Oral Histories

Wolf Blitzer

Interview Segments on Topic: Characteristics of Professional Journalists

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.

Transcript

INTERVIEWER:  Advice on the ethics side to young journalists like the ones we just graduated here today?

BLITZER:  My advice is, be honest.  It’s the same advice your parents gave you when you were in kindergarten; honesty is the best policy…tell the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth.  Don’t embellish, don’t make it up.  Don’t have any political agendas.  Make sure that the aggrieved party has a right to comment before you go to air or go to press.  And don’t be used to allow anyone to die or be hurt, be sensitive to that.

INTERVIEWER:  Maybe we could just end with this tonight if you would just talk about the things that you’ve done in your career of which you’re most proud.

BLITZER:  Well, it’s almost 40 years now, if I look back, since I finished graduate school, I’ve been proud of all of the journalistic work that I’ve done.  In the 70s and 80s, covering the Middle East.  I’ve been proud of when I was a Pentagon correspondent, the military stuff that I covered.  I was almost 8 years—7 years as our senior White House correspondent during the Clinton administration.  I’ve been anchoring shows for the last 15 years at CNN, Inside Politics, Wolf Blitzer Reports, Situation Room, Late Edition I did for 11 years—our Sunday show.  I’m very proud of all that work, I think we did a good job.  Was it the greatest journalism ever?  No.  But it was important, I’ve been blessed to cover some of the most important stories in our lifetime in the last 30 or 40 years, I was there covering whatever big story there was at CNN in ’70, I’ve been with CNN now for 21 years.  So, television, that’s a long time to be at the same place and whenever there’s been a big story, they said, Wolf, get there.  And so, if you’re a journalist, you want to have a front row seat to history.  You want to have access to newsmakers; you want to interview newsmakers and ask tough questions.  You want to get the news first.  I’ve always been a news junkie, ever since I was a little boy growing up in Buffalo and you know what, I’ve been so privileged that even if I had become a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant or anything else, I would have still been a news junkie cause I love this kind of stuff, ever since I was a little boy I loved it.  So if you’re passionate about it do it—and I’ve been passionate about it.  And even at this stage I love what I’m doing and look forward to doing it for many more years to come.

INTERVIEWER:  Yeah, I’d say you’ve had not just a front row seat, but the best seat in the house.

BLITZER:  I have a great seat, great seat.

INTERVIEWER:  Alright, well thank you so much.

BLITZER:  Thank you.