One month after announcing that Anderson Cooper and Aaron Brown would continue to be the "fire and ice" of CNN's "NewsNight," CNN/US President Jon Klein said ice is toast.
Brown, hired one -- or was it two? -- CNN management teams ago to be the prime-time anchor for the cable news network's flagship newscast, has been replaced by Cooper, who, Klein assures The TV Column, is CNN's hot new star in the wake of his recent in-the-field reporting on major news stories, most notably Hurricane Katrina.
Cooper will take over as sole anchor of the 10 p.m. slot anchored by Brown for the past four years. The show will be called "Anderson Cooper 360," which is the name of the 7 p.m. show he has anchored the past two years. "360" will air for two hours, as has "NewsNight" for the past month, with Cooper and Brown co-anchoring.
Klein said CNN and Brown "mutually" decided it was best for Brown to take a powder because the change restricted the options for a meaningful role for Brown, even though it threw open the 7 p.m. slot that had been Cooper's.
The announcement comes while Brown is off the air for the week and not as easy to reach; a representative of Brown declined to comment.
Wolf Blitzer's "The Situation Room" is moving into that now-empty 7 p.m. hour while hanging onto 4-6 p.m. Blitzer gets to take a breather from 6 to 7, which continues to house "The Border Is Falling, the Border Is Falling With Lou Dobbs." Previously, the official running time on Blitzer's show was 3-6 p.m., though some days it seemed as though Blitzer was on the air all day long. The 3 p.m. hour, formerly Blitzer's, will be absorbed by an expansion of Kyra Phillips's 1-3 p.m. show, "Live From."
Brown's exit from CNN has been playing out in slow motion since November 2004, when Klein was named president of CNN/US. Almost immediately it became very apparent to the Reporters Who Cover Television that Klein was no fan of Brown's and almost as quickly that he was gaga over Cooper.
"This decision is all about Anderson Cooper and 'The Situation Room' and the momentum generated in the past few months," Klein told The TV Column, noting that Cooper, through his on-the-spot coverage of big news events, including the South Asian tsunami, the death of the pope, the politicization of Terri Schiavo and the debacle of Hurricane Katrina, has been "embraced by the audience in a way we could not ignore."
"There were literally hundreds of TV journalists at these events -- why is he the most talked about of them? That you can't create. That happens because a reporter has got that magical something," Klein said.
He told the Associated Press that Cooper has "got a refreshing way of being the anti-anchor . . . he's just being himself, he's asking the questions you would like answered. He's getting involved the way you might."
Most famously, Cooper became part of the Katrina story when, interviewing Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) four days after the storm, he cut into her lavish praise of various politicos and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the job they were doing in New Orleans. "Excuse me, senator, I'm sorry for interrupting," he said. "I haven't heard that because, for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated. When they hear politicians slap -- thanking one another, it just . . . kind of cuts them the wrong way right now because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. . . . Do you get the anger that is out here?"
The senator never fully recovered.
Cooper's numbers went up sharply in the wake of his Katrina coverage on "360" and, to a lesser degree, on "NewsNight," though both shows remained well behind their Fox News Channel competition.
One month after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Klein liked "pairing the emotional Cooper with the stolid Brown" -- "the combination of Aaron and Anderson gives us fire and ice . . . Anderson is about visceral experience; Aaron is kind of about the cerebral analysis," Klein said -- he told the AP that he had no interest in keeping them together as a team and that he had just wanted to make sure he was putting Cooper in the best possible situation to showcase his talent.
Both Brown and Cooper worked for ABC News before joining CNN in 2001; Cooper did an interim stint as host of ABC Entertainment's reality series "The Mole."
Brown received widespread praise when he debuted on CNN earlier than expected to anchor its coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But his standing at the network was tarnished in 2003 when he remained at a charity golf event in Palm Desert, Calif., on the day the Columbia space shuttle fell apart on reentry.