When it was announced in February that television news anchor Anderson Cooper would be speaking at the 11th annual Edward R. Murrow Forum on Issues in Journalism at Tufts University — one of the most important co-curricular events of the year — word spread like wild fire. It also caught the attention of Tufts University Bookstore Manager, Boon Teo.
“When I saw it was announced on the University’s Facebook page that Anderson Cooper would be speaking at the Edward R. Murrow Forum, I knew immediately that I wanted to host a book signing,” said Teo. “It was such perfect timing that his new book had just come out.” Indeed, the timing could not have been better as Cooper’s latest book, The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss, was released just days before the event.
Honoring legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, the forum — sponsored by Tufts University’s Film and Media Studies (FMS) program, the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World at The Fletcher School and the Tisch College of Civic Life — explores contemporary journalism issues. The prestigious event has featured some of journalism’s biggest names, including Ted Koppel, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour, George Stephanopoulos and Arianna Huffington. Just how popular was the Anderson Cooper event? It sold out in less than an hour.
The award-winning journalist anchors CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360˚,” a nightly newscast that offers in-depth investigations and reporting on current world events, people in the news, politicians and policy makers. Cooper is a regular correspondent for CBS’s “60 Minutes,” and this year, he has played a pivotal role in CNN’s election coverage, including moderating several presidential debates.
Tufts alumnus Neal Shapiro, president and CEO of WNET, and former president of NBC News, connected Dr. Julie Dobrow, co-director of the university’s Film and Media Studies Program, with Cooper for this year’s event. Each year, Dobrow and Shapiro work together to choose a speaker for the forum and this year’s choice proved to be a perfect fit. “Because of his coverage of the election, he was a natural choice,” said Dobrow, “but more than that, we wanted Anderson Cooper because he embodies the kind of thoughtful and compassionate journalism that we try to instill in our students here at Tufts.”
Cooper answered questions at the packed Cohen Auditorium from Tufts alumnus and CEO of Loews Hotels & Resorts, Jonathan Tisch, before the event was opened to questions from an audience that included representatives from area universities, alumni, students, faculty, visiting admitted students, parents and members of the press.
Instantly seeing a perfect opportunity to complement the forum event, Teo set out to make the book signing a reality — but there would be a lot of moving parts to make it happen. “The book signing came together pretty quickly,” said Dobrow. “Boon interfaced with the departments sponsoring the event, campus security, events planning, communications and the publisher. It was truly a team effort.”
Of course, the book signing would never have happened without Anderson Cooper agreeing to skip lunch to sign copies of his latest book as well as his memoir, Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of War, Disasters, and Survival. “He was such an incredibly nice guy,” said Teo. “He had to be back in New York to film his show that night, but agreed to stay for the signing and meet his fans — he even took the time to pose for selfies with every person who came to the signing. I can’t tell you how excited everyone was. One student even said, ‘My life is now complete.’”
Because of the sheer number of fans, the book signing was held in the Remis Sculpture Court of the Aidekman Arts Center. Fans were lined up for hours before the signing and when Dobrow arrived with Cooper, fans erupted into applause. “It was like a rock star had arrived,” she said. “When we reached the Sculpture Court, everyone could see him get out the car and they immediately began clapping.”
Teo and her team were able to pull off the successful last-minute signing without a hitch. “It was a great event,” said Dobrow. “The bookstore staff was terrific and had everything so well organized.”
Because of Cooper’s tight schedule, it was critical for Teo to ensure an efficient book signing to allow every fan to have his/her books signed in an hour or less. “My bookstore represents Tufts, and everything we do must reflect the highest standards, whether it’s hosting a book signing, respecting an author’s time, or supporting our students and faculty,” she said. “It was such a pleasure to work with Anderson Cooper and the University for this event. We’re happy that it went so well.”
Dobrow was also pleased with the event. “It’s a great example how something like a book signing can reach beyond the university and include our local community, as well,” she said. “I would do another book signing with our campus bookstore in a heartbeat.”