Aaron Brown recalls his first chaotic days at CNN— covering the 9 11 terrorist attacks.
her bat mitzvah shortly after the
events of 9-11.
At ABC, Brown reported for World
I is not that CNN news anchor
News Tonight with Peter Jennings and
Nightline, as well as other broadcasts.
Aaron Brown was unknown in
the world of television broad-
Now, at CNN, he is the lead anchor
for NewsNight with Aaron Brown,
casting prior to 9-11 — he had
been in the business for more than
which airs 10 p.m. weeknights, as well
as CNN's lead anchor during breaking
But after his riveting nonstop cover-
news and special events.
age of the devastating tragedy, Brown
Being Jewish helps him in his work,
became a household name.
Brown says. "If you grow up a minori-
Not scheduled to start his new job at ty, you have a great appreciation for
CNN for another month, Brown was
what it means to be the outsider.
driving into Manhattan from his home
"It's left me with an appreciation for
in suburban Westchester County when
what it's like to be the underdog, and
he learned of the terrorist attacks on
these are lessons that I apply in my
work and life," he says.
the World Trade Center. As he sped to
Recently, the Jewish News talked to
his office, he began covering the
biggest story of his life.
Brown about the anniversary of 9-11,
"I was coming in that day
how it has impacted him
to interview people for staff Aaron Bro wn:
personally, and more.
positions and brainstorm
program ideas, but it wasn't they need to pay
JN: What is CNN doing
attention to things
going to be a hard day," he
to commemorate the one-
they didn't care
recalls. "Then, boom, I
year mark of 9-11?
about befo re."
went on the air about 9:30
AB: We're presenting [a
[a.m.], and I feel like I
series], 9-11 Plus One,
came off the'air Thanksgiving Day."
which begins the week before. [On
A correspondent for ABC News
9-11], I will be on the air for 14
hours; Larry [King] will be on the
since 1991, Brown, 53, had covered
many news stories, but nothing had
air from 9-11 p.m. [that day].
prepared him for that fateful day. "I
followed five families who
still can't get myself to look at the
tape," says Brown, who witnessed the
lost someone, and
we will see
fall of the twin towers.
Brown's career in broadcast journal-
ism began after a couple of semesters
at the University of Minnesota. Born
and raised in Hopkins, Minn., he
knew he wanted to be a TV newsman
since age 9, after visiting a newsroom
in Minneapolis with his dad.
"I thought it was the most exciting
thing," says Brown, who is one of five
children of Rose, a housewife, and
Morton Brown, a scrap-metal dealer.
"When President Kennedy was
assassinated and I watched the cover-
age on TV with my mom, I said I
would do television one day. I never
had a plan if it didn't work out."
Brown's first broadcast job was as a
talk-show host on radio; from there he
moved on to positions as a reporter
and news anchor in Seattle. That's
where he met his wife of 20 years,
Charlotte Raynor. The couple have a
daughter, Gabby, 13, who celebrated
ALICE BURDICK SCHWEIGER
Special to the Jezvish News
how they grieve and their process of
moving on. We will also look at how
we [Americans] are now, how we have
changed and what's the new normal.
JN: On 9-11, you witnessed the col-
lapse of the World Trade Center.
What emotion do you carry with you?
AB: Most importantly, it doesn't matter
how I feel. The people who matter are
those who were on their hands and knees
for 10 months at Ground Zero looking
for fingers, rings or pictures to give fami-
lies something to bury. There are 2,800
or so families who lost loved ones and
whose dinner table will never be whole.
Having said that, this has been very dif-
ficult for me. I have hardly had a night
since Sept. 11 where I haven't dreamt of
planes hitting towers. Sometimes I think
I am a mess. I am hoping that the
anniversary will be a kind of natural
breaking point where I will start to sleep
JN: How has news
changed since 9-11?
AB: The news
rather the way
we approach it
has changed. We
need to pay attention to things they
didn't care about before.
It has always been difficult to con-
vince viewers to watch foreign news,
because Americans have always
assumed the oceans would protect
They felt, "What difference does it
make what is happening in Bosnia?" It
is less so now.
JN: .Recently you reported on the 64
tapes CNN found showing Al Qaida
training camps. Did this information
come as a surprise to you?
AB: I assume the worst about Al
Qaida. They are bigger, smarter and
more sophisticated than I imagined
any terrorist group could be.
They want to do very bad things in
the United States, so we should never
be surprised what they are capable of.
Anyone who thinks that life is normal
again after those terrible attacks — the
tapes serve a reminder that it's not.
JN: As a TV anchor, what's the most
challenging part of your job?
AB: Coming up with five op-ed
columns a week. We are on at 10
p.m., and by that time of the day most
viewers already know the news. It has
to be done differently or they won't
watch us, so it's a daily challenge.
JN: What kind of mail do you get
AB: Many times it's just saying,
"Thank you"; sometimes it's praising
me; and sometimes it's saying, "You
are the biggest jerk." Whatever viewers
say, I will discuss it with them. But
when viewers are nasty, I am not
afraid to call them on it. I read and
answer almost all of my mail.
JN: In reporting the Israeli-Arab con-
flict, some believe that certain net-
works are biased against Israel. Do
you find this to be true?
AB: It's very complicated. One of the
profoundly difficult things about cov-
ering a story is that there are people
on both sides who really don't believe
the other side has a story to tell. I
obviously think we do this job as fairly
as we can. My job is to make sure
that both sides have a voice and it's
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