Alumni Profiles

News Rush
Jack Gray '02 races to meet deadlines for "Anderson Cooper 360*"—and finds his own voice along the way

Bookmark and Share
Easy to print version

Phil Scalia

For Jack Gray '02, the clock is always ticking down to 8 p.m.—showtime for "Anderson Cooper 360*," the fast-moving CNN newscast where Gray is a producer. "Every day is a new ball of stress," he says.

CNN is about 300 miles and 22 years away from BNN—Barnstead News Network—the mock TV channel Gray conjured up as a 10-year-old in his grandparents' Barnstead, N.H., living room. Turns out his imaginary boyhood broadcasts were the beginning of a dream that carried him all the way through school—and beyond. Attending UNH, a regular stop for presidential candidates, he found himself in the right place at the right time. During the 2000 campaign, he interviewed Ralph Nader, attended press conferences for George Bush and John McCain, and nabbed a press pass for the Bush-Gore debate. Gray's senior year started with the 9/11 attacks. When the news broke, he rushed to WUNH to deliver live radio updates, and then raced to Channel 11 to get a show on the air.

Gray launched his full-time career at New England Cable News, where he eventually became a producer for the network's prime-time newscast, "The Chet Curtis Report," finding a mentor in Curtis, the veteran anchor. In 2007, he joined CNN in New York.

Gray's job at "AC360" is a full-on media assault, starting at home each morning monitoring newscasts, newspapers, blogs, and Twitter, followed by a conference call to review headlines and stories in development. "But when I get to the office at 1 p.m., things have changed drastically, and by 8 o'clock everything's different," he says of the unpredictable news cycle. In the lead-up to the show, Gray researches, conducts pre-interviews, and tracks down footage for his segments. He judges the time by the intensity of the noise—as it gets closer to 8 p.m., the decibel level rises. "Things are being updated right until the last minute," he says. "You get used to the shouting, the occasional cursing, the controlled chaos."

Gray's career has been a series of close encounters with Supreme Court justices, heads of state, and A-listers, and his role in CNN's Haiti earthquake coverage earned him a couple of Emmys. Recently, however, he's become more than a name on a credit roll. At a key moment when Gray was finding his voice as a writer, Cooper saw a funny piece he'd posted on the AC360 blog and told him to keep at it. "That's all I needed to hear," says Gray, whose memoir was released in February.

In Pigeon in a Crosswalk: Tales of Anxiety and Accidental Glamour, Gray reflects on his life with characteristic self-deprecating humor—and plenty of dishing on celebrities. When Entertainment Weekly asked where his sense of humor came from, Gray, who is openly gay, replied, "Not to get all introspective, but as someone who was closeted until I was 26, which is late for most people, it was part of my way of coping."

Today, after years of producing hard news, Gray has found his voice on the lighter side. Along with his book, he's written jokes for Kathy Griffin and mixed drinks in a cameo role as Andy Cohen's bartender on Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live." On Twitter, he has more than a million followers, though he jokes that they're all "spammers in Kuala Lumpur."

"Part of my move to New York," says Gray, "was figuring out who I was and getting clarity about what my path might be." One morning he found inspiration—and his book title—on the way to work. Standing next to him at a streetlight, was a pigeon. "The light changes," he writes, "and the pigeon crosses the street, staying within the crosswalk the entire time." Which got Gray to thinking: If a pigeon could succeed in New York, so could he. "The bar," he writes, "has been set by a pigeon in a crosswalk."

Return to Alumni Profiles

blog comments powered by Disqus