Anderson Cooper is perhaps one of the most currently recognizable faces of contemporary journalism. Some may argue that Cooper’s good looks, his famous mother, or his privileged upbringing are indicators for how his career retains such profound success. While Cooper’s blue-blooded upbringing is perhaps part of his consistent popularity, it is his ability to effectively connect to the global public that, in my opinion, defines his media-persona.
Cooper’s ability to reach such a vast audience is directly connected to the social networking tools he has integrated into the image of traditional journalism. He is probably most recognized for his news-anchor position on CNN, but even this platform has developed and expanded outside the traditional reporter’s role. For example, as of Fall 2011, he ventured out into the daytime-television arena, and despite the shifts Cooper has made over the years, his social media usage has almost constantly remained up-to-speed; I believe that it has been this usage of so many media forums that largely contribute to his ever-expanding empire.
Another path that Cooper has paved, The RidicuList, serves as his primary social platform. In my opinion, the RidicuList is (at least in part) Cooper’s way of poking harmless fun at – or overtly criticizing – the media industry for its tendency to pay a more-than-reasonable amount of attention to certain individuals. Political figures, business executives, reporters and/or news stations, and even no-name bloggers are potential candidates for Cooper’s list.
Next, there is Cooper’s newest forum, his daytime talk show, and I’m not going to lie, but when I heard that Cooper had branched out into the world of daytime TV, I thought that I may have lost a bit of respect for him. When I think of daytime television programming in general, I can’t help but think of soap-operas and Jerry Springer. How could the chronically-witty, button-pushing, old-Jewish-man-impersonating, world-traveling, awareness-raising, GQ of modern journalism be demoting himself to generic white couches and “APPLAUSE” prompts from stage assistants? I should also confess that if it weren’t for this project, I probably would have never watched Anderson. While I am still on the fence regarding how effective Cooper can/will be on this new platform, it was in fact interesting to witness the very real distinction between the persona he embodies on the talk show, versus the personas portrayed within CNN and news-related forums. Here’s what I (eventually) came up with:
CNN/Raw News & Politics / Keeping Them Honest (KTH)
This may very well be Cooper’s comfort zone. A comfort zone for him, as well as for his primary group of followers. Based on my observations of Cooper’s antics, body language, etc., (i.e. watching at least a dozen-or-so videos from each category mentioned) I determined that the CNN/News persona serves as Cooper’s personal comfort zone, by virtue of him exuding what I believe to be a stronger, more convincing kind of confidence; and, if the audience is satisfied, Cooper is satisfied. In my opinion, one does not become truly confident without some level of validation from another, and this appeared to be the case for Cooper.
In the videos of Cooper reporting on a major, newsworthy, or political event, I noticed some commonalities, listed below:
(Note: These are the behaviors I noted as occurring more often than not.)
-Leans forward; arms/elbows on desk
-Complex, “multi-layered” questions
-Higher inclination, or willingness, to interrupt, in an effort to challenge a claim or statement made by the interviewee
As my disclaimer, I realize that the first of these two platforms (still hosted by CNN) is intended to mock “ridiculous” situations, so naturally Cooper’s behaviors would shift, to some degree. However, it was interesting to realize that this very different demeanor ultimately paralleled that of Cooper’s daytime talk-show persona.
There is something about the way Cooper tells stories on the RidicuList, and this “something” becomes evident during the interviews featured on Anderson. In addition, the way that Cooper physically carries himself on the talk show mimics the way in which he reports for the RidicuList. On Anderson or during the RidicuList segment, Cooper encompasses the “social” and “recreational” aspects of journalism. The pitch of Cooper’s voice is slightly higher, suggesting a more relaxed persona. There is a much more laid-back approach to everything, from the guests appearing on Anderson, to the frequent flow of laughter and sarcasm, to Cooper’s tendency to lean into his chair, rather than on his desk. However, the quality of laughter seemed a bit more authentic during RidicuList segments versus than that of (at least two) interviews on Anderson.
When away from news reporting, Cooper’s furrowed brow becomes softer, suggesting less intensity; but this facial expression could also imply less concern for the topic being discussed. The most interesting thing that I observed was the shift in vocal injections Cooper makes while interviewing or reporting under this less-formal category. For example, when Cooper interviews celebrities like Bethenny Frankel on Anderson, he injects “uh-huh” as she speaks; when he interviews with political figures, or for instance, when he consults with those involved in the Syrian controversies, his filler suddenly becomes “hmm” or “right” or “mm-hmm”. Call me crazy, but in my opinion the interviewer may seem less-engaged when using “uh-huh” if/when trying to convey a sense of affirmative understanding or agreement. “Hmm” or “right” sound like more convincing ways to subtly tell the interviewee, “hey, that’s an interesting point” or, “I never thought of that before”.
“Dial-A-Star” on the RidicuList
Bethenny Frankel on Anderson:
David Carr, contributing writer for The New York Times, published an article in November of 2011 entitled, Delicate Dance With Daytime, which discusses how Anderson is already, what Carr believes to be, an inevitable flop. Cooper seems to have left a bad taste in Carr’s mouth due to the prevalent interjections made that define under-cut, sarcastic criticism; Carr certainly has some questions regarding Cooper’s (lack of) credibility. Carr refers to Cooper as a “professed fanboy of the conjured drama and celebrity of shows like ‘Real Housewives‘, and states that Cooper’s news-reporting persona is one of “journalistic interest in global calamity” with a “lack of an anchor desk”. Carr definitely seems to subscribe to my aforementioned theory of good looks and/or a predominantly-female fan base being responsible for Cooper’s fame. Is Carr bitter? Or is he right? While a person’s character takes much time to truly determine, other journalists do agree with Carr’s inclination regarding Cooper’s “toughest assignment yet”, which is, “wading through the dreck of daytime talk without sliming the rest of his reputation”.
Social Networking Usage
In regards to social networking tools, Cooper’s proficiency is superior to that of many of his peers. I have created this chart to illustrate the social media forums Cooper is linked to; but my primary motivation in creating this chart was to show how these forums overlap, coincide, and compliment one another.
In reference to Twitter, the AC360° account pertains to almost all topics covered on CNN (KTH, RidicuList, etc.) Anderson Cooper’s Twitter, on the other hand, includes a wide, somewhat more randomized, array of topics, events, or opinions. The Anderson talk show also has its own Twitter feed.
Cooper has added a YouTube channel to his list of networking tools, specifically tailored towards his talk show. Anderson also has its own blog (hosted by Tumblr), known as the Backstage Blog. Guests and Anderson himself contribute to this blog via video, photo, or comment uploads, usually geared towards highlighting information and tidbits that were not featured during any particular episode. The surprising part of this blog was the fact that it alerted me to the medium-sized handful of serious topics discussed on this seemingly, low-key talk show. Check out this link to a backstage video of Cooper’s comments, made upon wrapping on one of the “heavier” Anderson episodes.
Adhering to the topics of Anderson and social networking devices, during an August 2011 Television Critics Association conference in Los Angeles, Cooper engaged in a Q&A session with the audience. He discusses the ways in which he and his team have utilized these new forums (while still incorporating Anderson-specific Facebook and Twitter pages) in an effort to promote his extension into daytime television
(Video source: blog devoted to Anderson Cooper, All Things Anderson (ATA)
Despite Cooper’s affinity and proficiency, he still encounters some of the more “common” problems many users may experience when social networking devices are utilized. For example, according to an article published by Huffington Post, Cooper and rapper MIA exchanged words via a lengthy Twitter-feed conversation when MIA believed Cooper had insinuated that she was a terrorist. The author states that Cooper responded to MIA’s accusations by tweeting, “you’ve gone from saying ‘I wrote’, ‘I called you,’ to saying my CNN show blog had a link to an article. Big difference”, and soon after, the dust seemed to settle between the two.
To be completely honest, I chose to analyze the many faces of Anderson Cooper solely based on the fact that I knew he was viral, global, and current. I knew that Cooper’s use of social media was more than sufficient, and while the Twitter feeds and Facebook updates for each of of his platforms tend to be conveyed in highly similar manners, there is tangible evidence that proves Cooper’s mastery of social networking, thus of raising public awareness of global events. I am certainly not an Anderson Cooper fan, but I also would not necessarily jump to change the channel as soon as Cooper’s segment commenced. I respect him as a journalist, and I admire his success. That being said, I remain skeptical of the daytime show’s capability to propel Cooper to Oprah-status. That being said, I am still somewhat curious to see if a different, more personal side of Cooper, becomes evident, but I suppose my lack of interest in Cooper’s new show may hinder my ability to satisfy that curiosity.