CNN anchor speaks in St. Paul on media

The host of CNN’s “NewsNight with Aaron Brown” talked about media coverage and ethics in front of a crowd of 125.

by Ed Swaray

When University alumnus Aaron Brown created his first newspaper in 1958, he was still a child. The headlining article, “Divorce hits the neighborhood,” was about the breakup of Brown’s best friend’s parents.

More than 45 years after his initial journalistic endeavor, Brown is CNN’s lead anchor for breaking news and special events. He also anchors “NewsNight with Aaron Brown,” the network’s flagship evening newscast.

Last weekend, the Minnesota native drew from his 25 years of professional experience to speak with 125 people about the media at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Paul.

The event, co-sponsored by the University’s Minnesota Journalism Center and the Minnesota Fulbright Association, sought to address how journalists shape and report world events.

The event provided a forum for people to appreciate journalists’ work in society, said Eleanor Heginbotham, former Minnesota Fulbright Association president.

She said journalists have used their influence twice – during Watergate and the Vietnam War – to help save the United States.

“Journalists do not just report news, they give it form,” she said.

The choices journalists make regarding whom they talk to and what to talk about are important, because their coverage affects public thought, Heginbotham said.

Brown agreed. He said his responsibility to his audience is to present objective news from which they can form their own opinions.

For example, coverage of this year’s elections should be focused on the candidates’ records, how they promote themselves and how they jab at one other, Brown said.

The media will also focus on swing states – approximately 17 of them – because they could play crucial roles in the election’s outcome in November, he said.

Minnesota could also be considered a swing state depending on how people perceive the president, he said.

Brown said media today face many serious issues because some of their areas are unregulated.

Referring to the story fabrications of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair and USA Today reporter Jack Kelley, Brown urged media executives to look at internal ethical issues.

Journalism junior Jordan Stalker said journalists have an obligation to their viewers.

“It was positive to hear him say that he is responsible to the public and viewers in how he reports and what he reports,” he said.

Stalker said it is time for more anchors such as Brown to counter the influence media-owning companies have.

Kathleen Hansen, a University journalism professor and Minnesota Journalism Center director, said the event was a good occasion for people to hear from an important media professional.

“Any time people have the opportunity to interact with journalists, they realize that journalists have a thoughtful way on how they do their work,” she said. “It is good for the public to know how they do their work.”