Saturday, June 24, 2006

Anderson Cooper Is A Huckster, As Jolie Interview Proves

Alessandra Stanley, the New York Times' television critic, can say a lot in just a few words, as was demonstrated again this past Thursday when she so artfully skewered CNN's Anderson Cooper for his mainly self-promoting two-hour interview with Angelina Jolie.

"It must be a law of celebrity physics," Stanley started out. "When journalists act like movie stars, movie stars act like journalists."

Jolie, to her credit, showed up for the interview wearing restrained clothing, unlike the hooker style adopted by Britney Spears when she was interviewed by Matt Lauer on NBC. Jolie still looked beautiful, but not sluttishly beautiful.

Cooper showed up to promote his book, to talk about his past experiences, even getting in a mention of his role in covering Hurricane Katrina. Jolie was more down-to-earth.

"Humble Celebrity And Eager Interviewer," was the apt headline run by the New York Times.

Stanley wrote, "Mr. Cooper...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."

This is an all too common fault of journalists, anxious to bask in the reflected glory of the real celebrities. Time magazine is particularly guilty. Maybe, it's a Time Warner modus operandi. After all, Time and CNN are both part of Time Warner.

I confess I'm a skeptic of the talents of Cooper. He is not nearly as perceptive or skillful a journalist as the CNN anchor he replaced, Aaron Brown.

But he's on the top of the journalistic world these days, and he lost no opportunity to drive that point home.

As noted, and mentioned specifically in the Stanley review, "He even managed to wedge in a mention of Hurricane Katrina." 'One of the stories that we're doing in this program is about Niger," he said. "And I was there last summer right before Hurricane Katrina.'"

Well, whoop dee do. As I recall in any event, the brave Cooper stuck to the peripheries of New Orleans in the first days after the hurricane, while the able and not so self-promoting anchor of the NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams, was right downtown.

"(Cooper) praised Ms. Jolie for doing the interview solely to draw attention to the plight of refugees and not to promote a movie," Stanley concluded. "He then seamlessly moved on to vigorously promote his best-selling book. With journalists like that, it's a small wonder celebrities are starting to do their own reporting."

The L.A. Times this morning joined the NYT in writing about the Jolie interview, but Gina Piccalo, like most of the LAT's Calendar reviewers, isn't quite as penetrating as Stanley.

Still, she described Jolie as "looking positively transcendent just weeks after the birth of her daughter, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, wearing an elegant, black calf-length dress" for what she called "Cooper's fawning interview."

"Cooper even dredged up his own 1993 piece about one dying Sudanese boy, all so that he and Jolie -- star to star -- could share a knowing look," Piccalo noted.

And to think, the deteriorating CNN is proud of Cooper!


Two personnel moves are in the news this morning. First, the L.A. Times announces that Rick Paddock is coming back from Indonesia. Paddock, a talented Sacramento and then foreign reporter, will cover higher education for the Times out of San Francisco. Indonesia has been a challenging assignment for him and his family. His two children saw their school in Jakarta closed for a lengthy period after the 2002 Bali bombing, and Paddock, in addition to traveling the sometimes dangerous South East Asian countries, also served in Iraq.

Second, Michael Kinsley will go to Britain's anti-American Guardian newspaper as an American reporter. This is a good place for the goofy Kinsley, former ill-starred editorial pages editor of the L.A. Times.


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