CNN is the midst of a week-long series featuring its own anchors the network says “are revisiting stories and people that have had a lasting impact on them.”
In case you have missed it amid all the breaking news and Trump talk, Champions for Change has been airing as individual segments across CNN programming throughout the week. It will conclude as part of a one-hour, prime time special hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, tomorrow, at 8 p.m. ET.
In addition to Gupta, anchors Brooke Baldwin, John Berman, Kate Bolduan, Erin Burnett, Alisyn Camerota, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo, Poppy Harlow, Don Lemon, Jim Sciutto, and Bill Weir have shared their stories throughout the week.
We spoke with Baldwin about Champions for Change. She wants CNN to produce more of these week-long special series going forward.
“I got into journalism for storytelling, and to be able to get out to introduce our audience to these people is just a nice change of pace,” Baldwin told TVNewser. “To inject a little hope in our audience, I think is a good thing.”
Baldwin revisited her 2014 conversation with rapper and activist, Killer Mike (Michael Render) this past Monday as part of the series.
Killer Mike rose to prominence weighing in on police, race and activism in his tracks. But Baldwin got a more intimate take on him as he discussed those topics at his Atlanta barbershop or “Swag Shop.”
“I have known Mike for about five years,” said Baldwin. “We’re both from Atlanta. I was made aware of him more than five years ago from a girlfriend of mine who had her ear to the ground on leaders out of my hometown.”
Baldwin added: “I love music. I was aware of [Killer Mike’s hip hop act] Run the Jewels, and we connected initially after I went to go see a show of his up here. Then we became friends. He would text me. He’s very engaged politically and socially. So, he’d be blowing up my phone while I’d be on TV talking about ‘X, Y or Z.’
Once Ferguson happened, which was such a huge story that year, I said: ‘Will you please come on and let’s have a really frank, real conversation about race in this country and what we can do about it?’ And that was the beginning of a friendship. So, I wanted to pick him because I admire him. I think he’s just damn cool.”
Does he feel as though any progress has been made regarding race relations since the two spoke in 2014?
“Definitely not more optimistic, but I don’t think he’s more pessimistic. He’s just real about it,” said Baldwin. “When you think of all the stories we cover – black people, brown people who are being shot. And this is coming from a man whose father was a police officer, and whose cousins are police officers. So he can speak with some authority. His whole point: ‘They need to be serving us as well.'”
Here are the stories Baldwin’s colleagues have shared throughout the week:
When CNN’s John Berman first met the Young@Heart Chorus in 2008, the remarkable group of senior citizens was bringing worldwide audiences to their feet. The chorus members — ranging from 75-90 years young — break all the rules, belting out the most surprising range of rock-n-roll hits. Today, they go even further: their collaboration with young prison inmates spreads the message that life can be fulfilling whatever the obstacles. (Tuesday, May 14th)
CNN’s Kate Bolduan returns to the South Side of Chicago where almost a decade ago she met a woman fighting to save her community. Diane Latiker’s neighborhood was reeling from gun violence that turned street corner after street corner into makeshift memorials. Diane felt compelled to listen to the plight of young black men and women in her area, and eventually, to act. She sold her TV purchased two computers and opened her home to kids needing homework help. As five kids grew into thousands, she realized just how much her community needs her, and according to Diane, how much she needs them. (Tuesday, May 14th)
Erin Burnett returns to St. John’s Baptist Church in Far Rockaway, New York, almost seven years after it was nearly destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. Located less than half a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, the church was under six feet of water and almost forced to permanently close. Erin speaks to Pastor JD Williams and his congregation about the support they received after their story was featured on Erin Burnett OutFront and the progress they have made. Pastor Williams led the effort to rebuild the church, which has become a symbol of the community’s survival and recovery. (Thursday, May 16th)
Alisyn Camerota reconnects with two compelling voices that emerged from the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. David Hogg and his sister Lauren had just survived the attack and were reeling from the loss of several friends when Alisyn Camerota conducted a stunning interview with them. Their words struck a nerve. The Hoggs quickly became key figures in the national reaction to the attack that killed 17 students and teachers. Since Alisyn first met the siblings, their resolve and influence have only grown. Alisyn explores Lauren and David’s rise as political and cultural forces. She also shares intimate details about the ways covering the shooting impacted her personally. (Monday, May 13th)
In 2011, journalist Tim Hetherington was killed in a mortar attack in Libya. He was doing what he loved, covering conflict zones and telling the stories of the people affected by war. Tim was Anderson Cooper’s friend. They worked together in Afghanistan just a few years before he was killed. Tim’s death inspired fellow journalist and friend Sebastian Junger to start a foundation that trains journalists to stay safe in war zones. Anderson and Sebastian sit down to talk about Tim’s life, his legacy, and the dangers journalists face around the world. (Monday, May 13th)
Almost twenty years ago, as a reporter for Good Morning America, Chris Cuomo met Mattie Stepanek, a little boy-poet fighting a rare and devastating disease. Mattie’s message of peace and hope after 9/11 earned him a following around the world. Cuomo and Mattie developed a special bond. After his passing, Cuomo says he almost quit journalism. Fifteen years after the boy’s death, he reunites with Mattie’s mother Jeni, who works tirelessly to advance her son’s legacy as “chief peace officer” of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation. (Tuesday, May 14th)
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
In 2000, Kevin Hines tried to end his life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He miraculously survived and returned to the iconic San Francisco landmark in 2003 with CNN Chief Medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to open up about his struggle with mental illness. Kevin has since dedicated his life to suicide prevention, traveling the country to encourage anyone and everyone who is suffering “brain pain” that it’s always better to #BeHereTomorrow. (Wednesday, May 15th on AC360)
When Heather Abbott lost her leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, it seemed her passion for dance, fitness and high heels was over. But when CNN’s Poppy Harlow first interviewed her in the weeks after the attack, it was clear Abbott was not staying down. Six years later, Poppy Harlow met back up with Heather and found the inspirational woman back in full form, fighting to make life-like prosthetics available and running a foundation that helps others like herself feel whole again…and beautiful. (Thursday, May 16th)
The Oliver Scholars program guides and challenges promising students in underserved communities and gives them a shot at elite universities. Last year, CNN’s Don Lemon introduced viewers to the outstanding kids striving and thriving through the program. This year, Lemon follows up with an alumnus who is finishing up her freshman year at Middlebury College and talks to Oliver Scholars’ new CEO, Dr. Danielle Moss. (Wednesday, May 15th)
As an al-Qaeda fighter in Afghanistan, Hanif Qadir saw first-hand extremism’s violence and destruction. He quickly realized it was not for him and returned home to London. Ten years ago, Jim Sciutto first met Qadir who was running a program to keep young men from going down the path of radicalization. Now Jim follows up with Qadir’s personal war on terror, its successes and challenges. (Tuesday, May 14th)
CNN’s Bill Weir catches up with longtime friend and best-selling author Dan Buettner in Fort Worth, Texas. Bill last met Dan during an episode of CNN’s Original Series The Wonder List – in Ikaria, Greece, one of five so-called Blue Zones he identified in his 2008 book by the same title. Blue Zones are places where active, healthy lifestyles are common and so too are people living beyond the age of 100. Dan meticulously catalogued the factors that contribute to the robust health in these communities. Through his Blue Zone Project, he is now bringing that research home to help American cities promote healthier lifestyles. (Monday, May 13th on CNN Tonight)