When Katrina hit the US Gulf Coast, Anderson Cooper was catapulted from second tier anchor to a mainstream name. The Landrieu interview (above) became the “voice” of the Nation’s indignity in the way things were handled by the Bush and State administrations. Some claimed that precise moment was the turning point of Cooper’s career; others went so far to claim he was the new face of journalism, or the birth of the emo-anchor. The rebirth of journalism. Or was it?
Cooper became a symbol, the ultimate resource of everything Katrina, almost a spokesperson for the victims coining the phrase Keeping them Honest. The public was tired of the silence of the press, of its fear (the press and parent companies) of losing access to information if they made the right questions about
Time Warner and its research division didn’t miss the opportunity to grasp the reaction. Bad news is good news for media outlets. They gain a lot of money with tragedies. And they were going to milk the Cooper empathy for what it was worth. Soon he was everywhere: billboards, ads, magazine covers, book tours. He was presented as a new millennium super hero. Every interview meticulously scripted and threaded (just think about the interviews that he repeats the same information over and over again). CNN’s promotional budget for him was rumored to be around 10 million. And the public loved it. But Scholars and media professionals on the other hand weren’t so pleased.
Was the Landrieu interview a constructed effort or an outburst of raw emotion and indignation? Most (scholars and professionals) think it was a very decent human been calling on someone on its own Bull Shit, but not a journalistic endeavor. Some claim he became the face of Katrina, sometimes focusing everything on his image eclipsing the real issues and problems.
He tried to keep the bravado in other interviews like the one with
His reports and series became photo ops for promotion, some of them like the Planet in Peril editions a great example of bad production. Many people were looking forward to his Katrina first anniversary special, which ironically became the perfect example of mediocrity. They didn’t even used the reports made by the team of American Morning (excellent BTW) They limited themselves to the old shrimp boat… to later claim there is no right to have Katrina Fatigue.
All the promotional investment hasn’t proportionally translated in strong and steady ratings growths. Seven years ago, during an Edwards R. Murrow Awards Ceremony at the RTNDA, Christiane Amanpour presented and excellent explanation to it: “I believe good journalism is good business.” And the monster ratings she had with God’s Warriors proved it, leaving in the dust all news stations.
But it’s not all Anderson Cooper’s fault. TV production is a team effort. Management and production has to work hand in hand, and respect its audience, something that the team behind Cooper is seriously lacking or forgetting. Sometimes I ask myself if we are really watching CNN or E!?
Amanpour again addressed the issues:
“Remember the movie "Field of Dreams" when the voice said, "Build it and they will come." Well, tell a compelling story and they will watch. Lest you think these are woolly-headed musings …we are not dinosaurs…we are the frontier. You've mastered the hardware…we are the software. And that will never change. Today's buzzwords seem to be content, and platforms. Well, we produce the content for all your different platforms…and that will never change. Humble newsprint, the New York Times, still rules the world. As someone else might have said, "It's the content stupid." You've invested so much money in technology…perhaps it's time to invest in talent…in people…do you know how many people in newsrooms I know have a hard time even recognizing news anymore….”
People in the media knows that CNN is great for entry level positions (the pay isn’t that good unlike networks), but unfortunately the lack of experience of its productions slaps you through your TV set. A friend from
Will tonight mark the return of Anderson Cooper? I'm not holding my breath.