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Anderson Cooper, the award-winning prime-time anchor at CNN, delivered a message of hope at a time when journalism and the truth itself is under attack as he accepted the 2018 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism from Arizona State University today.
ASU Provost Mark Searle presented the 35th annual award, given by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which recognizes distinguished journalists who embody the values of the school’s namesake.
Cooper 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 at the downtown Sheraton Grand Phoenix hotel.
During his acceptance speech, Cooper recalled his childhood experiences watching Walter Cronkite on television. He also discussed the current political climate in which attacks on the press 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.”
In his speech, Cooper was upbeat, noting that the quality of life and economic growth has significantly improved around the globe. He said it’s up to individuals to make a difference in the world, noting that everyone has the power to reach out and care for someone else.
“Too often, I think we dwell on what separates us rather than the bonds that tie us to one another,” he said. “Those bonds are at the core of who we are or can be when everything else is stripped away.”
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.”
Cooper joins previous Cronkite Award recipients that include television journalists Tom Brokaw, Diane Sawyer and Bob Schieffer; newspaper journalists Ben Bradlee and Bob Woodward; and newspaper publishers Katharine Graham and Otis Chandler. Last year’s winners were Judy Woodruff and the late Gwen Ifill of “PBS NewsHour.”