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Why I won’t ask Anderson Cooper to pose for a photo with me

Today, I had the chance to sit in the front row of a Q & A with respected news correspondent Anderson Cooper. The Q & A was part of a preview event Anderson IMG_4862 - Version 2was invited to participate in at IMG_4863 - Version 2Portland State University Native American Student and Community Center before he was to be whisked off to give the keynote speech at PSU’s Simon Benson awards banquet that honors alumni and philanthropists.

During the Q & A session, which I was able to attend thanks to my connections with the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communications, Anderson shared the story of his long hours and hard work and late nights and then eventual rise from fledgling, solo reporter to where he is today, one of the most respected television news correspondents and anchors in our country. He anchors Anderson Cooper 360, reports for CBS’s 60 Minutes, and has been an ABC News correspondent and has reported for World News Tonight and 20/20. Over the years, he has reported from war-ravaged villages risking his life for the story he believes needs to be shared.  

Anderson Cooper was presented with a Pendleton Blanket during the Q & A

Anderson Cooper was presented with a Pendleton Blanket during the Q & A


Anderson Cooper is one of those genuine, sincere, trusted, natural story tellers who asks the tough questions without being arrogant as some television personalities seem to be. In his conversational style, he’s someone with a lot of integrity and who is “sympathisch,” which is the German word I think of when I think of Anderson Cooper. Nice, is what my online dictionary says, but that is not it exactly. Anderson’s passion is for story and sharing the stories that matter, stories that make people think and feel and especially move to action.


He says he will always share these kinds of stories. He will not just report a story in order to beat the ratings race. He’s been reporting from forgotten places, or places that people have never even heard about, for years. He’s not about the ratings or the popularity or the number of twitter followers, though he’s got those–over four million to be exact.


Anderson said people ask to pose with him to get their picture taken, and he usually happily obliges. “Ninety-nine percent of the time. I am honored that someone cares and wants to get a photo with me.” They will then post on Twitter or their other favorite social media platforms.

One time, though, it was 2 a.m. at a bar when someone approached him for that “photo-op,” and he thought, Oh, it’s really late and if we start this, everyone in the bar will want photos. So, instead he said something like, “Hey, how about if we forgo the photo and just have a conversation. You can tell me about yourself, I’d love to hear about your family.”IMG_4854 - Version 2

The person who asked to pose in a photo with Anderson Cooper, however, was not interested in talking or sharing or conversation with the correspondent. Nope. He just wanted a photograph of them together. Perhaps, he wanted to post it on his Facebook page and Twitter feed or Instagram site. Bragging rights. It was sure to garner a bunch of “likes” and “wow” and “jealous” comments.

“People today replace real life conversation with the image, Anderson Cooper said.

Indeed, people want to tweet it or post it or show it to their friends even if they have not really lived it.


As I wrote his quote down, the one about replacing real life conversation with the image, he looked directly at me and said, “See, what you’re doing, and have been doing much of this time,” and he smiled. I told him I just didn’t want to forget his quote; and yes, I was also getting some video for my one of my grad courses, and  okay, I did tweet and post a photo of Anderson Cooper on Facebook.

But, his point was so well taken.

When have we as a culture become so obsessed with technology and social media and connecting with everyone but who is right here with us. And, why do we feel this need to post every single moment of our lives for the entire world to see then say ‘wow’ to us for the entire world to see, while we are actually missing the very moment we are getting kudos for.

We need to be reminded to be present with whom we are at the moment, with the situation we are in right now.

Real-life rather than the image.


When I found out that I was one of the eight students in my U of O graduate program to get a seat for this “by invite” only event with Anderson Cooper, I had emailed the organizer, asking in as much of my “I’m not a brown-noser” voice as possible, if there would be an opportunity for photos with him afterward. The organizer replied that it was a possibility.

However, after Anderson Cooper made that comment to me about real-life and the image, I was not about to ask to get a photo with him. I felt shallow for even thinking of it.

His statement really got me musing on presence and being present.

The way the event turned out, there were no opportunities for photos with Anderson Cooper as he had to leave for the charity/awards night.

But, given the opportunity, I’d like to say, that if I had to choose, that I’d rather spend time with a person rather than needing a photograph.

As a big social media person, Anderson Cooper reminded me of these, my own values indeed. The importance of being present, rather than preserving the moment for later. Presence.

I’ll take the real-life over the image any day.

Oh, okay, I like my photos with people as well, but we need to keep this in perspective for sure. I’ll take both, if I can have them.

Native American Student and Community Center

Native American Student and Community Center

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Posted in Attitude, Character, Culture, Integrity, Life, Live the Questions, Networking, Real LIfe.

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14 Responses

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  1. Cornelia Seigneur says

    Lori- Indeed, so much to process from Anderson’s talk. It was really great to see you there with our UOSJC connections! See you at Turnbull events! – cornelia

  2. Lori Howell says

    Thanks for sharing, Cornelia. It was such a pleasure to read this as I continue to digest our experience!

  3. Cornelia Seigneur says

    Karen- thanks so much and I agree re. the Nicholas Kristoff comparison. They both tell the stories that matter. We need constant reminder of the way we live our lives and your kind words here mean a lot. Thanks ! – cornelia

  4. Karen Zacharias (@karenzach) says

    Anderson Cooper is broadcast’s Nick Kristoff. Powerful insights, girl. Esp. the part about reminding you of your own values. I wrestle with this all the time.

  5. Cornelia Seigneur says

    Helen- thank you for your thoughtful response and kind words. I love how you have done something private, the instagram thing- For yourself, as a memory, rather than just for comments. Sometimes I feel like I am all about the comments and likes on a post, and I am embarrassed to admit that, but it is true. I catch myself with this thought then force myself to not check! Social media musings, here. It’s great sharing with others, but we need to keep it in perspective! Speaking of connecting live, let’s do this…!
    Thanks for connecting here!

  6. Helen Washington says

    Another great article Cornelia!
    His quote was definitely worth jotting down.
    I have felt the tension of social media. I love its immediacy but I also know that I may feel like I have connected with others and haven’t really. As an introvert, it is kind of dream way to “connect” to the masses but it is far from ideal.
    Since I blog, FB and have a sorely neglected twitter account, this summer, I created a private instagram account. No one knows my profile name but me. I felt like I wanted to take something back for just my eyes alone. To document life from a place of purity and not to elicit someone’s response.If I choose to use a filter, it is because I like the effect, not to dress my life up for watchful eyes.

    Not exactly what you write here about but social media has definitely given me pause from time to time.
    Although I have no idea what I would say to Anderson Cooper because I am sure I would be a bit star struck, I would choose the conversation as he seems so warm and genuine.
    Nice work.

  7. Cornelia Seigneur says

    Carol- Indeed, how many times are we posting stuff for others to see while missing the very person we are with. Be present now! (seems like your message!) -thanks for commenting!

  8. Cornelia Seigneur says

    Melanie-Is that not indeed such a wonderful challenge, and yes, how many times do I just go for the quick image, the quick photo. My kids also point these things out to me- they will say, “Mom, you just want this for your blog!”…And, indeed, it was really fun to hear AC live, front row. He was funny, engaging, natural, inspiring.

  9. Cornelia Seigneur says

    Megan- Indeed, that is a great quote! …I am in the U of O Journalism School-Turnbull Multi-media journalism program! it’s fun!

  10. Cornelia Seigneur says

    Andee – thank you for your comment and wow, to have this story change your way of thinking! -indeed, I’d love a conversation with Anderson Cooper as well and, if I am honest, the photo too…but, if we have to choose… in this case, got neither…but we got food for thought and that is worth a lot of words!

  11. Carol O'Casey says

    Well said, Corelia. Great advice: “We need to be reminded to be present with whom we are at the moment,..Real-life rather than the image.” Thanks.

  12. Melanie Mock says

    Great post. I love the challenge of taking the real life over the image any day. Will try to hold on to that! (And lucky you for getting to hear AC speak!)

  13. Megan says

    Great blog Cornelia. I love “I’ll take real life over image any day”. So, so true. What grad program are you in?

  14. Andee Zomerman says

    I LOVE this! Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s changed my way of thinking. (And I would DIE to have a conversation with this man!)

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