Blowhard 360

Anderson Cooper, who looks better than Geraldo Rivera, pushes the envelope of television journalism.

Published June 22, 2006 4:25PM (EDT)

CNN's Anderson Cooper deserves his own blog on Salon. He should also get his own newspaper ("The Coop Tribune"), his own reality show ("Being Anderson Cooper") and his own network sitcom ("The Cooper"). In fact, Simon Cowell should make him both a judge and a contestant on the next "American Idol." Everyone -- right now! -- needs to give Cooper more of his or her attention. He seems to need us to believe that we need him.

As it stands, Cooper is suffering because millions of Americans do not think about him all the time. They don't understand how he feels the pain of his story subjects. They have forgotten that he once reported from an overpass in New Orleans. They still have not bought his book or seen his teary eyes on the cover of Vanity Fair. They cannot comprehend his worldliness.

Thank God for Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times. Today she hails Cooper's recent interview with Angelina Jolie as one of the most narcissistic moments in recent television history: "Mr. Cooper, the silver-haired CNN anchor, did not conduct an interview with the elusive actress; he held a conversation in which he seemed a little too eager to put himself on par with his guest as if the two of them belonged to an elite club of the concerned and caring."

Cooper's problem is this: The more sincere he tries to look -- the more of his heart he bleeds onto the camera lens -- the more he comes off as a phony. When he talks about his brother's tragic suicide, it feels exploitative. When he talks of being in a war zone, he sounds like he wants a medal. He is nothing more than a blue-state Geraldo Rivera, and an insult to reporters who toil every day for the story and not themselves. Maybe it is not all his fault. He is caught in the churn of CNN's quest for its own journalistic Bill O'Reilly. But Cooper is doing the network no favors. CBS, which just hired Cooper for "60 Minutes," may have hitched its fortunes to a fad.

As Stanley concludes, Cooper came off as such a lightweight this week that he succeeded in making Jolie look like Walter Cronkite. To wit, "With journalists like that, its [sic] a small wonder celebrities are starting to do their own reporting."

By Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer is Salon's Washington correspondent. Read his other articles here.

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