By Betsy Rothstein - 03/23/09 04:32 PM EDT
Fresh out of journalism school at Northwestern University, he was interviewing for an Idaho TV station when asked if he could give the weather forecast.
“I said, ‘Of course I can do the weather,’ ” he said.
Little did his employers know that Cook’s actual experience consisted of hosting “Trinity Feud” for the student-run cable TV station at Duke University, where he majored in political science and history. “It was like ‘Family Feud’ for student groups,” he explained. “I really enjoyed the live aspect of it, being up on the wire without much of a safety net.”
Cook, 41, has come a long way.
Today he wakes just before 4 a.m. and co-anchors a morning news program for Bloomberg, where he has worked as a Washington correspondent for the past five years. The early-morning shift is new; he broadcasts throughout the 6-7 a.m. hour, then co-hosts a show from 7 to 8 a.m. He has covered everything from the financial crisis to last year’s presidential campaign.
Born in Washington, Cook spent the first three years of his life in Rome, where his father worked as a print journalist. They soon returned home, and Cook grew up in the Tenleytown area.
“It was never my dad’s style to convince me to go into journalism,” the correspondent explained. “He wanted to make sure it was my own choice.”
Back in Idaho, the full-time meteorologist took Cook under his wing. “There was a learning curve — not just the weather, but local news was a great training ground for me,” he said.
Cook was an intern at ABC’s “Nightline”; a reporter for an NBC affiliate in Roanoke, Va.; followed by a stint at a Fox affiliate in Raleigh, N.C., where he interviewed a prisoner on death row and witnessed his execution.
Stories that come most poignantly to mind include everything from North Carolina hurricanes to the abduction and subsequent murder of a young girl. “It was an awful, awful story,” he recalled. “Through luck, timing, I seemed to be the first reporter on the scene.”
He was there when police discovered the girl’s body. “I just remember it really tore up a community,” he said.
Still, being able to detach is part of the job.
“I don’t think you can be a reporter and not have seen a lot of things that affect you and change you,” he said, adding: “I’m an observer. … You have to put yourself in a different position and do your job.”
Cook has a repertoire of strange stories. He once took a camera to the North Carolina State Fair to discover the best rides. “I rode every ride I could,” he said. “I was so green. I was not well.”
For now, Cook, married with two young sons, moves through his day at a frenetic pace.
“I get paid to see things people could only hope to see,” he said, still jetlagged on this day from a trip to Rome to trail Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and cover the meeting of the G-7 finance ministers. “People, I think, would kill for my job. That’s the way I look at it.”