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Anderson Cooper shares tales of finding ‘true calling’

Ayan Sheikh / Senior Lantern reporter

Anderson Cooper, anchor of CNN’S “Anderson Cooper 360” and star of his own daytime talk show, visited Ohio State’s campus Wednesday to share insight on his journey to becoming a reporter.

With his degree in Liberal Arts from Yale University, Cooper sought out to find his purpose in life.

“I didn’t set out to be a TV anchor. I graduated college not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I really had no idea,” Cooper explained.

Cooper said he found himself drawn to hard news, particularly as a war correspondent; he described his early travel to Sub-Saharan Africa as eye-opening.

“It was the first time I had to talk myself out of a roadblock, it was the first time I had somebody point a gun at me in anger,” Cooper said.

Wanting to pursue a career as a foreign correspondent, Cooper began applying for entry-level positions at television stations like ABC. But he said he wasn’t very successful. Unable to find someone to give him a chance, Cooper then created his own opportunity.

“My thinking was, I should go places that are really dangerous and pretend to be a reporter and there won’t be a lot of people there,” Cooper said.

With a fake press pass his friend made and a borrowed video camera, Cooper embarked on his journey as a reporter.

During his two-hour talk at OSU, Cooper shared news clips of his reporting in Somalia, Rwanda, and his recent coverage of the Arab Spring where he and his camera crew were attacked.

While working on his coverage of the 1992 famine in Somalia, Cooper said he then realized that journalism was his “true calling.”

“I’ve never seen starvation … I’ve never seen a child die in front of my eyes.” Cooper said. “In Somalia, I really knew that I had found my calling. I knew I couldn’t stop the starvation … but I could bear witness to their struggles and I could provide testimony to their lives.”

Having lost his older brother during his senior year in college, Cooper said he wanted to go places where “the language of loss was spoken.”

“I wanted to be around others who were surviving so that I could myself learn how to survive,” Cooper said.

Having spent the first three years of his carreer as a foreign correspondent and having to witness countless bodies of civilians killed as a result of the genocide in Rwanda and the famine in Somalia, Cooper decided it was time for him to take a break from hard news and venture into other types of reporting.

“Rwanda was sort of the final straw. I decided after that, that I’ve been doing it too long … I was no longer responding the way you should be responding when you see something like this,” Cooper said.

Lisa Nishimura, fourth-year in marketing logistics management, said she was drawn to Cooper’s intelligence and his humility.

“He’s kinda got that down-to-earth quality, but at the same time he’s really good at delivering the hard facts.”

Cooper then went on to hosting ABC’s reality game show “The Mole” for two seasons before he was offered a position at CNN.

Cooper told the OSU audience that despite the often gruesome nature of wars, it is important to pay attention to the issues instead of turning a blind eye to them.

“It’s very tempting to ignore the sadness that other people have to live through … but I do think it’s important not to turn away,” Cooper said. “I think we have to look directly at things that scare us most.”

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