Wolf Blitzer to Temple students: ‘Go out and do it’

Wolf Blitzer is this year’s Lew Klein Award winner.

Wolf Blitzer (right), invited his friend Paxton Baker to answer questions about the show-business industry Oct. 29 at TPAC. | Khanya Brann TTN
Wolf Blitzer (right), invited his friend Paxton Baker to answer questions about the show-business industry Oct. 29 at TPAC. | Khanya Brann TTN

Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s lead political anchor, has traveled across the world to places like North Korea, Israel and Kuwait. Last week, he made a trip to Main Campus.

Blitzer, who anchors “The Situation Room” and “Wolf” on CNN, came to Temple Oct. 29 to receive the 15th Lew Klein Excellence in the Media Award.

Prior to receiving this award in a ceremony at Mitten Hall, Blitzer participated in a Q&A with students at the Temple Performing Arts Center.

“People helped me on my way up, and the right thing to do is help others as they’re trying to decide what to do,” Blitzer told The Temple News.

Blitzer spent an hour addressing students, answering questions about everything from CNN’s internship program to more than 40 years of experience reporting on national and international news.

He recounted his time reporting from Kuwait in the early 2000s as U.S. troops attempted to capture Saddam Hussein, as well as the time he sat down with former South African President Nelson Mandela in what he considers to be his favorite interview.

“It was so inspiring to meet [Mandela], to interview with him, to walk around the Presidential Palace there, the residence in Cape Town,” Blitzer said. “Knowing I had been at Robben Island just a couple days earlier, saw what he had gone through that was an inspirational moment for me as a journalist.”

He also offered advice to students, telling them to get a well-rounded education by taking courses outside their majors. Blitzer said he prepared for his own career as a reporter not by studying journalism, but by taking classes in political science, economics and sociology.

Jon Dowding, a freshman journalism and Spanish major, did not expect Blitzer to lack formal journalism education.

“I thought it was really surprising how he majored in history and then [received his master’s degree] in international relations,” Dowding said. “And then he became a journalist without any background.”

Blitzer also tailored some of his advice specifically to future journalists in the crowd.

“If you have that fire in your belly and you want to be a journalist, go out and do it,” he said.

Nerisha Penrose, a senior communication studies major, said Blitzer’s message about passion really resonated with her.

“I do get discouraged a lot when people tell me that fashion journalism isn’t going to make me a living, but that’s what I want to do, that’s what I’m passionate about,” Penrose said. “If I put my mind to it, if I work hard, then I should be good.”

Blitzer also stressed the importance of “accurate, fair, responsible” reporting to students in the crowd. In response to the fabrication scandal of Brian Williams, last year’s Lew Klein Award winner and an old friend of his, Blitzer told The Temple News that everyone makes mistakes.

“I’m happy for Brian that he’s now back on MSNBC, he’s doing a lot of breaking news,” Blitzer said. “He made a mistake. He apologized for that. You know everybody’s human and we all make mistakes, so we move on.”

About half way through the Q&A, Blitzer invited a different close friend, Paxton Baker to take the stage. Baker, president of BET event productions and a Temple alumnus, echoed Blitzer’s message of the importance of passion.

He recounted working three jobs throughout college, while also serving as a student disc jockey at a then 24-hour jazz radio station here at Temple.

Baker said he spent his time at Temple “learning how to volunteer and applying passion in [his] life.”

With their advice about passion and persistence, both Baker and Blitzer seemed to inspire and excite students about their own future media careers.

“How [Blitzer] made a point to tell everybody to not give up … to just to keep going for it that kind of gave me hope for the future,” Dowding said.

Jenny Roberts can be reached at jennifer.roberts@temple.edu or on Twitter @jennyroberts511.

Video shot by Caroline Vana and edited by Sean Brown.

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