Skip to comments.Anchor Aaron Brown's Star Appears to Fade
Posted on 11/09/2003 7:52:30 PM PST by Pokey78
NEW YORK CNN rented an elegant ballroom a few weeks ago, feeding breakfast to top advertisers and filling them in on 2004 election coverage plans. Virtually all the network's big names were there. Except Aaron Brown, whose star appears to be fading in the CNN firmament.
Larry King was master of ceremonies. Christiane Amanpour appeared via satellite from London. All four "Crossfire" combatants argued politics. Judy Woodruff, who had flown from a California assignment a few days earlier, boarded a 5 a.m. train from Washington to New York for scrambled eggs and small talk.
CNN's chief executive, Jim Walton, cautioned against making too much of Brown's nonappearance at an industry function. The anchorman was working to arrange an important interview and asked to be excused, he said.
But there's talk within CNN, and some of it surfaced in a New York Daily News gossip column, that Brown may not have appeared partly because he was upset about not playing a prominent role on the California recall Election Night.
Brown anchored his usual 10 p.m. newscast from New York that night and, when it ended, CNN began election coverage from Los Angeles with Wolf Blitzer as anchor.
One night out of the anchor chair wouldn't necessarily matter too much, unless you considered it a foreshadowing of how other big political nights were going to be handled in the upcoming election year.
And one anchorman's feelings wouldn't matter too much, unless it was the anchor who only two short years ago was poised to become the face of the network.
Brown declined to talk to The Associated Press for this article, and his executive producer didn't return a phone message.
It was Sept. 11, 2001, that Brown, just hired from ABC News, made a dramatic mark on CNN. He anchored much of the terrorist attack coverage that day and those that followed, impressing many viewers with his soft-spoken, cerebral style.
His status was codified in his CNN Web site profile: Brown was the network's lead anchor on major breaking news stories.
That's why it became a story in February when Brown didn't cut short a golf outing in California to come to work on the day the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated. He explained later that it "didn't make any sense because I didn't have any clothes."
NBC's Tom Brokaw, meanwhile, was pulled out of the water on a snorkeling trip and made it to a studio within hours.
Shortly after, CNN's pecking order subtly changed. Brown wasn't the network's lead anchor. He was one of many, all capable of grabbing the reins in a news emergency.
The incident also coincided with the elevation of Walton. Where his predecessor, Walter Isaacson, cultivated stars, Walton is a throwback to CNN's earlier days, where the news is the star.
"We have a lot of talent at CNN," he said, adding that Brown is very important to the network.
Brown's "Newsnight" has many devoted fans. It's a newscast that rarely traffics in trash, providing a neat summation of the day's top stories and some intriguing guests.
"I like his program," legendary CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite told Texas Monthly magazine last summer. "He's an excellent newsman, and when he has a comment to add, it always seems well-based and well-founded. And he has a good format."
Others find the format, with an offbeat opening essay and "The Whip," Brown's name for collecting headlines from on-the-scene reporters, a bit precious. Brown's newscast consistently trails in the ratings to the Fox News Channel talk show featuring CNN refugee Greta Van Susteren.
One critic, The Boston Globe's Mark Jurkowitz, wrote: "He is just too studied, too enigmatic and, frankly, too weird to be anchor material."
Brown acknowledged his polarizing effect on viewers in an interview with a Westchester County, N.Y., paper. "I think there are people who love me, and people who hate me, and people who love to hate me," he said. "I don't care. If the people who love to hate me watch, God bless them."
Brown is a "very important part of CNN's election team" and will be reporting on politics through the next year, spokeswoman Christa Robinson said.
But the signals sent by the California recall appear to be true. CNN's plans for big political nights in 2004 will be the same, she said, plans that don't take Brown out of his current time slot.
On the Net:
EDITOR'S NOTE David Bauder can be reached at dbauder"at"ap.org
Well, if that lying scumbag Cronkite likes him, then that seals it. Buh-bye, Aaron.
Smirk seemed nonplussed and said, "you used the word kill..." The plan wasn't cerebral enough for him, I guess.
The answer is simple. The guests are the draw. Larry gets gets that draw a big audience--tabloid stories, celebs, etc.
meant to say "gets guests". Sorry.
(squint, squint) "I like the way Aaron Brown surrounds and envelops a story, while squinting..."
Weirder than Dan Rather?
sounds like the kind of 'endorsement' a coach or manager gets when the owner says "he's our man, he'll be with us as long as he wants to be"
Probably, but not as weird as Peter Jennings. ....Anyone who would think Hanan Ashwari to be girlfriend material has to be a first-class weirdo. And Jennings even smirks more than Brown, which isn't an easy trick.