You are here: American University News A Reporter Shares Her Own Story


A Reporter Shares Her Own Story

CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota, SOC/BA ’88, spoke about her new memoir, her AU experience, and her path into journalism during an SOC event on April 2.

By  | 

Alisyn Camerota, SOC/BA ’88, remembers standing in the middle of American University’s quad as a first-year student, white knuckling her microphone with both hands.

She had come from the Jersey Shore to DC to learn how to become a TV reporter. But take after take revealed she had a lot to learn about working in front of the camera.

“I really didn’t even know what I was saying,” recalled Camerota, now a CNN anchor, before an intimate audience at the School of Communications’ Media Innovation Lab on April 2. “I was just blathering.”

Camerota—who has covered political campaigns, terrorist attacks, Hurricane Harvey, the #MeToo movement, and was the first to interview George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, after his murder in May 2020—returned to her alma mater to chat about her new memoir, Combat Love: A Story of Leaving, Longing, and Searching for Home. In conversation with SOC professor Jane Hall and Her Campus editor in chief Sana Mamtaney, SOC-SPA/BA ’24, the Emmy-nominated journalist credited AU with helping set her on the path to success in journalism.

“I got the chance to have a hands-on experience here and just do it over and over and over again,” Camerota said. “I ended up getting what I wanted—to fulfill my dream of becoming a TV reporter—because AU was so accessible in that way.”

Camerota’s second book, which came out March 26, details her upbringing in New Jersey, her experience following around the Garden State punk rock band Shrapnel, and the realization of her childhood dream to become a journalist.  

“It’s the universal coming of age story where you don’t think you have resources, you’re looking for belonging and how to find your way in the world,” said Camerota, the author of the 2017 novel Amanda Wakes Up. “I thought maybe if I wrote down all of my stories, they might resonate with other people.”

A central theme of the book explores Camerota’s complicated relationship with her mother, who left her alone. Camerota said she felt abandoned during the “particularly unparented decade” of the 1980s.

Writing the book gave Camerota the time and space to revisit her relationship with her mother and sparked new conversations that brought the two greater understanding and closure.

“I found out she, too, was keeping some family secrets,” Camerota said. “She too had her own traumatic family history, so I have developed more compassion for her than I had as a teenager [when] I was just angry with her.”

While not an idyllic childhood, Camerota said growing up as a “latchkey kid” and following around punk rock bands to places like New York City famous CBGB music club gave her a “grittiness” that has served her well as a reporter.

Ahead of tough interviews, she often thinks back to moments in dangerous places. Compared to that, asking difficult questions is easy.

“For a long time, I was a crime reporter here in Washington, DC, and I worked for the show America’s Most Wanted,” she said. “I would go into prison cells and interview serial rapists, mass murderers, and all these fugitives. I remember thinking they’re behind bars—that’s not that scary. All the people I was with in the ’80s, they were [on the] loose.”

Camerota also took questions from the audience of mostly students about work-life balance, impartiality in journalism, career advice, and her taste in music (which, along with her punk rock roots, leans toward Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles).

Amid a successful career shaped by her time at AU, she also offered a hopeful outlook to budding journalists who are preparing to chase their dreams like she once did.

“There will always be a market for storytelling and for being the conduit between different cultures and different demographics—other people whose voices aren’t heard and who other people don’t know about” she said. “That’s what journalism is, and that’s not going away.”