reporter contents :: albright college

Profiles Life Behind
the CNN Lens

Oeen on the street, Ken Borland ’81 would not draw a crowd, or create a rustle of whispers of “He looks familiar…” You have never watched him announcing or reporting on TV. But you have probably seen events unfold through his eyes.

Ken Borland '81Borland, a photojournalist/cameraman who works out of CNN’s New York Bureau, is the man behind the camera, the man with the eye for what news watchers want and need to see.

As a photojournalist/cameraman, Borland is often on the road with a reporter and a producer, following the latest story that he has been assigned to cover. On an average day he learns the evening before what he will be doing the next day. But what makes it exciting, is that “every day is different.” One day he may be at the Metropolitan Opera, he says, shooting backstage interviews and performances for a story on a famous tenor. The next day he’s headed to the Hopi Indian Reservation in northern Arizona to shoot an interview with a famous Native American potter/artist, who “fires his pots right out on the desert floor, starting a fire in the middle of the night by the light of the moon.” Of course, Borland also covers the “serious” events. He covered Al Gore’s campaign, the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia and is scheduled to cover the 2004 Republican National Convention this summer. But these are the easy shoots. During scheduled shoots, all interviews are set up ahead of time so everything runs smoothly. It’s the breaking news that causes a stir.

As soon as word about breaking news reaches his office, Borland and his colleagues immediately enter “reaction mode.” And with enough luggage in his office to last a couple days, he is always ready to “run, get on a plane, and go wherever” the story is. Breaking news is often tragic news. Borland vividly remembers covering the explosion of flight TWA-800 off the coast of Long Island. With his partner and his producer by his side, he says, “We raced out to Long Island and rented an old amphibious assault vehicle from World War II. We drove the crew car right onto the boat and spent the rest of the night in the car as the boat took us out to the crash site.” The sobering scene of the debris field, littered with parts of the plane and personal belongings, and the overwhelming smell of jet fuel are things he’ll never forget.

But capturing tragic scenes is not even the most difficult thing he must do. “Covering the family members of victims is absolutely the hardest part of my job,” he says. Borland understands that respect for the families is of utmost importance. “I make it a point to keep a respectful distance and approach only those who would like to talk, when they are ready to talk,” Borland says. “I'm very sorry to say that it is not always the case with some of the other networks, and that is something that can really get me pretty angry when I see it.”

“It’s important to work in an area that you have a passion for.”

— Gary Adlestein, associate professor of English and art

Although he graduated from Albright with a degree in business administration, Borland says he has always been interested in film and photography, and remembers taking an interim film class with Gary Adlestein, associate professor of English and art. “The film [we made] was a total joke…the theme was a familiar one: rejection and girls,” he says. But it didn’t matter that his film wasn’t prize-winning. What made a lasting impression on him was a statement made by Adlestein one day during class: “It’s important to work in an area that you have a passion for.” The summer after graduation, Borland decided that he needed to find a job that he could be passionate about.

Of course, he adds, “there were plenty of bumps along the way.” He did not immediately become a photojournalist/ cameraman at CNN. Instead, he found small jobs that led to larger jobs, taught himself the necessary skills, and took chances. He credits his degree with giving him a foundation for further learning. “It…sharpened my thought process,” he says. Now, his biggest reward for believing in himself and his abilities even when it seemed hopeless is “waking up every morning and feeling excited rather than dreading another day at work.”

– Loren A. Morgan ’05

reporter contents :: albright college