Brian Todd's UM senior yearbook photo from 1983 and a recent professional headshot from CNN.
By Amanda M. Perez

Brian Todd's UM senior yearbook photo from 1983 and a recent professional headshot from CNN.

From UM to CNN

By Amanda M. Perez
CNN correspondent Brian Todd reminisces about how the University of Miami prepared him for future success.

Every day, University of Miami alumni create unique impacts in different markets worldwide. Alumnus Brian Todd, a 1983 graduate of the University, is one of the many people who have made an influence—specifically in the news industry. Todd is a CNN correspondent based in the network’s Washington Bureau. His daily job includes providing reports for “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”

“I think I have the best job in the world. To say that I’m grateful for it is an understatement. I work exceptionally hard, and I pride myself for how hard I work,” said Todd. “A lot of the drive that got me into CNN came from my experience at the University of Miami, and I will never forget it.”

Todd, who is originally from Arlington, Virginia, began his journey at UM in 1979 as an international politics major. During his early time in Miami, Todd began to work at the University’s radio station WVUM where he ultimately discovered his love for journalism.

Brian Todd and the WVUM Team in 1983
Brian Todd (second row, second from left) and the WVUM staff in 1983

“I basically got the bug. I think WVUM inspired me to get into journalism. It helped me probably in the most profound way that anything could. Once I started my instincts just told me this is something I want to do for the rest of my life,” said Todd.

Shortly after joining WVUM, Todd made the decision to transition into a communications major. Not long after that, Todd landed an internship at Channel 4 News in the sports department.

“It was an exciting time for a guy who wanted to get into sports journalism. UM’s football team really began to put Miami on the map nationwide. The university’s notoriety grew significantly throughout my time studying in Miami,” said Todd.

UM’s football team wasn’t the only element that placed UM on the map. Todd believes UM’s diversity at the time was unique compared to other schools.

“It was such a cultural learning experience that I would not have gotten if I attended the other schools I applied to. Back then it was very rare to have a truly international university with students from all over the world,” he said.

Todd has been with CNN for more than 30 years. He joined the network in 1987 as a copy writer for morning programming. From 1989 through 1993 Todd served as an anchor and reporter for “CNN Newsroom,” a news program for high school and middle school students. Todd later became a news producer based in Washington, D.C. in 1993, where he had the opportunity to produce for “Larry King Live.” In 2000 Todd was promoted to be a senior producer for Wolf Blitzer, and became an on-air correspondent full time in 2006 on “The Situation Room.”

Todd has covered a variety of major events throughout his career. This year he traveled down to Florida to cover the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school shooting in Parkland. He also played an integral part in CNN’s coverage of the historic 2017 hurricane season. Todd was also on the ground in 2016 in Orlando covering the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub. He says covering these stories can be physically and emotionally challenging. Two events that personally made an impact on him were the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, along with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011.

“When you see the kind of devastation that a natural disaster of that scope can wreak on a country, it leaves an indelible imprint on my mind,” said Todd.

Todd also contributed to the network’s comprehensive coverage of CNN’s “America’s Choice 2016” and was on the ground in eight different states, covering the primaries and caucuses for the presidential race. The experience strengthened his roots in journalism.

“I take pride in the fact that the false characterization that we produce ‘fake news’ hasn’t changed the way I craft stories. It’s actually made me double down my consciousness of getting the story right and making sure that everything I do is accurate and fair,” said Todd.

Todd has his sights set on making CNN the best possible product that it can be. He said his goal is to help the network put on the best possible coverage during this “tumultuous” time.

“We’re going through a period where the next few months and couple of years are going to be historic. My goal is to help the county be as clear-eyed as possible,” said Todd. “I think it’s a challenge to do that, but I’m really looking forward to it. I want to keep producing meaningful stories that people genuinely like to watch.”

The key to achieving this goal is persistence. Todd believes persistence is what led him to his success. He relays the message to every person who wants to get into the fast-paced news industry.

“You’re going to have moments where you’re going to get rejected from jobs. I could have been able to wallpaper my whole house with how many rejection letters I got in the past. If you really want to do this business do not be deterred by setbacks and rejections. Don’t stop striving,” said Todd.