Fresh out of Georgetown University in 1980, Anthony Mason (CAS ’80) left Washington, D.C., with a degree in English and no idea what to do next.
After moving back in with his father after college, Mason found himself working at a news station owned by the broadcasting company Scripps Howard in Memphis, Tenn., where his cousin anchored a show.
Working at the station was a natural fit for Mason, who had come to enjoy writing news pieces for campus publications in the late ’70s, even serving as the features editor of The Voice at one point, he said.
“I loved it, I absolutely loved it. I actually loved it maybe too much because my grades suffered. We, the staffers, were terrible Georgetown students, considering many of us nearly flunked out,” Mason said, talking about his experience in college in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
As he worked his way up in broadcast journalism, Mason served as a CBS news correspondent, spending seven years covering international affairs and politics and 15 years covering business. However, when given the opportunity to start covering arts and culture for the channel, Mason took the chance and never looked back.
“Once I started doing stories on musicians and had such a good time doing it, I was like, ‘Well, I want to do more of this.’ The other thing that I realized was that most often the arts, at least on network television at that time, were not covered the way that I wanted to see them covered,” Mason said.
In these sessions, trying to get past routine responses and listening closely to dig into topics that have remained previously unexplored are essential to his interview style, Mason said.
“Sometimes people drop little things in the course of an interview or a conversation that are hints about something deeper or larger,” Mason said. “You have to be listening to kick open that door, and sometimes if you open that door, it will lead to a whole series of other doors that you did not know even existed. And that’s the most satisfying part.”
In his journalism, Mason has been particularly fascinated with the experience behind the art, directing many of his interviews to understand artists’ creative processes. “I love the creative process because it often comes out of something that was tragic or sad. Sometimes it comes out of just pure happiness, but it is often taking something that has been a real challenge in life and turning it into something beautiful,” Mason said. “That whole transformational process is really interesting to me.”
The culmination of artists’ creativity is most noticeable at concerts, according to Mason, and so covering live shows has been one of the highlights of his career. Mason said he seeks out moments from shows that transport the audience to a different place, beyond the song the artist is playing.
“Occasionally, you get these — what I call ‘transcendent moments,’ when something just seems to happen in the room, and you feel like you are lifted above life itself. There is some pure truth in the music that just takes your mind to a completely different place. Those are worth everything to me, and you wake up in the morning thinking, ‘Maybe if I can just have one of those — I will be okay,’” he said.
Starting fully this fall, Mason will accept a new position with CBS, covering arts and culture for a wide variety of news programs with the company. In this new role, Mason will be more active in reporting stories, particularly focusing on the storytelling aspect of music and culture pieces for the organization.
Like his new stories will illustrate, the influence of arts and music in society is incomputable, bolstered by media that seeks to understand this intersection between expression and society. True arts journalism is so changeable and powerful because, as Mason reminds us, the memories attached to the music are the most important part.
“It is very often that people talk about the soundtrack of their lives because music is so freighted with all kinds of memories that we personally attach to it,” he stated.