Anderson Cooper is becoming practically ubiquitous. The CNN primetime host and 60 Minutes correspondent is readying his new Warner Bros. syndicated daytime talk show for a Sept. 12 launch. He talks about his goals for the new show and his need to mono-task as his schedule fills up.
Anderson, the new syndicated daytime talk show from Warner Bros. Domestic Television starring Anderson Cooper, debuts just a couple weeks from now, on Sept. 12, on 199 stations nationwide.
While he’s doing that show, he intends to keep up with demands at his CNN job in New York, where AC 360 at 8 p.m. ET, is the centerpiece of the network’s primetime schedule. (CNN is also a unit of Time Warner.) He also intends to keep up with his commitment to contribute a handful of pieces to CBS’s 60 Minutes.
Cooper is now beginning to tape shows that may be used as “evergreens” in the event his CNN duties get in the way of the syndicated show and hopes to have 15 ready to use when the news calls him away from New York. Otherwise, he’ll tape five shows over three days close to the time they’ll air.
[datatable title=”Where And When ‘Anderson’ Will Air In The Top 15 Markets” align=”right” width=”40%”] Rank/Market,Station/Group,Affil.,Time
1/New York,WPIX /Tribune,CW,4 pm
2/Los Angeles,KTTV /Fox,Fox,4 pm
6/San Fran.,KTVU/Cox,Fox,3 pm
9/Wash. DC,WJLA/Allbritton,ABC,4 pm
Even with those shows held in reserve, It could be a grueling schedule, especially for Cooper, whose signature style is to entrench himself at news sites.
His emotional reporting in 2005 from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and then in 2009 after the Haiti earthquake, defined his style for millions of viewers.
A few days ago as another hurricane was threatening to wreak havoc , this time on New York itself, Cooper talked about his new show with TVNewsCheck Contributing Editor P.J. Bednarski and discussed the tricks of juggling a syndicated daytime show with his nightly talk show.
An edited transcript:
You know, if this was 2005, you’d be in Louisiana covering Katrina. I’m wondering, if the syndicated show was debuting at about the same time, could you have stayed there? What would you have done?
A month is a long time in television. And I stayed a month in the New Orleans/Mississippi Gulf Coast during and in the wake of Katrina. I stayed a month in Haiti after the earthquake. I stayed in Israel for a month during the fight against Hezbollah.
But I think we will have enough shows on tape to cover any assignment that I need to do for CNN. It’s important for me to still be able to go out into the field and to still be able to cover breaking stories and important stories. So I think we will work it out.
A lot of these stories are stories that also would be of interest to a daytime audience if we can tell it in the right way and some of the stories have resonance with a daytime audience. We will certainly incorporate them into a daytime show. I think we’ll make it work.
You could go live with a show but because your show will air at different times all over the country, I’m guessing that can’t be done easily.
We can go live if we need to go live on that day. We would probably need some overnight time to make it work, but I am able to go live on anything at pretty much any time. So, we will be very nimble and very able to respond to the things that are happening. But it’s not a news show.
When you say it’s not a news show, it makes me curious. What’s a prototypical Anderson show? Who’s the guest on a prototypical Anderson show?
The commonality they all have is that they will have my personality throughout and my engagement and my interest throughout and the audience will be also an important part of every show.
I don’t think a lot of shows are really using the audience much anymore except to applaud in and out of commercial breaks. I want to be in the audience, I want to be talking to the audience and that also includes the audience at home via Skype and online, but I think there’s not going to be a prototypical show. We want it to be entertaining and informative. Those are the two things that we want our shows to be. Whether the topic is a provocative social issue, whether it’s a big celebrity interview, whether it’s an interesting pop culture phenomenon, we want it to be informative and entertaining.
It sounds in some ways like a hybrid of Phil Donahue and Larry King.
Well, Larry King did take calls from people. Because we’re not live most of the time we wouldn’t necessarily be doing it in the way that Larry did it, but certainly in terms of having real conversations and having interaction and building a sense of community and building a sense of connection [it would be similar].
I wouldn’t want to say that I am trying to recreate the Donahue show because that was a different time and a different format, but certainly in terms of Donahue’s interaction with the audience, that’s something which I liked as a viewer and I don’t think other people are doing anymore. I would like to update it, to revive that because I think, frankly, viewers are more informed than ever before. They’re more engaged than ever before.
I enjoy that kind of give and take, that rapport with the audience and even when you’re doing a serious topic it allows for moments that are fun and funny, even when something is serious.
I think it’s daunting your first show airs on Sept. 12, a day after the 9/11 commemoration. How do you set a tone after a day like that?
I don’t know. I honestly don’t. We have talked about it and we’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do on that first day.
We have a couple of different options and we’re waiting on some other things. There will be a week run up [of 9/11 stories] beforehand. So it’s a question of, do you continue to do things or is it a start of a new week and do you [change the topic]. I think it’s a decision we will make late in the game, just prior, to see what we think we’re going to do.
On the website for your new show, it says Anderson will feature “undercover investigations and hidden camera experiments.” But then, when you were at the recent critics press tour you talked about just talking to real people about real-life situations, and interviewing celebrities and the like. It sounds like two different shows. Is it?
You start out with one idea in your mind before you have a staff sitting together, before you have a show and [then] you end up [with] something else organically. What the show will be six months from now may be very different than what it seems to be now or what we think it’s going to be.
I think we certainly like the idea of doing some hidden camera stuff or things with a variety of different kinds of cameras. We have talked about [that] and are interested in [that], but it’s not a news show. That [website description] probably makes it sound like some sort of news investigative piece or news show and it’s not that.
So what about coverage of the 2012 elections?
We’re not a news show and we’re not going to be focusing on politics. I do plenty of politics at night on CNN and I love it and I am fascinated by it and I am excited by this next presidential election in terms of as a reporter, but for daytime, you know, when the field is a little bit more narrow, we might talk to the main candidates from both parties.
So speaking to candidates and their spouses from more of personal standpoint, is that it?
Yeah, in a more just sort of general setting. This is not a political show.
You’ve taped four shows so far at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room, located in Time Warner Center. What’s going right? What’s going wrong? What’s surprising you?
It’s very different than what I do at night and it’s very different than doing news. The role is different. I am much more sort of involved in a minute-by-minute basis than I am perhaps in a more formal news interview where it’s about just allowing newsmakers to speak. On the show it’s much more about having conversations and bringing in alternative viewpoints, and it feels much more three-dimensional because you have this audience there, you have the people watching at home and you have the person actually being interviewed.
I’m amazed how people like you find time to take a breath, with this new show, your duties at CNN and prepping for shows. Do you have something like your own version of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?
I am always hesitant to kind of talk too much about it because, you know, I go to Afghanistan and spend time with Marines who are out on patrol in Helmand Province and what they go through on any given day makes my quote unquote busy-ness pale in comparison. So based on a real job, I know I am extraordinarily lucky and I am happy to be this busy. But I definitely don’t have any tricks or anything. I have actually tried to stop multitasking because I actually now try to mono-task.
There’s so much information out there — especially in news — and I am constantly consuming information and making decisions about what’s going to be on what program. So now I think it’s very easy to multitask ourselves to the point where we’re no longer focused on where we’re at in any one moment.
So I try now to only do one activity at a time. If I am talking to you on the phone, I am not looking at my Blackberry. Now, I am just eating with friends or family or whatever. Mono-tasking seems the reverse of what I should be trying to do, but otherwise I think I would spin off and become a crazed television person. I want to actually try to still be a real person.