Capital News Service
Follow your bliss.
That was just one piece of advice Emmy-winning journalist and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper gave students during his visit to Richmond this weekend.
Cooper discussed topics ranging from world affairs to journalism careers to family relationships at the Richmond Forum, a speaker series at the Landmark Theater. But first, he engaged in a forum tradition – a question-and-answer session in the “student room.”
The forum’s organizers allow students to meet with speakers in a more intimate setting in a room above the theater before they address the larger crowd below.
Lorisa Francios, 15, a sophomore at Henrico High School, was invited to the student room as part of Partnership for the Future, a program to help students in their journey from high school to college. Francios is thinking about becoming a journalist, and she asked Cooper for advice.
Never underestimate the value of just out-hustling everyone else,” Cooper said. “Just outwork everyone else around you – coming in before everyone does and leaving late. I feel like I only got a job at CNN because I kept volunteering for the shifts no one really wanted.”
Francios said she was nervous about asking her question, but the advice from Cooper is something she will treasure.
“I really wanted to hear his encouragement,” Francios said. “I’ve been contemplating if my words will be enough to survive in the journalism world.”
Cooper began his journalism career when he was 23 years old and used forged press credentials to cover the war in Myanmar.
“If no one would give me an opportunity, I had to make one,” Cooper said.
He spent the next 18 years covering wars and conflicts in some of the most violent places in the world. During his Q-and-A with students, Cooper addressed the fears that come along with covering such hostile environments.
“Kidnapping is the one thing that really freaks me out, so I hope to never experience it,” he said.
After appearing in the student room, Cooper gave a presentation to a sold-out crowd in the Landmark Theater. The presentation was followed by another onstage Q-and-A led by Marcus Messner, a professor of mass communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.
In his presentation before the forum, Cooper recounted the graphic violence and injustices he saw over the course of his career. He also spoke about the attacks on journalists during the recent revolution in Egypt.
“I was in Egypt just two weeks ago, and I was attacked twice,” Cooper said. “Reporters more and more are becoming targets. Just about every reporter I know in Egypt was targeted at one time or the other by mobs of people.”
Cooper describes his career as “running towards what everyone else is running away from.”
He also discussed lighter topics including his “60 Minutes” interview with singer Lady Gaga and his often-strange relationship with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, a socialite, actress and fashion designer.
“Apparently she has a cardboard cutout of me in her apartment,” Cooper said.
Cooper said he first heard the phrase “follow your bliss” from his mother. She offered those words when he needed guidance on what to do with his life after college.
Cooper said he found his bliss telling stories from around the world. Perhaps the students he spoke to will find their bliss the same way.