September 13, 2004

Aaron Brown Visits Cornell

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Aaron Brown, the face of 9/11 coverage for the billion and a half CNN watchers worldwide, commemorated the third anniversary of the tragedy in a speech at Cornell on Saturday night. Brown spoke to a full crowd in Statler Auditorium on the public perception of the media as “big, liberal, toady and whore-like” and discussed how the news business has changed since the attacks on the World Trade Center.

“Television,” Brown said, “is a perfect democracy.” According to Brown, viewers vote by changing the channel hundreds of times an hour. If there is no demand for information on a topic, there is no supply. Brown said his “business” did not sufficiently cover the antiwar movement in the country or existing problems with al-Qaida prior to Sept. 11, but that a lack of public demand for them may have played a role.

“Those stories did not get as much intensity as they should [have] … but I’m not sure the country wanted to hear it,” he said.

The attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon hastened changes that were already in progress.

Since then, he said, there has been a greater divide between liberal and conservative, right-wing and left-wing, those first in line to see Fahrenheit 9/11 and those who regarded it as trashy propaganda, that news coverage is “headed for the raucously partisan again.”


According to Brown, viewers are only seeking reaffirmation of what they already believe, and there is an absence of trust in the nightly news.

“I really enjoyed hearing his opinions because as a reporter he usually has to give an unbiased account,” said Michelle Cassorla ’07.

In Brown’s opinion, hosting the Republican National Convention in such close proximity to Ground Zero was a successful tactic. “Its presence in New York … came with a very clear plan of what they needed to do.”

Brown also touched on the rivalry between Fox and CNN. “They do entertainment with news as a component and they are very entertaining — they are very good at it.”

“It’s stations like Fox that give rise to the intense distrust toward televised news,” said Ashley Barry ’07.


As far as the repercussions of 9/11, Brown expressed distrust with the rushed handling of the National Intelligence Authority Act of 2004 by the government. The bill, proposed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), enacts all 41 recommendations of the 9/11 commission. Brown said that “a lot of the recommendations are very complicated and I believe — generally speaking — that some of those things shouldn’t be done in the two months before an election. This is why it’s better that Congress is in recess for the two months before an election — [they] can’t screw up as much.”

Speaking about the upcoming presidential campaign, Brown said the race between Bush and Kerry has been the “worst to write about since 1968.”

Brown’s lecture was well-received by students: “He was incredibly candid about the way the industry works and after hearing him, I definitely had a greater respect for newscasters,” said Josh Goldman ’07.

Honora Huntington ’07 reacted similarly: “It was so amazing to hear Aaron Brown talk about Sept. 11 when it was three years ago that we watched him talk about it live on TV.”

Archived article by Erica Fink
Sun Staff Writer