The surprise of the 2011 syndication season thus far has been Anderson Cooper’s arrival on the talk scene. The urbane host of CNN’s primetime hour, Anderson Cooper 360, will bring his talents to daytime this fall. Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution has already cleared talker Anderson on TV stations covering 80% of the country.
After his emotional response to 2004’s Hurricane Katrina and its devastating impact on residents of the Gulf Coast, Cooper has become known for his ability to humanize the news. He has since done stories for Oprah, sat in for Regis Philbin and become a frequent correspondent on CBS’ 60 Minutes.
Now Cooper will put his own spin on daytime. Calling himself a longtime fan of daytime TV in an interview with B&C Contributing Editor Paige Albiniak, he plans a show with the breadth of Oprah, the intensity of Donahue and the fun of Ellen. Only time will tell if he can pull it off.
Why add a daytime talk show to your primetime duties?
I like the daytime audience. I like the ability to do stories in depth, and to focus on different stories and on the people behind the headlines. I love news, and I’m happy to continue doing news at night on CNN, but I’m also excited to do something that will allow me to exercise different muscles and show my full range.
Doing stories for daytime doesn’t feel that different to me than doing them for primetime. The stories that I’ve tended to be drawn to at CNN, ABC or even back at Channel One were always very human stories. If I’m covering a disaster, I don’t necessarily focus on the surrounding geopolitical issues. I’ve always focused on the real people involved, so this feels like a natural fit for me.
Have you always wanted to do a daytime talk show?
It wasn’t something that I’d been looking for an opportunity to do, but I was always very happy to work with Oprah. I was interested in staying at CNN, and that determined my path a couple of years ago. What’s great about CNN is that they have been very flexible in giving me the ability to sit in for Regis, and to work for Oprah and for 60 Minutes. It’s always been in the back of my mind that daytime would be fun and interesting.
When word filtered out that my contract was coming up, there was interest from a lot of different syndicators, but none of those plans seemed realistic. I liked the people at Telepictures, and since CNN, Warner Bros., and Telepictures are all under the Time Warner umbrella, it was easier to work out a way for this to happen.
Warner Bros. has been clear that this will not be a news-based talk show. What’s your vision for it?
It is definitely not going to be a news program. It will be something that is informative, entertaining and worth an hour of people’s investment.
We’ll be one of the few daytime shows that will be able to cover the broad range of topics that Oprah can cover. We might have a big celebrity interview one day and several realperson stories the next. I’m also a huge popculture fanatic.
I see myself talking with the audience a lot. I want to be involved with the audience in every show, whether that is live in the studio, or via a technology like Skype. As much as possible, I want to have connections with the audience and maintain those connections in a very real way.
As long as I’m myself and not pretending to be something I’m not, that’s the key to anything. Connection is made via authenticity.
Off the subject of syndication, what do you think about the coming changes at CNN, particularly the arrival of Piers Morgan and the departure of Larry King?
I love Larry and I’m glad he’s going to continue to have a role at CNN. I’m excited about Piers Morgan. I don’t know him well, but did an interview with him and found him interesting. He also did an interview with me and I found him to be a good interviewer. He asked questions that surprised me. I hope he does really well.
What do you think about the cable news environment right now? It seems like a very noisy place to be.
I don’t involve myself in the cable news thing. I’m not interested in getting into Twitter wars with other people. I’m interested in telling stories and getting better at it and getting better at doing interviews. I understand why blogs are interested in the cable news wars and why reporters are interested in it, but it doesn’t add to my bottom line, which is trying to be the best reporter I can be.
E-mail comments to email@example.com and follow her on Twitter: @PaigeA
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