Cooper talks politics, sexuality at Lisner

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper speaks to School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno outside Lisner Auditorium Monday. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper speaks to School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Joseph Politano.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper found himself answering questions instead of asking them Monday, when he spoke in front of a full house in Lisner Auditorium with School of Media and Public Affairs director Frank Sesno.

The award-winning reporter discussed his experiences covering difficult topics in journalism and politics and his role as an openly gay media figure. The conversation touched on topics like the 2016 election, Hurricane Katrina, and wars in the Middle East, and was sponsored by SMPA and the student group Allied in Pride.

Before introducing Cooper, Sesno announced a screening of the Oscar-winning film Spotlight, which won for Best Picture Sunday night. Two of the journalists depicted in the film will be present at the April 14 screening, including Marty Baron, the current executive editor of The Washington Post.

Sesno also announced a $50,000 gift recently donated to SMPA by an alumnus for the Career Access Network, which officially started last semester.

Here are some takeaways from the conversation:

1. Challenging facts, not opinions

Cooper, who had just come from an interview with Melania Trump, the wife of presidential candidate Donald Trump, explained the challenges and merits of interviewing people with controversial viewpoints.

Cooper said he prefers to confront interviewees on facts rather than differing ideological stances. He shared his experience visiting a Pizza Hut with a group of Neo-Nazis.

Anderson Cooper in Lisner Auditorium on Feb. 29, 2016. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor
Anderson Cooper shared his experiences as one of CNN’s top anchors. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

“Obviously, these are people who I do not share their opinions, and they clearly do not share my various interests,” Cooper said. “But I don’t believe in necessarily confronting someone just because I disagree with them.”

2. ‘The greatest blessing’

Cooper, who came out publicly in 2012, is one of the few openly gay figures in the news media. He said there were challenges in being a gay member of the media, but that he felt he was a better journalist because of his sexuality.

“I think being gay for me is one of the greatest blessings of my life,” Cooper said. “It’s made me such a better person than I would have otherwise been.”

He said his sexuality has given him a unique vantage point of society, allowing him to better understand privilege and marginalizations than if he were straight.

“I would have been a child of privilege, with all the advantages of that privilege, without perhaps much of an understanding of what discrimination is like or an understanding of what limitations are like,” Cooper said.

3. An age of information

Cooper told the audience that the massive amount of information currently available puts them in a position to educate themselves about the world better than those from past generations.

He said while many refer to the days of Walter Cronkite as “the golden age of news,” that the in-depth, constant reporting by networks like his own CNN are more thorough, even if not everyone is watching the hour-long documentaries that he and others put out.

“You have the ability to be more educated than any previous generation in history, and I think that’s an extraordinary thing,” Cooper said. “For all of our hand-wringing and looking back, we’re doing hours and hours of discussion on the minutia of politics every single night.”

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