Try doing something for two hours nonstop every day, with a million people watching. For instance, having conversations with a string of people in the throes of life-changing events, asking the questions your audience would like to ask but maybe wouldn’t have the nerve to.
The fact that Brooke Baldwin ’01 makes anchoring CNN’s afternoon news show look easy is a testament to her talent and professionalism.
In the course of her career, she has interviewed those involved in stories ranging from inspiring to devastating to history-making. She climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a Marine veteran who lost a leg in battle; she went to the Persian Gulf to talk with U.S. sailors about the war on terror and their commitment to this country. She reported live from Newtown, Connecticut after the massacre at an elementary school, and she hopped a flight to France within hours of a truck crashing into a crowd in Nice. She covered the 2016 presidential election, interviewing voters at the debates and at barber shops, and riding with Bikers for Trump.
Brooke has the strength to capture the emotion that connects us in times of tragedy, a far cry from the more reserved anchors of generations gone by. She has an unusual flexibility to shift emotional gears and tone as breaking news interrupts her broadcast. She may be interviewing a policy wonk when word comes through her headset of yet another shooting or horrific event, and with a blank teleprompter and little more than a headline to go on, she begins pulling in the reports from eyewitnesses and experts. And when she has shared all available information, she goes back to the originally scheduled story of, say, a jury deadlocked over a celebrity’s misdeeds.
News reporting tends to be reactive — keeping the public up to date on what has happened. Brooke has shown creativity in being proactive — sharing information with viewers that enriches their lives. After the Women’s March that bubbled up in response to the inauguration of Donald Trump as president, Brooke came up with the idea of doing a series for CNN.com, interviewing powerful women from various walks of life who are change-makers.
A colleague praises Brooke as “a Swiss army knife of talent” in her ability to relate to widely diverse audiences. Viewers trust her, and she treats them with respect in return. As she has progressed professionally, she has adapted to the changing landscape of how people consume news.
Professionals in her field have noticed. Brooke was nominated for a Peabody Award after hosting a town hall meeting of 40 people touched by gun violence. Twice she has been part of a Peabody Award-winning team at CNN, once for coverage of the 2008 presidential election and another time for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Brooke won an Emmy as part of a news team that covered protests in New York when a man died after police put him in a chokehold. She earned another Emmy as part of a team for her work on the anchor desk covering breaking news in Israel and Gaza. In 2012, the New York Festivals International Television & Film Awards bestowed on Brooke its Silver World Medal for Best Investigative Report for her first hour-long documentary, “To Catch a Killer.”
An Atlanta native, Brooke enrolled at the College of William & Mary. Midway through her sophomore year, she dropped a friend off at UNC on her way back to Virginia after winter break. On a lark, she took a campus tour. By the time she got back in her car, she had decided to switch majors to journalism and switch schools to Carolina, “the best decision I ever made,” she said.
None of Brooke’s success has been handed to her. She started out behind the camera before a professor noticed her “presence” and suggested she audition for anchor of the Carolina Week newscast in spring semester of her senior year. After graduation, she broadcast at a news station in Charlottesville, Virginia, then worked her way ever closer to Washington as a freelancer for CNN. Then it was on to New York as a CNN anchor, propelled by determination, poise and a command of an astounding bank of knowledge.
Integrity in the news media has never been more important. Brooke is quick to give Carolina credit for putting her on the career path she loves. In her words, UNC gave her the love, faith and support to follow through.