Anderson Cooper receives Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism

Cooper is the 33rd recipient of this recognition

Anderson Cooper received the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism in front of a record-breaking crowd at the school's annual luncheon at the Sheraton Grand hotel in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday.

Cooper, who anchors “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN and is a correspondent for “60 Minutes,” received the award for his commitment to journalism throughout his lifetime. In addition to this recognition, Cooper has received five Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina. 

Cooper, 51, is the second youngest person to receive the award, with Brian Williams and George Will being tied for the youngest at 50. Williams received the award in 2009, and Will received the award in 1991.

Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite school, said there is no one more deserving of the award than Cooper. 

"I can think of no more fitting recipient of the Cronkite award in 2018 than Anderson Cooper of CNN," he said. "Thank you for everything you do every day, speaking truth and power in the great tradition of Walter Cronkite."

Cooper, on the other hand, said he did not think he was deserving of the award, adding that he initially declined the honor until he found out no person has ever said no. However, one award has been rescinded by the school.

Read More: Cronkite is rescinding Charlie Rose's Excellence in Journalism award

"I still feel like there's a lot I need to learn and can learn and a lot I can get better at," he said. "More often than not, I see moments that I missed or questions that I didn't think to ask in the moment. I see words that I failed to write or sentences that I failed to think of."

Although he has enjoyed every moment as a correspondent, Cooper said that he is rarely satisfied with his work. 

"You try to find words to convey the horror and the humanity that you're surrounded by, and more than anything else, you just want to do justice to what's happening," Cooper said. “More often than not you fail because that camera lens is so small – it’s a little piece of glass.”

Cooper attributed all the people behind the scenes who help him as another reason why he did not feel like he deserved the award and said there should be as much recognition for the producers, cameramen and everyone who helps produce his show. 

In addition, Cooper went on to talk about the stigma surrounding journalism right now. 

Anderson Cooper speaks at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication after accepting an award for Excellence in Journalism Luncheon at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.

"Leaders manipulate divisions, attack the press; lies are called truth, truth is called a lie, societies divide among ethnic, religious and political ties and chaos ensues," he said. "I'm speaking about what I've seen overseas but also about what can happen here."

Cooper said that there are many things the media can improve on, but journalism should not be seen as an enemy. 

"This I know, I know that the kids who are studying here, young journalists, are not the enemies of the people," he said.

Last year, when Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of "PBS NewsHour," received the award, she also spoke about the political climate surrounding journalism. 

"I am not an enemy of the American people," Woodruff said at last year's luncheon. "I love this  country, and I always will, and almost every journalist I know feels the same way."

Connor Morman, a freshman studying sports journalism, said that it was great to be surrounded by the Cronkite community at the luncheon.

Morman said he looks up to Cooper, and that it is inspiring to see so many people in support of journalism.

"It's nice, I think it's good when everyone is supporting journalism," he said. "It's something important in the world. We need people out there getting the facts and news out there to inform the people."

Following the luncheon, Cooper held a Q&A in the Cronkite building's First Amendment Forum for students, where he reiterated many of the points he gave in his acceptance speech earlier that day and answered questions from the audience. 

When asked about the current state of journalism in the U.S., Cooper said journalists must focus on their work.

“You keep your head down and do your job,” he said. “You don’t whine about it, you don’t complain about it, you just report.”

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