Renowned Journalist Berkowitz Gets Intimate About His Career

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

By Carlin Fitzpatrick, GCC Student

Bob Berkowitz, a former CNN White House correspondent, ABC News reporter, and "Today" show host exposed the naked truth about what it takes to be a successful journalist during a recent talk with Gateway Community College students.

On Nov. 17, Berkowitz sat for an interview with the Journalism 1 class at Gateway and answered a wide range of questions. 

"I'm always grateful when young people say they want to be journalists,” he said.  “It's not easy.  It's gratifying as it can be.  It's rewarding, and it's frustrating."

Berkowitz began his career as a talk radio host in Denver and San Francisco.  When his boss asked him to join him as a national news editor for AP Radio, he quickly evolved into the Chief U.S. Senate and political correspondent.  He covered national presidential and senatorial campaigns.  

"It was a very exciting new journalism experience for me," he said. 

According to Berkowitz, journalists must adhere to facts rather than opinions.  Also, double-check that your sources are educated about the subject by interviewing people who have credentials. 

"Get as many sources as you can and try to give both sides of an issue," Berkowitz said.  "Make sure everyone has a chance to give their point of view."  

As a White House correspondent, Berkowitz felt he was being fed news.  Therefore, he said: "You have to go below the surface and find out what's really going on.  Find sources who you trust and who trust you.  Learn to tap into other reputable sources."  

One of his most memorable stories was covering the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley in Washington DC in 1981. He witnessed the shooting and later spent weeks at George Washington University Hospital as the president recovered.

Later in his career, he worked as an ABC News reporter, where he was exposed to stories in which he had little experience but learned by observing others.  He reported from Argentina on the Falkland Islands War and natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods in Louisiana and forest fires in Montana.  He also covered the explosion at Three Mile Island and said he knew nothing about nuclear energy at the time.  

"I had to do a quick study about nuclear power and what we now call a meltdown," he said.  

Berkowitz developed a beat for himself when he moved from ABC News to NBC's Today show.  Pat Mitchell, the President of Public Television at the time, covered the beat "Today's Woman" in the 1980s, which focused on how women were evolving throughout the Feminist Movement.  Berkowitz approached Steve Friedman, executive producer of the Today show, with the concept of becoming "Today's Man."

"The greatest thing you can possibly do as a reporter is to create a beat for yourself," Berkowitz said.  

Friedman was drawn to this approach because women account for two-thirds of the morning television audience, according to Berkowitz.  Because women are more interested in men than men are in women, women account for one-fourth to one-third of men's magazine subscribers and readers, he said.

He covered this beat for several years.  He experimented with other intimate aspects of relationships, which he found interesting and rewarding, and published relationship advice in magazine columns such as MENtionables and Love Notes.  Berkowitz is co-author with Roger Gittines of "What Men Won't Tell You, But Women Need to Know" and author of "His Secret Life: Male Sexual Fantasies."

Currently, Berkowitz is a global communications coach.  His job includes assisting clients in crafting compelling, memorable statements about who they are, what they stand for, and why others should care, whether they are company executives, authors, or political officials.  He then instructs them on how to transmit those messages effectively, he said.

In addition, he volunteers for Inmates to Entrepreneurs, an organization dedicated to assisting ex-offenders in starting a business, and he consults with young entrepreneurs in developing nations through The Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship.  He also serves on the board of the Brian Hamilton Foundation, which assists people in difficult circumstances in starting a new business.  

So, what recommendations would Berkowitz give someone interested in pursuing a career as a journalist? 

"Be voracious writers,” he said.  “Every day, write.  Write what you see and hear.  You don't have to do it for anybody but yourself, but the more you practice journalism, the better you will get.  The more confident you will feel.  Be a voracious consumer of news."

Berkowitz gets up every morning and reads about eight news sources.  He recommends CNN's online blog Reliable Sources.  “Chasing the Truth: A Young Journalist's Guide to Investigative Reporting” was also recommended.  The book is based on Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey's New York Times bestseller “She Said,” who broke the Harvey Weinstein story.  

Berkowitz said: "Ultimately, most journalism is investigative reporting.  It's not superficial.  It's getting underneath the surface and finding out what the truth is."  

Berkowitz has received an Overseas Press Club award and a journalism citation from The Freedom Foundation for his reporting.  

When asked what advice he would provide to others who want to be journalists, Berkowitz said: "Start small.  You're going to make mistakes, like any job.  In the beginning, you're going to make mistakes.  And that's okay.  That's how you learn."