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The CN chats with 2013 “Meet the Press” fellow Dan Cooney

March 19th, 2014

 DancooneyCAMPUS

What were you involved in during your time at JCU?

 

I was heavily involved with The Carroll News. I started my freshman year. I was a staff writer. The second semester of my freshman year, I became a Campus Spotlight editor, and that section doesn’t exist anymore, but I had a co-editor, and we covered features on campus, so we used to do power couples and upcoming changes for housing and stuff like that. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I became a Campus editor, and I worked with a couple other Campus editors during that time, and then the second semester of my junior year I became managing editor, and then my senior year I was editor in chief. I also worked for JCTV-4, mostly my senior year, and I also did some radio stuff with WJCU. I did a little bit with the Student Alumni Association, and I was involved with campus ministry, as well. I went on Manresa and the guidance retreats, and I was a lector at mass.

 

Did you always know you wanted to go into journalism?

 

I think so. I had an interest in television and newspapers early on. My family and I always watched Tom Brokaw on The Nightly News. We always had a newspaper and we were reading it in the mornings. A lot of members of my family were interested in politics. I can remember very vividly Sunday nights, and we’d have dinners at my grandfather’s house and conversation after dinner always turned to politics. I just remember being really fascinated by it all, and that’s kind of what got me interested in it a little bit. I did the newspaper in high school, and I loved doing it, and I knew that’s what I wanted to pursue.

 

What did you major in when you were at JCU?

 

I majored in communications and I had a minor in political science.

 

What kind of obstacles have you faced as a journalist?

 

That’s a tough one. I think sometimes you have a really good story, sometimes you hear about something, and you want to make sure you get the whole story, so it’s important that you talk to everyone, and understandably sometimes they’re not really in a good position to talk about what they know, so that’s an obstacle that I’ve faced many times. There were times where we would write something and it got printed and people weren’t thrilled with what we had to say, and so sometimes that happened. But, if you did your due diligence beforehand, if you did all your fact-checking, if you made sure you talked to the right people, you know. I recall something Bob Noll always told me – make sure that you tell the whole story and be fair. It also brings to mind Tim Russert’s, “Be tough, but fair,” and if you do that, then you’re not going to face people saying, “You were unfair, you didn’t get all sides of the story,” because you did the hard work beforehand.

 

How did you react when you found out you received the fellowship?

 

I was incredibly excited. Funny story, actually. I was sitting with a friend in the newsroom, and we were talking about our futures, and I wasn’t really sure what the future held. I had interviewed for the fellowship and we were talking about what was going to happen because we weren’t sure, and all of the sudden I got a phone call, and I recognized the area code as being from Washington, D.C., and I’m like, “I bet you I know who this is!” It was the then-executive producer, Betsy Fischer, and she was calling to say that, you know, we’d love to have you on the team, and I couldn’t tell you how excited I was. I had worked really hard, and I knew that the fellowship was something I really wanted, and that phone call was a really awesome experience.

 

What was your first day like?

 

Lots of emotions. I was so excited; I was nervous. You know, somebody put it in one of the previous articles that you did about the fellows, it’s like the first day of school. You’re not really sure what to expect. Like I said, I had a lot of emotions at the time. I was just very excited. I was nervous, but the team was really good, they put me at ease. I started learning right away. It’s been a really good experience. On my first day I also got a tour of the place, and I was just like, the building is kind of a maze, and I’m still kind of searching for stuff months into the job. It’s been really good. It’s been an incredible experience.

 

Whats your most memorable moment during your time at Meet the Press?

 

I’d probably say in early December, Nelson Mandela passed away, and we were doing the show in New York at 30 Rockefeller, and I was asked to go along and I was honored. I was thrilled to go. So we went up there, and we did the show, and I got to help out in a really big way, and it was just really awesome. We did the show in the same studio as Night News, and after the show I got to sit in the chair up on the desk and I’m like, “Wow, Brian Williams sits here every night. This is really cool!” It was really thrilling. A producer we had worked with in D.C. showed us around after the show, and that was really cool.

 

So did you have any encounters with Brian Williams?

 

I didn’t actually get to meet him, but this is another memorable experience. I got to assist a little bit with the State of the Union coverage, so I think I passed by Brian Williams in the hallway and I was just like, “Oh my gosh, this is so cool.”

 

Whats the most important thing you learned during the fellowship?

 

This isn’t just for the fellowship, this goes throughout your professional career. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions, and always be ready to learn. Soak up as much knowledge as you can, because this experience has been unbelievable, and I’ve been so blessed to have it. There are a lot of really good people who have worked at Meet the Press with a lot of experience. There’s something you can learn from all of them, and just soak up as much as you possibly can from it. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions and be ready to learn.

 

Did you receive any memorable advice?

 

I think in some ways that’s been the advice that I’ve gotten from all those guys. My first week I got to meet David Gregory, and he goes, “John Carroll fellows have a really good track record here,” and I knew I had big shoes to fill, because everyone has been really, really good so far, and it’s been quite the experience.

 

How would your life be different if you hadnt gotten the fellowship?

 

It would be totally different. I don’t know if I’d be in D.C. right now, I don’t know what I’d be doing. This is where I always wanted to be, and I got this fellowship, and I’m not really sure. That’s a good question. I have no idea where I’d be right now.

 

What are your plans for the future?

 

I’m not really sure. I’d love to continue doing political journalism. I love politics, I love being on the front lines of it like I am at “Meet the Press.” It’s been a really good experience and we’ll see where it goes from there.

 

What advice do you have for future applicants?

 

The first piece of advice I’d give is make sure you get involved in The Carroll News, because you’re going to learn how to do really good journalism. You’re going to learn how to talk to people, how to do good interviews. You can take all the journalism classes that you want, but unless you actually get out there and do it in an environment like The Carroll News and at John Carroll, you’re not going to learn it sufficiently. But I wouldn’t just do print. Learn radio, and learn television, because the more that you do, the more you learn, and then you can apply that to any job you want to do in the future. All journalism is different. In print you’re obviously telling things in words, but in television, it’s words with the pictures; you’re not telling it, but you’re showing it. In radio, you have to choose your words very carefully. It’s more conversational, so learn it all. That’s the most important thing. Talk to people. Don’t be afraid to do informational interviews. Talk to people who have been in the business. You’ve got great professors that are there at John Carroll, and there are incredible people to learn from, so take advantage of that. If you’re interested in the fellowship, knowing politics is an absolute must. Learn about the political system that we have in our country, learn about international affairs, and you have great minds, great professors in the political science department, as well. So make sure you take advantage of all those opportunities that you have at John Carroll.