By Jon Dowding
In 2003, during the Gulf War, an explosive was dropped onto a shopping center in Kuwait at 2 a.m. during a live CNN broadcast. As the cloud of smoke quickly approached, the anchor was faced with a choice.
The anchor decided not to venture toward the cloud of smoke and seek shelter in a bunker.
Wolf Blitzer, CNN lead political anchor and 2015 Lew Klein Award recipient, experienced many situations like this throughout his career that have tested his judgment. Blitzer told other stories and gave advice to future journalists during a Q-and-A session on October 29 at the Temple University Performing Arts Center.
Blitzer’s career began in early 1970s in the Tel Aviv bureau of Reuters where he worked as a writer. Shortly after that, he became the Washington D.C. correspondent for The Jerusalem Post and stayed in Washington D.C. for about fifteen years. Blitzer joined CNN in 1990 as the network’s military-affairs correspondent before becoming the senior White House correspondent during Clinton’s presidency. In 1999, he went on to anchor “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer” followed by “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” in 2005 and “Wolf” in 2014.
Temple University awarded Blitzer the 2015 Lew Klein Award for Excellence in the Media. The award, presented annually to someone who has made countless contributions to the media, is named after adjunct professor at Temple for sixty years and a broadcasting pioneer Lew Klein. Blitzer will join past recipients including Anderson Cooper, Matt Lauer, Robin Roberts and Whoopi Goldberg.
During his conversation with students, Blitzer said he never thought of pursuing journalism as a viable career even though he had loved news since he was young. Instead he earned a Bachelors degree in history from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Masters degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University. Blitzer strongly recommended getting a diverse, well-rounded education,crediting his education and his time at Reuters for properly preparing him for his career in journalism.
Blitzer later said developing good sources is also an important skill to master. He also said he considers himself a traditional journalist who always checks the facts. Because of this, he always confirms the credibility of a source. A good relationship with sources is also beneficial since it shows a behind the scenes angle and gets a journalist the best information possible, Blitzer said.
Blitzer also advised the students in the audience to take advantage of every single opportunity, work hard to make other opportunities appear, and practice reporting as much as possible. Taking advantage of presented opportunities helped him to break stories as he was reporting in Kuwait during the Gulf War.
The most amazing person Blitzer said he interviewed was Nelson Mandela in 1998. Mandela recently had been released from prison and “[only] came out with a dream- no revenge, no civil war,” Blitzer said. “He just wanted all South Africans to unify and work together.” After the interview, Blitzer said if there were more people like Nelson Mandela, then the world would be a better place.
In the beginning of his career, he admitted to making countless mistakes while reporting. Yet, he said he saw the setbacks as lessons to help him improve and never let these mistakes cause him to doubt his abilities.