A couple of weeks ago I joined more than 2000 people right here in the Valley to listen to CNN anchor, Anderson Cooper, speak on democracy, race relations and the role of today’s reporter. Cooper and Arizona State University professor, Matthew Whitaker, led the discussion during the Delivering Democracy Lecture hosted by the ASU Center for the Study of Race and Democracy and held at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Phoenix.
There were many key takeaways and some great coverage recapping the event that you can find here, here and here. But, I want to focus on just a few specific points that I found to be relevant to public relations professionals and those that work in the media.
First – you should always remain human. You have your job, you have the responsibilities of your job, but you need to keep your humanity in your job. Cooper talked about a riot he was reporting on overseas. He made the decision to literally drop his camera and help move an injured child from the very dangerous area where he was injured. Though some frowned upon Cooper because interfering is far from the role of the reporter, Cooper remained human while making a difficult decision, and he still stands by that today.
Speaking of the role of the reporter – what exactly does that constitute in today’s world? I think we all see it as an evolving role in the way reporting is delivered. But, the underlying role of the reporter in Cooper’s eyes is to, “Help people challenge the way they see things.”
There’s an inherent bias we all have, and it’s good to be aware of that. If we always challenge the way we’re looking at something then we’re able to see things through another person’s eyes. The role of the reporter can help with that, which is why we need diversity in the media.
We all know it’s not just the media that is reporting today – it’s everyone, and it’s right at our fingertips on social media. This is great for diversity, but it also is a double-edged sword as Cooper said. On one side, someone with a cell phone can affect change, so people should be involved. On the other side, it’s important to make sure those people are being responsible. With a camera, or cell phone, comes great responsibility. We need to be responsible and make sure the camera doesn’t steer attitudes because people act differently when they’re being recorded.
This trend of people being able to capture events in real time and share them with the world is definitely moving in the right direction as long as we’re remaining human, being responsible, and constantly challenging the way we see things.