Staging Cable News: Onward State on Anderson Cooper

Penn State student Evan Kalikow describes his experience of going to Anderson Cooper’s “town hall” forum on the Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal:

Before the taping, Anderson Cooper addressed the crowd and thanked everyone for coming. He said that he wanted this show to be an open town hall where we could voice our opinions and frustrations. He added that he wanted to focus more on the victims and less on Paterno. Great! I thought, that’s just what I was hoping for! Unfortunately, the reality of the taping was different than how Anderson described it.

This whole experience confirmed many of my pre-existing thoughts on the state of cable news. We were bussed to New York City because Anderson Cooper and his producers wanted us to get angry, wanted us to cry, and wanted us to lose our cool. This much is evident from his preview for the show. They were uninterested in hearing our real stories–when a student wanted to, the PAs didn’t care. They had no interest in showing how students have come together in light of atrocities, and one PA even laughed when a student suggested that we demonstrate our pride in Penn State (I understand that the PAs were mostly not at fault for the show’s directions and were likely following orders from their producers).

Instead, they were interested in showing outrage. Why? Because, like Joe Paterno, outrage equates to ratings, which equates to money. They had no intention of getting our real reactions (unless they involved shouting or lying), and when they discovered that a group of some of Penn State’s finest were calm, collected, logical, and not inflammatory, they pivoted toward more emotionally-charged guests, giving students the shaft.

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