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Tania is currently the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Hudsucker, and a News Editor at the Nashville, Tennessee based PopCulture.com. With past writing and editing credits with Womanista, Quietly, the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and NBC Newsvine, she is currently a member of Indianapolis based, Society of Professional Journalists — one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that promotes and represents journalists. She is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Elvis Presley and baseball fan as well as a lover of pancakes and fine cheeses, film, and music. Tania is a Hoosier at heart with a passionate wanderlust for always traveling and giving back to those in her community. She is currently a journalism student at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Follow Tania on Twitter: @westlifebunny.

Chris Cuomo: Man of Conscience and Integrity

{Image Credit: CNN}

{Image Credit: CNN}

It’s an obvious fact that through the events that take place in our daily routines and practices, life is all about creation. Creation of mind, creation of opportunity and most importantly, creation of self. Someone who has proved his worth through creating a solid self of veracity through opportunities in the ever-evolving field of journalism is CNN New Day’s Chris Cuomo.

With attention to detail, no assumptions, properly phrased questions, an endless curiosity, a deep need to know what is happening around our world, all combined with the ability to hear a small clue and follow it is what truly defines him.

Since pursuing journalism shortly after receiving his law degree from Fordham University in 1995 with an undergraduate from Yale University, Chris Cuomo has always rooted his journalistic principles in bringing to light the realities of life and existentialism.

“I was raised in a way to believe that you have to do something with the opportunity that you’re given in life to help other people,” he tells me shortly after filming the three-hour broadcast of New Day from his CNN office in New York. “You know, the idea of being a collaborator in creation—the idea of being bigger than yourself. It just matters to me.”

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Cuomo hails from an illustrious family, entrenched deep in politics. As the son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo and brother of current New York governor Andrew Cuomo, the 44 year-old news anchor and lawyer wasn’t always a fan of mass media, sharing how he had a rather negative disposition towards it, but imparts how one can be critical of it and still be a member.

“You know, my father [was] in politics and you tend to see the media as constantly looking for the negatives—and misleading—and trying to do harm,” he says. “But as I got older, I started to see that there was a real value when the media is used correctly. Media as you will know, is not a monolith. We don’t all do the same job and we certainly don’t do the same job the same way.”

Cuomo understands this all too well as he has seen his fair share of stories and journalistic styles over the course of his remarkable career. Still believing that television journalism is the more dominant medium of how people consume information, Cuomo says it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon even with the combination of social media. For him, the choice of pursuing television journalism as opposed to print, radio and Internet (like Katie Couric joining Yahoo! News) made the most sense in terms of creating an impact with people who matter most.

“You need to convey more than the who, what, where, when and why—and I think pictures are important. I think seeing and hearing is important as the judgment process for people [and] exposure to things that matter are always best where they are seen and felt in real-time often, and in first person. It’s a canvas,” he says.

Cuomo in conversation with General Wesley Clark on ‘New Day’. {Image Credit: CNN/New Day}

Starting out as a correspondent for FOX News, Cuomo reported on a wide range of stories, focusing on controversial social issues and served as a political policy analyst. He later made the move to ABC, where he worked for thirteen years and became the youngest correspondent ever at the network’s flagship newsmagazine, 20/20 in 2000. During his time with the network, Cuomo went on to become a news anchor with Good Morning America and reported on several national and international stories, including assignments that took him to Iraq where he brought morning show viewers firsthand reports of the war. Through every assignment, Cuomo made it a point to relate to viewers in hopes to make a difference with his voice. In 2006, he took on investigative projects and premiered a feature on GMA called “Cuomo’s AmeriCANs”, putting the spotlight on Americans making a difference in their local communities.

He made quite an impression with his personable flair, consistently showcasing authenticity and heart in every report which led him to a promotion with the network in 2009 and heading back to 20/20—but this time as co-host with Elizabeth Vargas. As the Chief Law and Justice Correspondent at ABC News, Cuomo’s congenial attitude maintained “Cuomo on the Case”, an outlet and website that allowed him to interact with people on a number of real issues and take questions from the public.

“It was hard for me to leave ABC,” he says. “I loved it. Great people there, and I had a great gig at 20/20 which was really a dream gig for me—I miss what we did there, I miss the long-form stuff.”

In February of 2013, the ABC News veteran and chief legal correspondent made the move to the granddaddy of all news networks: CNN. Debuting as a field anchor on February 8, 2013 covering that month’s damaging nor’easter, Cuomo has seen much success at the news network since. It was announced nearly a month later that Cuomo would co-host the network’s new morning show, New Day come June 2013 alongside Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

While women were a minority in news media years ago, there has been a growing trend in recent years of strong and fierce females taking the reins of news media, while speaking up against the prejudices and blasting past the glass ceiling. Cuomo shares how he enjoys working with his strong and intelligent female counterparts, calling it a “blessing.”

The Three Amigos: Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira pictured with Cuomo on the set of ‘New Day’. {Image Credit: CNN/New Day}

As the youngest of five, Cuomo sees the real value of raising women up to be strong and intellectual individuals. Raised by his mother Matilda and three sisters, Cuomo went on to marry publishing veteran, Cristina Greevan (currently the Editor-in-Chief of Manhattan magazine) in 2001. The two have three kids—a son and two daughters, whom he says are shaping up to be very strong, early on.

That explains the ease of working with Bolduan and Pereira, a dynamic that is unique on morning television and an experience he believes is great. “I think it makes me better,” he says candidly. “I think it makes the program better and I think the days of a woman staring adoringly at a man who condescends to her in conversation should be over in television. I think we should be better than that.”

Cuomo goes on to share how CNN is a very diverse network and incredibly mindful of social gaps. “Anybody who’s going to be on set should represent the top-level of what they are regardless of their race and gender,” he says.

As CNN employs a diverse and intelligent staff—both young and old—much goes into the creation of a news story. With the help of producer John Griffin, Cuomo serves us the “Good Stuff” each week on the show but shares how you never know what story is going to work and appeal to audiences.

“You’re making your bed every day—a collection of stories in what order, and how you do them. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” he says. “The blessing and the curse of being at CNN is that people want news and there’s something going on that they care about, then they watch. And if there isn’t something going on like that and you’re not making it urgent in a way that it’s justifiable, then they don’t watch. So it’s tricky and you don’t know what to do.”

While working at the cable news network, Cuomo has been on countless assignments—ones that he says can “change you”. Earlier this summer, he was dispatched to the Ukraine to follow the tragic Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 crash, an experience his expression on-air showed us he will never forget. It was a scene so raw that Cuomo, who was both moved and disturbed by the sight, shared with viewers that his first instinct was to get down on his knees and say a prayer for the victims.

It was a horrific sight for viewers watching in the comfort of their homes, but what about the news-makers subjected to bringing us the truth and being out there on the field? It makes one wonder while sharing the news with audiences all over the world if there is real way to brace one’s self for such trying and emotional topics.

Cuomo on site of the MH17 crash in the Ukraine earlier this summer. {Image Credit: CNN/New Day}

He pauses before he answers and takes a breath. “That’s a good question—that’s a hard question,” he strains. “Morning television is the most difficult type of news television to do. It requires the most broad palate of talents—it’s hard because it requires a level of performance that most news people aren’t use to, and they have to have a relatability and a connection to your audience that you don’t usually have to have.”

Cuomo continues, sharing how the other part is more instructive than anything.

“You can’t protect yourself from these traumatic situations,” he says. “I think people make the mistake when they’re tyros—young journalists who are thinking, ‘Boy, I need to go get into sh-t, I need to go get into bad situations because that’s how I show my chops.’ And they say, ‘I want to go, I want to go to war, I want to go here, I want to see bad things, you know, because that shows that I’m serious’. I would caution two things to young journalists: One, you will never be the same after situations like that—and you know, that is not usually a good thing. Sometimes you’ll witness the history and it’s awesome, and it’s positive and it’s great—but a lot of times, you’re not. And the second thing is that negativity is not a proxy for insight. Meaning that people feel to be a journalist, to be fair to somebody [or] to a situation, you have to be negative and that’s not true. Negativity is not the same thing as insight, and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for it and we’re seeing way too much of that in the media today. So you don’t protect yourself, you don’t really insulate yourself. If you do it for a while because things wind up getting to you because you’re a human being and you’re a compassionate human being, which I think you should necessarily be to be in the media—it hurts and it scars you. And I think it messes you up a bit on a personal level.”

As the culture of our news mediums and communication progresses alongside the advancements of social media, we have never lived in such a culture where anyone with an Internet connection can contribute to the public conversation. The Internet has fast become the new Wild West, with anonymous users flexing their cyber muscles and forsaking compassion for aggression. In the past few years, Cuomo has seen his fair share of trolls on social media, with many saying things they would never say to one’s face.

Cuomo on the phone and goofing off for the cameras in his CNN office. {Image Credit: CNN/New Day}

“I’m not a particular fan of Twitter,” Cuomo says. “It’s a good way to crowd source information, but it also gives free rein and license to people who don’t deserve it and I don’t mean that with a sense of arrogance of who should be able to be a journalist—but just because you have an opinion, doesn’t mean that other people should have to hear it. And Twitter can be very assaultive and negative and that’s a problem.”

However, he mentions how growing up in politics and exposed to public scrutiny has helped him grow a thick skin, allowing him to roll off such negativity from his shoulders and leaving him unaffected. “The idea of some anonymous person on the internet getting under my skin is a very remote one for me,” he says. “Sometimes I get upset by what I see as mass confusion or mass delusion on different issues and that’s why frankly I’m on Twitter—to try and give people an opportunity to see what’s going on, especially when they’re going the wrong way in a situation.”

With the integration of social media blurring the lines between news and entertainment, opinion and fact, and qualified and amateur, there has been much debate about the nanosecond coverage our world has fast grown accustomed to. Cuomo believes that though social and digital media are certainly creating more opportunity, that doesn’t necessarily mean better.

“The word would be more. There’s just more,” he stresses. “That’s not necessarily better, there’s just more.” He goes on to add though it could stratify the market and slice up the pie further, it might not wind up as a net positive for consumers since a lot of the information being shared and distributed is either wrong or wrong-minded. “More is not always better and that can go for ratings as well.”

With all that Cuomo has seen throughout his career and profession, he shares the most exciting and rewarding part of his own ‘new day’ is the sheer relevance and subject matter.

“To be able to weigh in on the dialogue that matters most,” he says promptly. “You know, there are a lot of important conversations that we have and in society, and the reason I came to CNN was that I felt this was the best opportunity for me to help motivate those conversations. That’s without question why I get up in the morning—I get up in the morning for the people I work with.”

When asked if he has an idea of where he’ll be in five or maybe even ten years, Cuomo says “no” and discloses that he isn’t a big planner, nor ambitious. “I like what I’m doing right now,” he answers. “I have to make sure that I keep myself in a situation where I can take care of my family and try to balance that with putting myself professionally in a position where I’m making a difference because money is not enough, title is not enough, [and] lifestyle is not enough.”

Cuomo is clearly a modest man of true value, crediting his upbringing to how he carries himself today and sharing how one of the best tools he brings to this trade is the reliability. “It’s very easy for me to relate to people of just about any kind of failing,” he says. “You know, I get it.”

Cuomo with Jeni and Mattie Stepanek in 2001 on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ {Image Credit: ABC/Ida Mae Astute}

Over the years, Cuomo has covered incredible stories from the 9/11 attacks to the war, to profiles on individuals making a difference and even dove into the investigative side of journalism. Through it all, he earned much acclaim for his reporting and style. Despite being recognized by more than a dozen journalism awards, he went on to receive (and become the youngest recipient of) the News Emmy for his profile on the late Mattie Stepanek (a peace advocate and poet who left this world too soon); an American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award for his investigations into the juvenile justice system; a Loeb Award for his business reporting; and an Edward R. Murrow Award for his breaking news coverage.

With the way Cuomo has carried himself and found success through his passion and firm voice, he is undeniably a great role model to the many young journalists pursuing the profession, but doesn’t believe it to be true.

“I do not see myself as even a leader,” he laughs. “I like to do my own thing. I try to maintain my own standards for myself, but people have to look to themselves for what they want to be in this business. There’s way too much me-tooism. There’s a feeling that if you copy the predominant style that that’s the way to be successful—leading cadence and all that news speak. I think it’s a mistake. I think the more life experience you’ll have, the better journalist you’ll be.”

He goes on to impart how he doesn’t believe journalism should be someone’s first job that they stick with forever simply because he’s not sure how much outside experience one can really bring to the field when they haven’t had any. “I just think that being a journalist means being as real as possible and as fair as possible.”

Chris Cuomo - New Day CNN 01

{Image Credit: Chris Cuomo/Facebook}

Chris Cuomo’s good nature and straightforward attitude will be his greatest strength in a news world inundated by subjectivity and erroneous thinking. While there are so many looking to be in a position like his and be on television while reporting the news, Cuomo’s very different from the others today. His heart and passion are reminiscent of journalism greats like Peter Jennings and Walter Cronkite who both had a grand heart-on-their-sleeve sentimentality. With the amount of compassion Cuomo has for others and the truth he hopes to bring forth in our world, it’s apparent that his conscience and integrity will push him forward as a voice of distinction.

With all he has seen and shared with viewers during the course of his career, Chris Cuomo clearly proves that he is the type of truthful and credible man with a steadfast ethical compass living for the kind of work that makes a real difference.

Chris Cuomo can be seen weekday mornings from 6 AM to 9 AM on CNN’s New Day. Check your local listings for further details.

To connect with Chris Cuomo, follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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  1. Chris Cuomo: Man of Conscience and Integrity | westlifebunny - November 7, 2014

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