In both journalism classes I’m teaching at Allegheny College, I require my students to interview a professional journalist. I have multiple reasons for this assignment.

It teaches them interview and reporting skills. It helps them learn about a career they might be considering. And it requires them to confront a fair number of fears and insecurities.

In my syllabus, I encourage them to be bold and aim high.

When I announced the assignment in my news writing class, a first-year student in the back of the room shot her hand in the air and nearly leaped from her seat.

“Can I interview Anderson Cooper?”


She was having trouble finding ways to reach him. I posted a message on Facebook and two friends responded. One in Oregon, a former colleague, gave me a couple of names and contact info for his publicist and producer.

Another friend told me she knew his cousin and she’d ask her if she’d be willing to help. Her friend suggested that my student write an email/letter to Mr. Cooper and she would get it to him.

The student wrote her letter and asked if I would look at it for her. She came to my office at 8 p.m. and we sat together and fine tuned her writing. Her instincts and approach were good.

She wrote: “Originally, I am from Miami, Florida. Back home, all I knew was CNN. My mother and I would watch “Anderson Cooper 360” almost every day. We adore your passion for journalism. There truly is no other reporter who could catch my attention and pull me in like you could.”

I told her I was proud of her for going for what she wanted. I told her it was exciting.

And scary, she said.

It was then that I realized what it must be like for her. She’s 18 and she’s asking to interview a childhood idol. She’s nervous. She’s risking rejection. And she’s risking success. She’ll be interviewing Anderson Cooper. And she’s got enough gumption to take those risks.

I will deliver the letter this weekend. Please join me in hoping that this young woman’s courage and enthusiasm are rewarded. And, of course, if any of you reading this post have a connection with Anderson Cooper, please let him know there’s a student at Allegheny College who wants to interview him for her class assignment.

I fully expect to be writing you soon to fill you in on the details of her interview.