The former ABC News anchor talks about everything from hate mail to New Yorkers

By Gillian Flynn
Updated October 02, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Aaron Brown wasn’t supposed to work on Sept. 11. In fact, he wasn’t scheduled to be on the air at CNN (a division of EW parent AOL Time Warner) until mid-October, when he would launch an evening news show. But while driving down Manhattan’s West Side Highway that Tuesday morning, Brown got a call from a frantic producer about an attack on the World Trade Center. ”I’m thinking, Do I have a tie? Did I shave?” says the former ABC News anchor of his hasty debut. ”I don’t know that I thought about the magnitude of what was in front of me.” Since that day, the reassuring Brown, 52, has become one of the most recognizable (some might say respected) TV journalists of the crisis.

How are people responding to your low-key reporting style? I got this e-mail last night from someone who clearly hated me: ”You’re not formal enough, you’re too chatty.” I’m not trying to pretend that I’m smarter than I am. I think I’m a good reporter and probably better than good as a writer and talker. But basically I could be your next-door neighbor.

Why do you think people reacted so strongly to Dan Rather tearing up on ”Letterman?” When you’re on the air for a long time, you don’t have a chance to vent. I suspect that Dan, who is an emotional, very human guy, found himself in a moment where all the things he’d been feeling for a week just came out…. I admire the guy for not being afraid to do it.

Have you been able to maintain some sense of optimism? I’m pleased to say I’m a New Yorker. It’s an odd thing that tragedy does, but I feel much more at peace with the city than I ever have…. I’m seeing so much goodness and kindness from people.

After more than 25 years in journalism, does it feel odd to gain fame because of one horrific act? I wouldn’t be talking to you if there wasn’t this tragedy. I mean I get it, I’m just sort of saddened by it all…. But if you’re a reporter you want to report real things that matter. And this is a real thing that really matters.

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