Monday, September 12, 2005

CNN's Anderson Cooper, America's hero-reporter

Anderson Cooper, the overwhelmingly dedicated TV journalist I most admire after the late Peter Jennings and certainly hope to have the pleasure of meeting and working with someday, is still in New Orleans reporting on the aftermath of Katrina. Anderson, whose whole-hearted reports in some cases led to him choking up on air, is featured in both New York Magazine Online and today's New York Times:

He is a stew of emotion: dejection, regret, sadness, anger. “I was really affected by the bodies,” he says, his voice cracking. “I’ve seen a lot dead bodies before, and I’m not sure why these dead bodies affected me so much, but I sort of haven’t been able to stop thinking about them.”

When I ask what his life has been like for the past few days, he says, “I’m fine.” Long pause. “It’s a horrible story to cover.” Another long pause. “Frankly, I feel privileged to be here. I’m really . . . I don’t want to leave . . . Um . . . ” He starts to cry. “I’m sorry,” he says, “I’m going to have to call you back in a second.”

The CNN anchor Anderson Cooper strikes a pose in the September issue of the men's magazine Maxim, modeling a sharp black suit set off by his prematurely gray hair. A stylized jumble of broken television sets is piled high beside him.

It is a very different Mr. Cooper who has captivated CNN viewers in the two weeks since Hurricane Katrina crashed ashore. The jumble of broken stuff is there, but it is real remnants of homes and lives washed away. Mr. Cooper's heart-on-his-sleeve demeanor has been anything but slick and packaged.

The 38-year-old anchor has dressed down officials in interviews with polite righteous indignation in behalf of hurricane victims. At least twice he choked up on air, once abruptly stopping his commentary about lost homes and waving away the camera as he looked about to burst into tears. CNN's camera occasionally has caught him playing with stray dogs. He says he has no intention of returning to his hip New York existence any time soon.