By Bette Sharpe/Glendale Daily Planet
CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper accepted the 2018 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the Sheraton Grand Phoenix. Arizona State University Executive Vice President and University Provost, Dr. Mark S. Searle presented the award to Cooper.
“At a time in our history when journalism, facts and the truth itself are under attack every day, we believe that a free, robust and unfettered press remains the most essential element to the health and the future of our great country, our democracy and our freedom,” ASU Cronkite School Dean Chris Callahan said.
The journalism program at Arizona State University was named in honor of former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite in 1984. Gabriella Bachara, a senior student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications, introduced Cooper, who accepted the award at a luncheon attended by a sellout crowd of more than 1,200 media leaders, business executives, civic leaders and Cronkite School supporters and students.
Cooper is the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning prime-time anchor of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” a newscast that goes beyond the headlines with in-depth reporting and investigations.
Cooper, also a correspondent for “60 Minutes” on CBS, has reported live from more than 40 countries since his journalism career began in 1992. He has earned a reputation as one television’s leading journalists.
Previously Cooper was and ABC News correspondent from 1995-2000, serving as anchor of ABC’s overnight newscast, “World News Now.” He also was a correspondent for “World News Tonight,” as well as “20/20.” He joined ABC from Channel One News, a school television network seen daily in more than 12,000 classrooms nationwide.
During his acceptance speech, Cooper recalled his childhood experiences watching Walter Cronkite on television. He also discussed the current political climate in which the press [is] attacked and special interests manipulate the truth.
“There is certainly much to criticize in the media and much to analyze and improve upon,” Cooper said. “But this I know: I know that the kids who are studying here (at the Cronkite School) to become journalists are not the enemies of the people.”
After the luncheon, Cooper spoke to more than 300 students who packed the First Amendment Forum. The 40-minute discussion, led by Cronkite senior Bryce Newberry, weaved Cooper’s stories from his hundreds of live reporting spots around the world with humor, a wealth of advice to the aspiring journalists and his own journey as a political science graduate of Yale University who rose through the ranks in television news.
While referring to Walter Cronkite as the “north star” of journalists, Cooper expressed humility and reverence for receiving the award as he stressed the importance of “finding your voice,” pursuing internships, learning every aspect of the business and “out-hustling everyone around you.”
“This is something that gets the heart pumping,” he said. “If it’s a genuine passion then you’ll put in the time and hours.”
He spoke of the “passion for this craft” in the face of “fake news” and other attacks on the media. Noting the increase in journalism degree enrollment, Cooper encouraged Cronkite students to learn everything they can about journalism, the world and “keep and follow whatever is unique to you.”
“You’re entering an incredibly honorable profession in which you can help save lives and inform people about things that can change their world,” he said. “It’s an incredibly honorable and tough profession, with unique challenges and difficulties. But at its core, there’s a real honor to doing it well.”
As part of Cooper’s daylong visit to ASU, Cooper anchored his CNN program, “Anderson Cooper 360” from the Cronkite School. He also hosted his Facebook Watch program “Anderson Cooper Full Circle.”
Each year, the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism is presented to a recipient who is deemed to represent a leading figure in the journalism industry, especially for ground-breaking achievements which have advanced the industry as a whole.
Award recipients include TV news anchors Scott Pelley, Diane Sawyer, Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill; newspaper journalists Ben Bradlee, Helen Thomas and Bob Woodward; and media executives Katharine Graham, Al Neuharth and William Paley. Cronkite personally presented the award during its first quarter-century until the CBS News anchor died in 2009.