By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Bring back Aaron!

Matthew Felling writes:

When I took the occasional hot-air balloon ride with the more blustery Sean or Joe, I always knew that at the end of the night I’d make use of “NewsNight” — and more importantly, Aaron Brown’s sense of handling the news — to tether me back to The Real World.

Yes, I confess to not having joined the “Cult Of Personality” surrounding Mr. Cooper as much as some. (“Gosh, he’s hawt!”) And yes, I know many of Aaron Brown’s negative nicknames around the newsrooms he has worked in. (That Space Shuttle golf trip debacle didn’t help.) But on camera, Brown was peerless (at least among the motley crew of night-time cable gabbers) at making sense of the world and asking the question that punctured the subtleties of spin.

Way, way back in June 2002 — a lifetime in the narrow little world of cable news — you could actually take sides in a substantive news war every weeknight at 10. On MSNBC, Brian Williams anchored an hour-long newscast as he prepared for the day that Tom Brokaw would retire. And on CNN, Aaron Brown hosted “NewsNight,” then in its pre-Klein glory. Those were the days. Here’s part of something I wrote at the time:

CNN’s NewsNight, anchored by Aaron Brown, is not perfect by any means, and much of the reason has to do with Brown himself, who alternates between refreshing candor and annoying self-absorption. But NewsNight, which debuted on October 15 (Brown himself began work at CNN on September 11, less than an hour after the first tower was hit), works as an invigorating alternative to the traditional newscast, with longer stories, some attitude and edge, and the arch presence of Brown, who, despite being 10 years older than Williams, comes across as an entire generation younger.

Not to wax too enthusiastic. NewsNight has been devoting a lot of time to the trial involving the murder of young Danielle van Dam, mainly because the lawyer for the neighbor accused of killing her is making an issue of the exotic and varied sex life indulged in by Danielle’s parents. And Brown gave an entire hour to the arrest of Robert Blake — something that he apologized for the next night. At its best, though, the show comes across as a less-boring version of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer or the television equivalent of All Things Considered.

Harry Shearer has a worthwhile post on Brown’s demise.

Now, please think about what has happened. We have three all-news cable channels. There are three prime-time hours per night — 8 to 11 p.m. And CNN brainiac Jonathan Klein has decided to blow up the sole 60-minute segment out of those nine hours that was an actual, you know, newscast. (MSNBC’s “Countdown” definitely has its moments, but it’s more “The Daily Show” than it is Edward R. Murrow. Long live Keith Olbermann, but don’t call it a newscast.)

To his very, very slight credit, Klein is sticking to a newscast at 10, with Anderson Cooper as the new anchor. But, whether you like Cooper or not, he simply doesn’t bring the intelligent, analytical approach of Aaron Brown. Worse, the program has been expanded from one to two hours, which usually means that they’ll spend much of the first hour hyping stories that will appear in the second hour.

Klein has been destroying CNN. Brown was one of the network’s few remaining symbols of quality. The only good that could come out of this would be if Klein drives down the value of CNN so much that Ted Turner can afford to buy it back from Time Warner.

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  1. Anonymous

    Great article! I love the line about Ted Turner!As far as I’m concerned, Aaron Brown was the best thing going for news, whether it was CNN or not.

  2. Anonymous

    sorry … just don’t see it. Brown = mealy mouthed and boring.

  3. Anonymous

    Aaron brown was anything but boring, and MEALY-MOUTHED??? Please!!!Please, Ted Turner!!! Buy back CNN!!

  4. Anonymous

    CNN is losing it! I was disappointed to see Aaron Brown leave CNN – he was informative and intelligent. I loved to watch him with his quirky half smile and sardonic sense of humor when the news/newsperson became ironic and dim-witted. I’m hopeful that he’ll turn up on another anchor position. I will no longer be watching CNN for my news, it and it’s so called news programs have become no better than another version of FOX news. I CAN’T STAND Anderson Cooper! Anderson and his storm chasing news reporting… is that what we call real reporting? Where did he get his journalism degree? What is cracker-jacks now giving journalism degrees away in each box? Come on CNN, wake-up! Anderson Cooper is not reporting the news; he is including himself as part of the news.Good luck to you Aaron – hope to see you soon!

  5. Anonymous

    What were the big wigs at CNN thinking?Perhaps they were thinking CNN’s ratings increased due to Anderson Cooper’s addition to News Night. Was it Cooper or Katrina that increased viewer numbers? Then the numbers dropped again. I had stopped watching News Night because I got tired CNN’s exhasting coverage of Katrina. Or then again, maybe they weren’t thinking. Maybe just looking for an opportunity to get rid of Brown. It’s difficult being smarter than the people you work for. You know it, they know it. Perhaps it was just a matter of what matters most. Journalism is about the business of words. TV journalism has become mostly about pictures.Brown is about words, thinking, reflection, insight. Cooper is about pictures. Action pictures with not so much thought about words.In his memo announcing Brown’s departure, CNN President Jon Klein wrote that the anchor had brought insight to his audience “…with eloquence and the highest journalist integrity.” Hmmm…. Last I looked, “journalist” was noun, not an adjective. Perhaps he meant to say journalistic integrity. Perhaps he meant to say the highest of journalist’s integrity, but then he’d have to rewrite. Clearly, Jon Klein is a picture kind of guy. Deena Moore

  6. Anonymous

    What comes around goes around——————————It’s official now. CNN is the horses asz of news reporting for allowing Anderson Cooper and his storm chasing methods of journalism as commented earlier on this thread about his news reporting style… His journalism degree is definitely now showing up as that of the cracker-jacks caliber. What comes around goes around. CNN offcials are now making every effort allow Anderson Cooper to continue reporting to make sure they don’t get egg on their faces any more than they have, as they try to find someone else to blame, and the CNN management needs to wake-up! Had Aaron Brown been in his chair where he was best for us he would have used his professional journalism skills to error on total caution before becoming part of the story, and now CNN’s sad sack mistake of letting him go is showing up in full color red. We needed Aaron Brown at the anchor desk at CNN, and then he would have cautioned everyone, including the rambunctious Anderson Cooper to report factual news; and not get himself included as a central part of the news when reporting this mine disaster. Shame on CNN. Sad sad unprofessional reporting.Bring back Aaron Brown so we get news not fake cowboy drama. Randy Mac, Trail B.C. Canada

  7. controlfreq

    Please bring AAron Brown and professionalism to CNN News. This Cooper guy just doesn`t have it.Thanks,Rick

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