired was [the late 60 Minutes correspondent] Bob Simon. He was the best writer in television, along with Jim Wooten at ABC.

What do you know now about the business that you didn’t know 15 years ago?

A lot.  I know how easy it is to get killed. I know how easy it is to make a mistake.  I know how important it is to admit your mistakes and learn from them. I know how easy it is to get fired. I know how important it is to be yourself, and most of all, I know how important it is not to think of this as a business – it doesn’t help you become a better storyteller, so leave the business stuff to the business people, just focus on your own writing, and getting better and better every day.

What has been your toughest professional challenge during the past 15 years?

Dealing with some of the attention that comes with being on television. I overcame it by choosing to ignore it.  I don’t read about myself, and I don’t think of myself as someone who is well known.  I find I’m happier that way.

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