The news is out. Anderson Cooper is gay. I guess I should get over
my crush now, huh?
Honestly, I’ve always thought of Anderson Cooper as asexual. I’ve watched him on CNN, and his less serious self when he guest hosted on “Regis & Kelly” or when he hosted the short-lived reality show, “The Mole.” I love how versatile he is and that he’s not afraid to be silly. And, I have a thing for that hair of his.
When I watch the news, read an article, or listen to talk radio, I never think about the gender of whom that person has sex with. Weird, right? I should be judging journalists based on how they use their sexual organs, shouldn’t I? Now that I know Anderson is gay, I should assume he wants to have sex with all the troops he’s embedded with, right? And, of course, when he takes off his suit after a long day of news reporting he drapes himself in a feather boa, yes?
My first job out of college was as a television reporter. I loved all the unique experiences I enjoyed and the access I had to people and situations. I once talked with Alex Trebek about a musk ox he sponsored in Alaska. It was fun. And, I interviewed Phil Donahue (for the youngsters in the group, he was “Oprah” before there was an Oprah). But, the thing I didn’t like about being a reporter was how I couldn’t be myself in my “real” life.
Sometimes, there was a political candidate I wanted to support. Other times I wanted to sign a petition or attend a rally. But, nope. That’s not something you can do as a reporter. You have to be unbiased; without opinion.
Reality check: One can hide their opinion and try to be objective in their reporting, but one can rarely be without an opinion.
When I did my reporting, I made sure to leave words out of my story that would support or reject the facts. Facts stand on their own. However, if someone who watched our newscast had seen me take an action that supported or rejected those facts, that would have affected how my reporting was perceived, wouldn’t it?
It’s more than reporters who can be labelled as biased, though. It’s entire news organizations. The Times is liberal. The Bulletin is conservative. You hear of biases all the time.
Neiman Journalism Lab wrote an interesting piece on this topic, “How do you tell when the news is biased? It depends on how you see yourself,” which explores how people perceive news. The post discusses how two groups of people can watch the exact same story and each group feels as though the story was bias against them. However, the twist is that each story appears to be from a different news source. So, the “bias” is actually against the news organization and has nothing to do with the reporter’s words at all.
The post goes on to discuss that if people actually knew a journalist’s opinions that, perhaps, the readers or viewers would be more apt to embrace that person as “one of them.” And, that maybe the long standing tradition of hiding one’s affiliations might not give the audience the transparency that they’re getting accustomed to these days.
So let’s explore that idea.
Now that we know Anderson Cooper is gay, is that going to affect how people perceive his reporting? What if he’s reporting on gays in the military? If I’m gay, am I more inclined to think Anderson has my back and will produce a pro-gay piece? If I’m not gay, will I assume Anderson’s reporting is biased and self-serving?
Let’s explore it further.
If a story is assigned to a female reporter and a black reporter, will the end product be the same? What about a story from a reporter who was bounced around in the foster care system as a kid versus someone who was brought up in a large Mormon family? Will the stories that are reported look and feel the same? Or should our own unique experiences in life affect our storytelling? Or, do bloggers tell stories and journalists report facts? (For more on the bloggers versus journalist debate, see “Are bloggers different than journalists?”)
Is it possible for a journalist to be completely unbiased? Do you believe that they can, and do, leave everything that makes them unique at the door when they go into work? In this day and age, when the media landscape is changing and we, as consumers, are getting used to greater transparency and authenticity, is it time to start learning more about the personal lives of the people who report the news? And, should I get over my crush on Anderson Cooper now that I know he plays for the other team?