Friday, December 17, 2004

CNN Unwisely Changes Format of Aaron Brown newshow

So often, when newshows, magazines or newspapers change their format, big mistakes are made. Not enough account is paid to the fact that many watchers or readers are creatures of habit, and they are apt to resent these changes. The Saturday Evening Post never recovered from a remake, and others have been thankfully reversed.

Bill Thomas, when he was editor of The Los Angeles Times, told of getting on a transcontinental flight east one morning and noticing a reader leaf through the Sunday Times, then, suddenly throw it onto the floor with disgust. When he checked, Thomas found that a change in the crossword puzzle had deeply angered the reader. Wisely, Thomas undid the change the next week.

I don't know precisely when CNN revamped the Aaron Brown program, because I don't see it when I'm out for the evening or away on a trip. But sometime in the last couple of weeks, the powers to be at the cable news network suddenly began leading with a long feature rather than the top of the news. They probably explained what they were trying to accomplish the first night, but I missed the explanation.

It seems to be a mistake. The Brown program has lost focus. This is another case where CNN is too indirect, too scattered in its approach.

I freely acknowledge that Aaron Brown is one of my favorite newscasters, because he says what he thinks. He is constantly questioning. I like his humanitarian attitude and I share his outrage at the acts of some of our enemies in the war. He is not blase when some poor hostage is beheaded.

So I hate to see CNN mess around with him. I just assume he's not happy with these changes. He seemed very comfortable with the old format.

One of the changes in the program is good. At the end, Brown has been given more time to show the front pages of the next morning's newspapers. This is a good feature, and it is appropriately at the end.

CNN needs to lead its newscasts with the news, not a feature, even an indepth investigative piece. That should come later.

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