Sep 262010
 
Authors: Sean Bucher

The north ballroom was filled to full capacity on Friday afternoon as students and faculty gathered to hear Charlie D’Agata, CBS News Foreign Correspondent.

Accompanied by his wife, two daughters and parents, D’Agata was the keynote speaker for CSU’s second annual Media Festival. The festival highlighted CSU students and graduates and their accomplishments within the field of media.

D’Agata came to CSU over 20 years ago like many prospective students for the veterinary program. He soon realized his talents were better suited in the journalism field. The choice to peruse journalism has evolved into a lucrative and successful career with CBS, first in radio, then on television.

“When you’re young, you have this voice inside you that is constantly asking: ‘what’s my purpose’,” D’Agata said.

D’Agata who moved to London initially, began his post college career in teaching, he then caught on with ABC News, where his experience at CSU paid dividends quickly.

He attributes his early newsroom success to the skills he learned while at CSU, claiming they gave him an automatic edge.

“You know, he disappeared for awhile, and then I was listening the radio one day and I heard he had been kicked out of Iraq,” said Greg Luft, Department Chair of the Journalism and Technical Communication Department.

Luft, who taught D’Agata, was excited to have him return to CSU to share his overseas experiences.

D’Agata has seen his share of major events. He was the correspondent for CBS during the Tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean and Pacific islands in 2005. He recalled the identification process of victims that took multiple experts and countless volunteers, as well as the individuals who abandoned their vacation time to help.

“He’s someone who has had quite a journey,” said Jack Lovelace, a CSU journalism instructor.

D’Agata was also on the ground in Iraq 10 months before operation Iraqi Freedom began and recalled one experience in particular while traveling through Baghdad when he witnessed a car bomb and the devastation it caused.

“I remember my initial reaction was to call CBS and tell them what had just happened,” D’Agata said, “but my producer told me to stop and take it all in.”

D’Agata’s initial urge to report the scene became secondary as he helped coalition troops with rescue operations in the aftermath of the bombing.

He believes that was a defining moment in his life, not just as a journalist.

“At some point, you have to feel uncomfortable,” D’Agata said. “Risk your career. It’s the only way you can grow.”

D’Agata has learned a lot about cultural differences in his time overseas from his international coverage of the 2008 elections to U.S. foreign relations in the Middle East.

“Obama enjoys a lot of liberties in Europe, but in certain regions the anti-American sentiment is still strong,” D’Agata said, who believes the vast cultural differences across continents are too strong to be curbed by one election.

D’Agata also commented on the differences in media outlets between the U.S. and abroad, saying the news sources for American audiences are often more aggressive in news reporting. He believes this philosophy is misconstrued as bias, as opposed to outlets recognizing their audiences.

“As media, we should always push for more information,” D’Agata said, who attributes this passion for reporting to journalistic greats like Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Edward R. Murrow. He still has a plaque of Murrow on his desk.

D’Agata also recognizes his responsibility as a journalist, regardless of personal biases, and believes journalists should continue to push envelope and strive for groundbreaking information much like Rather and his predecessors did. He also attributes life changes like having a family to his journalistic journey.

“Since becoming a father, I’ve become much more compassionate, its changed my perspective on life and journalism” D’Agata said, who recalled watching mothers and fathers sending their children to school in Iraq as nerve racking.

Jim Benemann, CSU graduate and KCNC CBS 4 Denver lean anchor believes D’Agata has yet to reach his full potential.

“Charlie will be an international voice for years to come,” said Benemann in his introduction of D’Agata.

Despite the attention D’Agata realizes how quickly the news and means of receiving it can change, which affects all of journalism. He believes the best way to reach people is to continue to evolve.

“Any journalist should experience as much as possible, the more we know the more we can tell,” D’Agata said.

Staff writer Sean Bucher can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com.

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