A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about “selling out” that mostly focused on music. But musicians’ selling out is really only a minor irritation. The selling out that really burns me up and hurts us all in concrete ways is when journalists sell out. Today, I’m going to call out one of the biggest sell-outs on television, and one of the biggest disappointments to me – Anderson Cooper.
Anderson Cooper was, not that long ago, a hero of American journalism. He did in-depth investigations into government and corporate shenanigans, he told us things that people in power didn’t want us to hear, and he did so with integrity and a non-sensationalist professionalism that was his brand. For all of this, he has won several awards. I miss THAT Anderson Cooper.
Today, Anderson Cooper is a media whore. He still has his old show on CNN, but it is worthless. In fact, his reports resemble Fox “News” in both their quality and their shallowness. Cooper has also added to his resume. He now appears semi-regularly on 60 Minutes, and he has his own daytime talk show.
The quality of his reporting on 60 Minutes leaves me wondering why they put up with him. At the end of his reports on that show, my wife and I both sit there, in disbelief, full of what seem to us as obvious questions that should have been addressed. A journalist is supposed to answer those, and questions that people didn’t even think of. A journalist is supposed to get through the fluff and cut to the meat of the story, telling us not only the where and the who (everybody does that, it’s the easy part), but the why.
Why???? What was the motivation for this event? What do (qualified) people say about it? Is this part of a bigger issue? What’s the background? If you’re talking about a government program that is turning out in an unsatisfactory way, why did that happen, and what are the alternatives? A journalist doesn’t research and come up with alternatives, but he or she ASKS people in the field what went wrong, what might have been done differently, and what could be done from here.
I saw two different Anderson Cooper reports (I think on two different shows of his) on high-speed rail. They were both done as Fox “News” reports – just “scandal/boondoggle” type talk about how much money had been spent and how the train trip from some corner of New England to New York City is only 28 minutes shorter now. WHY has all this money been spent? What, exactly, has it been spent on? WHY is there “little to show for it?” WHY are the trains “still slow?” What is the real problem? What are the alternatives? What could have been done, instead? What if nothing had been done? And maybe the big one: What should we reasonably have expected, by now?
High-speed rail is such rich ground for journalism, it just shocks me that these reports by a former top-level journalist like Anderson Cooper are so thin.
“Anderson Live” is the name of Anderson Cooper’s talk show. It’s worthless. Cooper has always said that it would not be a news program, but wow. Recently, on the show, he was discussing with his co-host for the day (or week or whatever) Melissa Joan Hart the discomfort that he feels, knowing that someone may have “tweeted” him while sitting on the toilet. This is the level to which Cooper has sunk.
Every time I have tuned to this show I have felt dismayed with his celebrity gossip, and unneeded segments on some isolated crime, committed somewhere, that has already been covered extensively by the people who concentrate on that type of thing. The good news is that Cooper’s talk show has apparently been cancelled.
The thing that bothers me most about Anderson’s adventures in “look-at-me-ism” is that he has spread himself so thin that the quality of his important work, the actual journalism, is obviously suffering greatly. I’m sure the networks lured Cooper with huge amounts of cash. I’m sure they told him he could be the next Oprah. With visions like that crowding his horizon, Cooper seems to have lost sight of himself.
To Anderson Cooper I say this: You have stolen an incredibly valuable resource from the people of America. We want it back. There is nothing preventing you from returning to your former glory. You will be forgiven. Put the money you have made during your long flirt with self-centered, self-indulgent, self glorification in the bank, and return to serving the people. One day, when you lay dying of old age, you can look back at a life of real accomplishment, and people will remember you with gratitude.
Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.