Born June 3, 1967, in New York, NY; son of Wyatt Cooper (a writer) and Gloria Vanderbilt (an entrepreneur). Education: Earned degree in political science and international relations from Yale University, 1989.
Addresses: Home—New York, NY. Office—CNN, 1 Time Warner Center, New York, NY 10019-8012.
Began at Channel One as a fact-checker c. 1989, became freelance news correspondent, c. 1990-93, and chief international correspondent, 1993-95; ABC News, correspondent after 1995 and co-anchor of World News Now; host of the ABC reality show The Mole, 2000-01; correspondent and substitute anchor, Cable News Network, 2002; host of his own weeknight news hour, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN, 2003—.
Anderson Cooper hosts Anderson Cooper 360, an hour-long newscast on Cable News Network (CNN) that quickly accrued an audience for its intelligent, sometimes bemused take on the day's top stories. Prior to joining CNN, Cooper worked for ABC and served several years in the trenches as a war correspondent. "To me the news is not a joke, especially in the times we live in now, " he told Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Jill Vejnoska. "But I think people are really smart and want something that doesn't assume that they don't get it. I think people get it. They get how news is put together."
Cooper possesses a rather impressive pedigree for a television journalist. His father, Wyatt Cooper, was a writer from Mississippi who married the heiress to one of America's greatest fortunes, Gloria Vanderbilt, in 1964. Anderson Cooper's mother was the great-great-granddaughter of shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, who died in 1877 and left a fortune estimated at $100 million. In her own youth, Vanderbilt had been the subject of a vicious, well-publicized custody battle, and as a young woman led a glittering social life that was also avidly chronicled in the newspapers of the day. Wyatt Cooper was her fourth husband, and Anderson was their second child, born in 1967 two years after his brother, Carter. The family lived in Manhattan.
Despite the family fortune, Cooper was determined to earn his own money. He began modeling at the age of eleven, and in his teens worked as a waiter at Mortimer 's, a famed Manhattan eatery frequented by Park Avenue society types. He was sent to Dalton, a private Manhattan school, primarily because his mother thought its emphasis on the arts over athletics would provide a firmer grounding. His father died when he was eleven, after a series of heart attacks in 1977. "I think, given my mom's background, people have some idea of what my life must have been like, but the reality is very different, " he told Brad Goldfarb in Interview."Certainly, growing up, there was a nice apartment and nice things in the apartment, but for me, one of the greatest privileges of my background was realizing that what a lot of people think they want will not ultimately make them happier."
Cooper was able to graduate a semester early from Dalton and satisfied a wanderlust by traveling through Africa for a few months before he entered Yale University. He earned a degree in political science and international relations in 1989, but his senior year was preceded by a tragedy of almost unimaginable sorrow: his brother, Carter, who had been under treatment for depression, jumped out of the 14th-floor window of their mother's New York City apartment in front of her, and fell to his death. When Cooper finished his degree, he considered taking the U.S. Foreign Service examination, a common career choice given his Ivy-League major, but opted instead to become a news correspondent. He was especially eager to get into the war zone, which he admitted was indirectly linked to the family tragedy. "Suicide is such an odd, taboo sort of thing, and my brother's death is still sort of a mystery, so I became interested in questions of survival: why some people survive and others don't, " he explained to Goldfarb in Interview."Covering wars just seemed logical."
Cooper's first job was as a fact-checker at Channel One, a news network that broadcast daily reports into American classrooms. Bored by the desk job and unable to get an interview at any of the major networks' news departments, he decided to go to Vietnam to study the language, and took a video camera with him. He stopped off in Myanmar first, and was able to film some footage about that country's internal strife thanks to some faked press credentials a friend had made for him on a computer. After that, he went back to Africa, and filed stories for Channel One as a freelancer on such topics as a spreading famine in Somalia. By 1993, the network had promoted Cooper to chief international correspondent. His reports from international danger zones like the Balkans and central Africa attracted the attention of the major news organizations, and in 1995 Cooper was hired by ABC News.
Cooper served as a correspondent for the network and then the co-anchor of World News Now, its overnight-news broadcast. After a while, he tired of the arduous schedule—the show aired from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.—and took a break by accepting a job in 2000 as host of a new ABC reality series, The Mole. After the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Cooper was eager to return to hard news, however, and was hired by CNN in January of 2002 as a correspondent and substitute anchor.
Cooper seemed to score well with viewers when he took over Paula Zahn's two-hour nightly newscast, and so in mid-2003 his CNN bosses decided to give him his own newscast. Zahn held the 8 p.m. slot, where she covered stories in-depth, with Cooper leading in at the 7 p.m. hour with Anderson Cooper 360, which featured broader coverage of the day's major stories. The show debuted on September 8, 2003, and Cooper quickly gained a cult following thanks in part to his sardonic, sometimes bemused delivery. Furthermore, the show's pre- and post-commercial lead-in musical bits were drawn from obscure alternative rock acts, some dating back to the late 1970s, and established Cooper as one of the hipper personalities in mainstream network news. The host, however, maintains that his far more well-informed staffers choose the music.
Cooper's looks also attracted a fair amount of fans among both genders. Known for impeccably tailored suits, prematurely silver hair, and blue eyes, he became the target of a major Internet fan following. He still reports from the field on occasion, surveying the after-effects of the Asian tsunami in the first days of January of 2005, just after hosting the nationally telecast New Year's Eve celebrations from Times Square in New York. He realizes that both jobs might someday pass to others. "I've never expected to be anywhere, " he confessed to New York Observer media critic Joe Hagan. "People love you one day and the next they don't. I ultimately find it depressing. I just try to focus on being smarter and better than I currently am."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 23, 2003, p. MS1.
Electronic Media, June 30, 1997, p. 18.
Entertainment Weekly, July 12, 2002, p. 65; August 6, 2004, p. 36.
InStyle, November 1, 2004, p. 422.
Interview, October 2004, p. 122.
New York Observer, March 15, 2004, p. 1; January 10, 2005, p. 23.
People, May 6, 1996, p. 54; January 15, 2001, p. 77; December 2, 2002, p. 102.
TelevisionWeek, September 8, 2003, p. 5.