First on TVNewser | Part one of four
Aaron Brown anchored his last CNN newscast on October 28, 2005. But until his contract expired last Saturday, he couldn’t talk about his remarkable four-year tenure.
Now he can. In an hour-long interview with TVNewser, Brown repeatedly expressed his gratitude to CNN for the opportunities he was given. At the same time, he eloquently described CNN’s “huge mistakes” in recent years.
Brown, the popular anchor of NewsNight, was replaced by Anderson Cooper on November 7, 2005. But Brown, who started anchoring on September 11, 2001, could read the writing on the wall well before then.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Cooper was paired with Brown on NewsNight. CNN president Jon Klein called the duo “fire and ice.”
“I wasn’t exactly sure how the game was going to play out, but I didn’t think it was going to play out well for me,” Brown said.
He knew he didn’t want to swap with Cooper and take the 7pm hour: “I just felt if this was going to go south, and it clearly was, I’d rather just walk away from it.”
At one point, Brown’s whole staff was moved to the 7pm hour. “I was left without a producer or a staff, and I thought okay, I get it. I think they wanted his production people to be producing whatever the new effort was.”
On November 2, Klein chose fire, and Brown walked away. NewsNight became 360, and Brown didn’t even say goodbye on the air.
“I would not quarrel with the argument that I was replaced by a younger, more handsome model,” Brown said, adding that he meant “model” in the car definition, not in the fashion definition.
Brown is rational: “It’s a business. They made a business decision. I never thought I’d stay there forever.” He added: “I’m always a little bit amazed at what people expect — that I’d be upset or angry or anything like that. I honestly was none of those things.”
And he said he doesn’t harbor any ill will toward Cooper. “I thought he did a good job” reporting from the Gulf Coast, Brown said. “It’s kind of different from the way I do business. He did terrifically well there.”
Brown pointed out that CNN “threw an incredible amount of money and marketing power” at 360, while “we got no help in that regard.”
Brown’s description of his departure from CNN always comes back to the reality of the television business.
“If you do what I do for a living long enough, you know how this stuff plays out,” he said.
He said he wishes the network nothing but good luck, adding: “I want them to do well. I really want them to do well.”
Brown freely calls himself “kind of a dinosaur, old-school anchorman,” and CNN clearly went in a different direction. For the past 20 months, Brown has been thinking about what he wants to do next.
“It’s much clearer to me what I don’t want to do than what I do want to do,” Brown said. “I certainly don’t want to anchor another cable news show.”
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