Emmy-Award Winning Producer to Speak at GCC


Agnessa Kasumyan, Managing Editor

The art of storytelling has captivated audiences for centuries.

Cole Kazdin, a three-time Emmy-award winning television news producer, writer and director, will speak on Nov. 7 in Kreider Hall.

Currently a producer for ABC News, Kazdin has worked on news and feature stories for “20/20,” “Nightline,” and “World News with Diane Sawyer.” Her work on “Good Morning America” earned her three consecutive Emmy-awards between 2006 and 2008.

“I think there is definitely an energy to news that I love,” Kazdin said. “Once news breaks, you are in motion. You’re chasing everything down and trying to find out what happened. That’s really exciting.”

An alumna of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Kazdin has worked for other high-profile networks, including HBO, A&E, for which she produced a documentary on Academy Award winner Tom Hanks, and the Discovery Health Channel.

In 2005, just prior to working for GMA, Kazdin had decided to take a break from the television industry after spending a year and half on a porn documentary for HBO. Though she enjoyed the creative atmosphere of the network, spending so much time in the porn industry was overwhelming.

“If anyone has seen any pornography, imagine being in that for a year and a half,” Kazdin said. “It’s just a lot to take.”

However, being uncomfortable is just part of the job, particularly in the news world.

For Kazdin, disaster stories, like tornadoes and hurricanes, are particularly difficult to cover due to the extent of the tragedy involved. Walking through the broken bits and pieces of peoples’ belongings makes the experience all the more “heart-wrenching.”

During the 9/11 attacks, Kazdin’s first disaster story, she volunteered during her time-off, but she and other volunteers were told by Red Cross officials to write their names and emergency contacts on a piece of paper. In case they were killed, their bodies could be identified.

“You felt like you were part of the story and not in a good way,” she said.

An avid storyteller and writer, Kazdin has also been featured in the New York Times. Her piece, “Chubby, Skinny, Accepting,” explores her experience with extreme dieting and how finding love helped her get through it.

During her time off from television in 2005, she also wrote and starred in “My Year of Porn,” a one-woman comedy based on her experiences making the porn documentary. The play was highly praised in the New York Times by writer Anita Gates, but her work has also been recognized by The Moth, a non-profit storytelling organization.

A three-time recipient of the Moth GrandSLAM Champion award, three-time Moth Story Slam winner, and a regular on the Moth Radio Hour, Kazdin has been telling stories for as long as she can remember. As a little girl, her father had nicknamed her Scheherazade, a character in “One Thousand and One Nights,” who was able to put off her execution night after night by captivating her king with a story. However, rather than execution, Kazdin was sentenced to sleep.

Though her writing outside of ABC News is based on her own personal experiences, producing news and feature segments also requires having the ability to tell a story. When working on segments for ABC, Kazdin says she does not think about what will attract an audience. Rather, she focuses on information that moves her emotionally and likes to think that there is “a universal human sense” of what works for a story.

For Kazdin, getting personal comes naturally, as she likes sharing experiences with other people; however, not in a self-absorbed way. She compares it to the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” a narrative poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge that her father used to read to her about a sailor who corners a wedding guest and captures his attention with a story about his adventures.

“I’ve had experiences where I feel like I need to grab a wedding guest and tell them something,” Kazdin said.

To hear more from Kazdin, she will be speaking to students and staff on Nov. 7 at 12:30 p.m. in Kreider Hall.