It was bound to happen: an excerpt of Anderson Cooper’s forthcoming book, Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival has been leaked. Who knows if it’s for real, or just, oh, I don’t know, some critic’s satirical commentary on the state of CNN? (Even though the book hasn’t been released yet, it’s slowly but steadily climbing up the Amazon.com sales ranker.) Check it out:
Chapter Six: Hurricane Katrina
I almost don’t know what to write here. The things I saw and experienced after Hurricane Katrina both made me wonder if there is a God, and at the same time proved His existence. Katrina may not have been punishment, but her trajectory was so lethal, so precise, as to be almost choreographed by an unseen hand, and the miracles conceived in the rubble seemed similarly engineered by an entity that has been engineering the expansion of human limits for a very long time.
What I saw in New Orleans made my heart feel as fragile as glass, and my heart didn’t just break: it was pulverized into dust, into knife-edged atoms small enough to tear apart everything it touched at a microscopic level. I guess when those particles get into your soul, it’s like certain kinds of shrapnel wounds sustained in combat: they can’t be fished out in surgery, so you’ll just have to live with them.
That’s why I can’t understand why my boss, Jon Klein, keeps bragging to the press about the authenticity of my emotions. Of course they’re authentic, they’re so authentic I’m pretty sure I have an ulcer. If I hadn’t been completely grey before Katrina you can bet my hair would be snow-white now. And Klein just can’t get enough of it–he’s the first grief pimp to ever run a national news network. Doesn’t he understand that urging more live-on-TV grief, more vividly re-enacted post-traumatic stress, and more please-God-make-it-stop-the-sadness-is-killing-me remembrances, he’s just cheapening what Katrina’s victims have gone through and strip-mining my empathy? Doesn’t he understand that I’m a reporter with feelings, not a bundle of feelings that reports? Can’t Klein get it through his head that in his quest for ratings he’s making CNN into the worst kind of reality television, the kind where spontaneous, uncontrollable emotions are written into the script and about as spontaneous as brain surgery?
Yeah, I cried and screamed on air when I was covering Katrina. I’m only human. A lot of other serious reporters from other nets did the same thing. But most of them didn’t have a wanna-be Quentin Tarantino calling the shots from his director’s chair back in New York, trying to yank more and more cry-til-you-puke grief out of them like he did out of me. Note to Klein: it’s precisely because I’m only human that I can’t in good conscience put on an Oscar-winning performance every time the news is sad. Here’s some breaking news for you: a lot of the news is sad, and to some extent television news reporters exist to tell the public that we all have to stay steady and not fall to pieces over every little thing, or else we’ll all be on anti-depressants. Reporters need to report, not emote unless the news is especially grim, like Katrina. But now, Jon, it’s been months. I’m not a dancing bear, yet here I am tap-dancing on a desk in the CNN studio, a emoting dancing bear with great hair in a suit. Well, no more. I quit. I’m taking my camcorder and my cool bump music and going anywhere where I can do investigative reporting without being encouraged to mist up on cue. Good luck with those ratings, Jon.
Kidding. Cooper didn’t write this, I did. This is just what I wish he’d write. But talk about emotional authenticity if he would put something like this in his book, though. Keep hope alive, I guess.
Reposted from The Cable Game, 21 February 2006