Like 9-11, Katrina was tagged as a consciousness-altering moment for Americans. It woke us up to the nation’s racial rift—for about 10 minutes. The hurricane’s only tangible impact? Both Geraldo Rivera and Anderson Cooper, who raised a lot of buzz for their gonzo, emotive broadcasts from Katrina’s ground zero, have been rewarded with a move up the media food chain. Cooper bumped Aaron Brown from his plum 10 p.m. CNN spot, and Rivera now hosts a daily syndicated show, Geraldo at Large, aired locally at 4 p.m. on Fox 5.
The similarities end there. While Anderson Cooper 360 attempts to leaven in-depth news reports with Gen X irony (he loves to air campy Japanese navy commercials), Geraldo at Large goes for the tabloid jugular. His debut episode warned of “Katrina’s predators”—New Orleans sex offenders on the loose after the disaster. (More recent predators: teachers seducing students and pirates attacking cruise ships.) He applies the same histrionic tone to politics. On a day when Cooper’s show featured a thoughtful report by Christiane Amanpour on the Paris riots, Geraldo let loose his own jingoistic commentary, crowing that France’s refusal to acknowledge its own Muslim problem, “coupled with the French position on the war in Iraq, has many Americans today, I believe, saying ‘I told you so’ as they watch Paris burn.”