Huffpost Media

Aaron Brown To Return To TV In PBS Series

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LOS ANGELES — Aaron Brown, the former CNN anchor who found cable TV an awkward fit, is joining PBS' "Wide Angle" series and ending his on-air absence of more than two years.

"If I was going to do broadcast journalism again, be a public person again ... then it had to be something different from what I'd done," Brown told The Associated Press. "You can count on one hand how many gigs there are like this."

Anchoring "Wide Angle," a weekly public affairs series with a global focus, offers the chance "to work in an environment where people just think about making good TV and good journalism," Brown said.

"By the end (of an episode), you understand the world you live in and how it's connected to you," he said Saturday.

Brown, 59, who left CNN in November 2005 during a shake-up that gave his time slot to rising star Anderson Cooper, said he was contractually barred from working in TV until last June. He's been teaching at Arizona State University as its first Walter Cronkite Professor of Journalism.

"Wide Angle" begins its seventh season July 1. PBS planned to announce Brown's hiring on Monday.

Brown has distinguished himself as an anchor by avoiding a "booming voice-of-God" approach and instead delivering news as a storyteller, said Stephen Segaller, director of national production at Thirteen/WNET, the New York station that produces "Wide Angle."

Besides his distinctive on-camera demeanor, Brown has "a good sense of what international stories will mean to American audiences and how the stories will play," Segaller said.

Brown contrasted the work he expects to do at PBS with how cable television operated at times during his tenure.

"I don't want to get into the business of indicting cable TV, but some of what went on was just television, not journalism," he said. Expanding on his comments, he said that cable TV is a tough business that can be pushed into focusing on sensational, "tabloidy stories."

"I understand why they do it. It's a very ratings-driven environment," Brown said.

Before joining CNN, Brown worked at ABC as a reporter on programs including "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings" and "Nightline" and as anchor of "World News Tonight Saturday" and "World News Now."

His first day at CNN was Sept. 11, 2001, and his heartfelt anchoring from a rooftop in Manhattan immediately thrust him into a major role there. But expectations that he would become the face of the network didn't pan out.

Brown's quirky, cerebral 10 p.m. newscast had a following with fans who enjoyed his commentaries and "The Whip," a quick review of top international stories, but he lost ratings ground to Greta Van Susteren of Fox News Channel.

CNN chose to showcase its hotter personality, Cooper, whose profile had grown in 2005 and peaked during Hurricane Katrina coverage. Brown's time slot went to Cooper and Brown left by what CNN termed mutual agreement.

Reflecting on his time at the channel, Brown said he became "oddly emblematic" of what he termed an "anti-tabloid guy."

"I didn't practice the `high church' of journalism all the time, but I think there was some sense that I was uncomfortable in that other, tabloidy world, and I think viewers knew that and I couldn't pull it off," he said.

Besides serving as anchor of "Wide Angle" and helping prepare episodes for broadcast, Brown plans to do field work on a story, possibly involving Venezuela or the Middle East. Topics to be covered this season include the crisis in the Sudan and the changing role of Japan's military.