Skip to comments.CNN's Aaron Brown backs away from agreement to offer introductions to health messages
Posted on 05/07/2003 9:31:22 PM PDT by kcvl
NEW YORK (AP) CNN's Aaron Brown on Wednesday backed away from filming messages for health care companies, and it appeared ex-CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite would, too.
The two newsmen had agreed to do work for WJMK Inc., a Florida-based company that provides television stations with video segments on health care or drug companies. But an article in The New York Times on Wednesday called into question whether the men were being paid to help produce commercials that seemed like news.
Brown and Cronkite were to replace CBS' Morley Safer, who worked for WJMK four years ago but concluded it was wrong to continue.
Safer stood in a news-style set to record general introductions to segments, the Times said. In one video where Safer appeared, drug company executives promoted their experimental antidepressant nemifitide. The government recently ordered a stop to human trials of the drug because a study showed it was toxic to beagles, the Times said.
Safer believed the job would meet CBS News standards because he was told the segments were being made for PBS, which is non-commercial, spokesman Kevin Tedesco said.
''After he saw how the work was used, he realized it did not conform with CBS standards and has not appeared before a camera for them'' since, Tedesco said.
A spokeswoman for WJMK Inc. did not immediately return telephone calls for comment on Wednesday, and there was no information available on the company's Web site.
CNN had given Brown the OK to film the messages this winter. CNN was told the messages would be independent news vignettes for PBS stations, and that Brown would have editorial oversight, said spokeswoman Christa Robinson.
''Based on information we recently learned, WJMK is not sufficiently independent to satisfy the editorial standards of CNN or Aaron Brown,'' Robinson said. ''Aaron Brown has not done any work for WJMK and has no intention to based on the new information.''
CNN supports his decision to back down, she said.
Asked whether Cronkite would go ahead with work for WJMK, his lawyer, Ronald Konecky, said, ''I don't believe he will.'' Konecky said a final decision had not been made. Cronkite stepped down as anchor of the ''CBS Evening News'' in 1981.
It's lucrative work. Safer was reportedly paid $100,000 for one day of filming, according to someone familiar with WJMK's operations who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, PBS lawyers have asked the system's stations not to run the messages, spokeswoman Lee Sloan said. PBS has no way of knowing how many of its stations have run them, except for KSMQ in Austin, Minn., which was reported by The Times to have used them, she said.
''It certainly is inconsistent with the programming standards held by PBS,'' Sloan said. ''They're basically infomercials.''
PBS lawyers have also asked that WJMK's clients refrain from using PBS's name on their Web sites, as some apparently have, she said.
I knew Charlie Brown was depressed, but Snoopy.......