Oral Histories

Wolf Blitzer

Interview Segments on Topic: Journalism Education

Wolf Blitzer Biography

Wolf Blitzer is CNN’s lead political anchor and the anchor of The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s political news program that provides up-to-the minute coverage of the day’s events.  During the 2008 presidential election, Blitzer spearheaded CNN’s Peabody Award-winning coverage of the presidential primary debates and campaigns. He also anchored coverage surrounding all of the major political events, including both conventions, Election Night and the full day of President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

In addition to politics, Blitzer is also known for his in-depth reporting on international news. In December 2010, he was granted rare access to travel to North Korea with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as the world watched tensions mount between North and South Korea.

Blitzer reported from Israel in the midst of the war between that country and Hezbollah during the summer of 2006. In 2005, he was the only American news anchor to cover the Dubai Ports World story on the ground in the United Arab Emirates. He also traveled to the Middle East that year to report on the second anniversary of the war in Iraq. In 2003, Blitzer reported on the Iraq war from the Persian Gulf region.

Blitzer began his career in 1972 with the Reuters News Agency in Tel Aviv. Shortly thereafter, he became a Washington, D.C., correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. After more than 15 years of reporting from the nation’s capital, Blitzer joined CNN in 1990 as the network’s military-affairs correspondent at the Pentagon. He served as CNN’s senior White House correspondent covering President Bill Clinton from his election in November 1992 until 1999.

Throughout his career, Blitzer has interviewed some of history’s most notable figures, including former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Regan, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Blitzer has also interviewed many foreign leaders— the Dalai Lama, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former South African President Nelson Mandela, among them.

Among the numerous honors he has received for his reporting, Blitzer is the recipient of an Emmy Award from The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his 1996 coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing and a Golden CableACE from the National Academy of Cable Programming for his and CNN’s coverage of the Persian Gulf War. He anchored CNN’s Emmy-award winning live coverage of the 2006 Election Day. He was also among the teams awarded a George Foster Peabody award for Hurricane Katrina coverage; an Alfred I. duPont Award for coverage of the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia; and an Edward R. Murrow Award for CNN’s coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. He is the recipient of the 2004 Journalist Pillar of Justice Award from the Respect for Law Alliance and the 2003 Daniel Pearl Award from the Chicago Press Veterans Association.

Blitzer is the author of two books, Between Washington and Jerusalem:  A Reporter’s Notebook (Oxford University Press, 1985) and Territory of Lies (Harper and Row, 1989). The latter was cited by The New York Times Book Review as one of the most notable books of 1989. He also has written articles for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.


INTERVIEWER:  You didn’t train to be a journalist as an undergraduate and therefore didn’t take my journalism ethics class so in the absence of that kind of formal training in journalism ethics, as you just sort of begin your career as a reporter where does your sense of—what ethical journalism is—where does that come from?  How did you recall picking up on ideas about what it means to be a ethical journalist?

BLITZER:  I really didn’t have any journalistic training—undergraduate or graduate—I never took a journalism course, I never worked for the school newspaper, the radio station.  I was a history major, undergraduate, I studied international relations in graduate school, and I just fell into journalism.  I got a job, somebody said, do you want to be a foreign correspondent and I was thinking of going on to the PhD in international relations but foreign correspondent sounded intriguing, I had always been a news junkie ever since I was a kid growing up in Buffalo, so I heard about this job at the Reuters News Agency, which is a British news organization and to my utter amazement, I applied and I got this…it was an entry level training program, they paid me, it wasn’t an internship, they didn’t pay me a lot but they paid me.  But I was really blessed in the early days, learning from some really veteran journalists who inspired me, worked with me, trained me, ridiculed me, would very often make fun of me.  It was almost like a hazing process to a certain degree, these were old time British journalists, really experienced.  Nowadays, human resources would become involved because of the way they used to do it.  But they inspired me and they also gave me my initial understanding of what journalistic ethics are all about and they trained me what is right, what is wrong, how far can you go, what shouldn’t you do and I think those initial guidelines, those initial instructions I had back in 1972-1973, a long time ago, they’ve stayed with me ever since.