NewsNight anchor Aaron Brown is leaving CNN after more than four years at the network. The program's 10 p.m. time slot will be filled by a two-hour edition of Anderson Cooper’s Anderson Cooper 360 beginning Nov. 7.
In a memo to staff, CNN President Jon Klein praised Brown's work at the network, saying the anchor would now take “some well-deserved time off with his family.”
Until Hurricane Katrina, NewsNight had been an hour-long show followed by a repeat of Lou Dobbs Tonight at 11 p.m. After the storm, CNN expanded NewsNight to another hour, adding coverage from Cooper, who has gained internal praise and acclaim in media circles for his emotional coverage of Katrina, as well as on the war in Iraq, the tsunami in South Asia and the 2004 elections.
360’s 7 p.m. time slot will be filled by a second daily edition of Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room, which will now run from 4-6 p.m. and from 7-8 p.m.
Klein told B&C that CNN had not suggested to Brown that NewsNight move to 7 p.m.
“We affirmatively wanted to build a prime time strategy around The Situation Room at 7 p.m. and Anderson at 10 and that just limited our options when it came to Aaron," Klein said. "So we mutually agreed to go our separate ways,” he said.
Klein called Situation “a whole new language” of news, and said Cooper’s star has been rising as a result of his heartfelt coverage of late.
“He doesn’t become a buttoned-down stentorian anchor,” Klein said. “He’s just talking to you as a person and I think the audience finds that refreshing. It should not be tried by amateurs. It’s authentic to Anderson. What you see is what you get.”
Brown was brought on as CNN’s lead anchor and point person on breaking news in 2001 after 20-year CNN vet Bernard Shaw retired. A former KIRO Seattle anchor, Brown left a reporter-anchor position at ABC News to join CNN. He became well-known for his anchoring on Sept. 11, 2001, but made waves when he was at a celebrity golf tournament during 2003’s Columbia space shuttle disaster and did not return to cover the event. He has since anchored major events, including the war in Iraq and the Asian tsunami.
CNN dropped 21% in prime from last year during October, averaging 824,000 total viewers.