CNN anchorman Anderson Cooper is riding about as high as you can in the TV news business these days. His cable news ratings for his nightly Anderson Cooper 360 are tops in his time period for November, and he's winning them with serious, fact-based journalism.
And then, there's his part-time job as a correspondent for the top-rated CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes where he's doing first-rate newsmagazine journalism that ranges from a report on rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to a recent Michael Phelps profile that drew an audience of more than 18 million viewers.
Thursday at 9 on CNN, the 41-year-old newsman will be seen in yet another role as investigative reporter traveling to Cameroon, Costa Rico and Rwanda to cover stories of humans, animals and eco-systems under stress on Planet in Peril. From tracking animals suspected of carrying the kind of deadly pandemic viruses that can spread to humans, to swimming with great white sharks, the 41-year-old newsman looks to be putting himself in some peril for the reports.
In an interview with Z on TV, Cooper talked Tuesday about the Planet special, his "old school" news values, his distaste for partisanship in cable TV news and his much-dicussed swim with Phelps during the 60 Minutes piece.
Q. You just won the November ratings period in the key demographic of viewers 25 to 54 by sticking with traditional news values -- even as your competition moves further to the right and the left. Can you talk about how you see yourself and the CNN show journalistically?
Q. That formula seems to be working well for you and CNN these days.
Q. Can you talk a little about what some viewers might see as risks you took -- going into the jungles of Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with hunters exposed to dangerous animal-borne viruses -- and the swimming with white sharks off South Africa? Do you go looking for this kind of stuff? How do your bosses feel about it?
Q. When you call back to CNN, how far up the line do your requests to do such things go?
Q. This is your second Planet in Peril. Can you talk about the goals for the franchise?
Q. Speaking of swimming earlier, you recently received quite a bit of attention -- and some flak from bloggers like me -- about getting in the pool for a "race" with Michael Phelps during your recent 60 Minutes piece on him. What's your reaction to that kind of reaction?