Kris Osborn '92 aims for academics but lands at CNNSince his days as a high-school student at Connecticut's Suffield Academy, CNN Headline News Anchor Kris Osborn '92 has drawn upon the poetry and philosophy of William Wordsworth. Osborn's high-profile job, new BMW, and apartment in the fashionable Buckhead section of Atlanta, Georgia, don't exactly evoke Wordsworthian images of nature and simplicity. But there are similarities. Like the English romantic poet, Osborn is an earnest and sincere thinker.
Osborn can articulately discuss the tenets of philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau, and then, without missing a beat, segue into reflections on his love for "heavy metal" bands. An avid reader, stellar athlete, sports fan, and driven professional, Osborn is a man of diverse interests whose memories of Kenyon center more on the classroom than the social scene.
"It doesn't surprise me that Kris can remember so much of what he learned here," says Harry Clor Professor of Political Science Pamela Jensen, who introduced Osborn to some of the political philosophies he cites. "He was the kind of person who allowed what he learned to alter his personal outlook. Kris is multitalented, with multiple sides, and he brings a sense of moral integrity and dignity to his job that I think is rare. He's an authentically profound thinker who's able to combine things that you would never think go together."
Nearing the top of his game as a prime-time general assignment anchor at CNN, Osborn says his life hasn't always been sunny, but he frames his recollections of the good and the bad times in life in philosophical terms, synthesizing the past and present through the writings of some of the greatest minds in history. "I know that some of this sounds self aggrandizing, but some of the things I learned about romanticism are things that I've clung to and philosophically speaking, those things have comforted me in the hard times in my life," says the thirty-two-year-old Osborn.
Osborn originally aspired to become a college professor, hence his master's degree in comparative literature from Columbia University, for which his thesis topic was none other than the poetry of Wordsworth. "It sounds silly, but it's a life dream of mine to be a professor," he says. "I moved to New York City after graduation in order to attend Columbia. I made the decision to get my master's degree, to enter the field of education, based on some of the philosophies I learned at Kenyon."
During graduate school, Osborn landed a job as a reporter for Channel One News in Los Angeles, California. For several months, he traveled between New York City and California in order to juggle his career and his academic schedule. "The Oklahoma City bombing was one of the first stories I covered," Osborn recalls. "Talk about a way to learn the ropes. That was no small way to get into things."
During his four years at Channel One, Osborn traveled to ten countries, interviewed such political heavyweights as Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, and covered the death of Princess Diana. Prior to his job at CNN, Osborn worked at Fox News Channel in Atlanta.
Osborn works the early shift at CNN. He can be seen on air Monday through Friday between 6:00 and 9:00 a.m. A typical day finds him up at 2:00 a.m. and arriving back home around noon.
There was nothing typical about his routine on September 11, however. "I had covered wars before," says Osborn, who was in Lima, Peru, in 1997 when Peruvian soldiers stormed the Japanese ambassador's mansion to free hostages. "But nothing can even come close to the events of September 11. It was beyond description. I don't know that any tragedy that relates to my work has ever been this close to home."
With scores of friends working at the World Trade Center, Osborn was moved on a very personal level. He lost a close friend who was on his swim team at the New York Athletic Club.
While early on in his job at CNN Osborn covered mostly technology, he focuses on the military now with his main emphasis on the war in Afghanistan. Osborn also writes a weekly column for CNN's web site. The subject matter is a nice fit with his Kenyon education, which included a double major in English and political science.
"I get to synthesize and paraphrase a lot of material in my job, and it really calls on what I did in the academic world," says Osborn. "When breaking news comes in, I have very little prep time before I'm on the air. My academic background really helps."
Life's darkest moment for Osborn was the 1991 murder of his mother during his junior year at Kenyon. His parents divorced while Osborn was young, and he and his brother spent most of his childhood living with his father and stepmother. "We had a tough time growing up," Osborn recalls of his parents divorce and the sometimes rocky family situation that followed. "When I heard that my mother was murdered, it was like a nuclear bomb went off in my soul. I was in the basement of Rosse Hall on the telephone when I found out. The only reason I stood a chance was because of the support I received from my friends and teachers at Kenyon. I know this sounds like some kind of advertisement for the College, but I often tell people that part of my soul will always be in a cornfield in Ohio. That's where I learned how to hold on."
Osborn speaks often of informed optimism, which according to Jensen is sound political thinking, rooted somewhere between idealism and cynicism. Osborn clings to the theory as a middle ground to provide a safe harbor from the adversity of the world. It encouraged him in his life to never give up, serving almost as a religious value.
Patrick Kearney '92, a close friend of Osborn's since high school, who along with Osborn was a member of the Lords swimming team, recalls the death of Osborn's mother and the impact it had on Osborn's life. "I still remember where I was when I heard the news," says Kearney. "Kris has had some hard times, but he's a survivor. His love of philosophy is very genuine and real. He's a brilliant person and when he's alone, I think there's a philosophical place inside him that he retreats to. I think he came into that while he was at Kenyon."
Given his all-American good looks and his political and literary awareness, it's not without irony that behind the news anchor persona lurks a metalhead. Bands such as Judas Priest, Ozzy Osborn, Saxon, and Queensrÿche are among his favorites. "I went to a Metallica concert last summer," he says. "I don't exactly fit that profile, but I've always loved eighties heavy metal. It's electrifying. I tell my friends that they haven't been to a concert until they've attended a heavy metal concert. It's so much fun."
As a member of Kenyon's swim team, Osborn was a vital part of the Lords' legacy. He earned three NCAA championships and ten All-American honors. He still swims today, competing last May in a master's national swim meet in Santa Clara, California. "The training you get in the pool at Kenyon, it really toughens you up and teaches you things that metaphorically apply in other areas of your life," says Osborn.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Osborn grew up in Gloucester, Massachusetts, with two sisters from his father's second marriage, one of whom, Rebecca Osborn, is a senior at Kenyon. His time in Massachusetts turned him into a diehard fan of the New England Patriots. Osborn maintains an active social life, despite his long work hours, sometimes playing pick-up football with friends.
His plans to become a professor are on hold for the moment, but he says his news background may lend itself to teaching broadcast journalism some day. "I love news, and I'm very happy at CNN," says Osborn. "But my experience in television news won't stop me from getting my Ph.D. one day. That will always be my goal."
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