Cooper: “This Is The First Job I’ve Actually Nailed Things On The Walls Of My Office”

By SteveK 

Anderson Cooper is happy where he’s at — and at CNN, he’s sticking around. “It’s hard to predict things on TV,” he tells TVNewser. “This is the first job I’ve actually nailed things on the walls of my office. I’ve never had that much confidence I’d be around very long. I certainly hope to be in it a long time.”

He’s hosted AC360 for more than five years, and for the second year in a row, he’s reported for the “Planet in Peril” documentary series, which premieres tonight at 9pmET.

“To me it’s always interesting to see the ripple effects of things, to see the connections we don’t necessarily think about,” he says of this year’s special. For example: “The global economic crisis is leading to higher food prices which is leading communities to push deeper into the forest to search for bushmeat.”

The two-hour program, which also features correspondents Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Lisa Ling, looks at environmental issues on four different continents, with focus ranging from deadly diseases to the plight of Mountain Gorillas.

But after seeing a preview of the documentary, one of the most shocking segments is when Cooper takes a dive with great white sharks without a cage.

“It certainly was one of most memorable things I’ve every done,” he says. “I grew up terrified of sharks.”

But what was more scary — his swim with sharks or his swim against Michael Phelps a couple weeks ago on 60 Minutes?

“I did about as well with both of them,” Cooper says. “The Phelps thing was fun. It’s funny to me how much reaction me swimming with him has had.”

As for “Planet in Peril,” Cooper says he’s seeing the impact already. “A couple weeks ago the U.S. Director of National Intelligence said that over the next 15 or so years, competition among natural resources is going to be a major problem,” he says. “It’s nice after working on this thing for a year for him to acknowledge that. It certainly validated the thesis.”

Cooper says he’s proud CNN puts the money towards “Peril” and other similar documentaries. “I think it says a lot about CNN. There are not many companies left devoted to actual reporting,” he says. “These are not inherently ratings grabbers; there’s not this swell of demand to hear about food shortages in Cameroon.

“When you see documentaries on cable that are endless prison documentaries, which seem well put together and very well produced, and I understand why people watch them, but it’s nice to be working at a place that is really investing in reporting.”

As for the 10pmET timeslot, Cooper is in a tight competition with FNC’s On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. While Van Susteren wins consistently in Total Viewers, the two programs are often splitting the A25-54 demo victories (Cooper won last month). “I’m certainly aware of ratings. Anyone who says they’re not is a fool or a liar or both,” Cooper says. “The mistake is if you try to program your show based on ratings.

“What I take great pride in is we’ve been relentless in covering politics and the economic crisis the last couple months, and viewers are certainly responding.”