CNN's Campbell Brown: A Star Is Reborn

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- CNN anchor Campbell Brown is breaking through the clutter during the coverage of this endless presidential campaign.

Brown has established herself as a voice of reason who doesn't shout, preen, make wild predictions, delight in buttonholing people with "gotcha" questions or exploit the gaffes of the hard-working candidates (yes, including Sarah Palin).

What's especially striking about Brown's progress is how she has redefined herself. During her decade at NBC News , Brown had two obstacles: she often got lost in the shuffle of NBC and MSNBC correspondents and was frequently associated with the fluffy, cat-stuck-in-a-tree stories that weekend anchors often have to handle in the place of the breaking news that takes place during the week.

At CNN, a unit of Time Warner , she has found her footing.

Brown, 40, is exhibiting an edge -- and a rare sense of decency in her role as the anchor of "Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull." In an era when the media's shouters grab most of the splashy headlines, that is an accomplishment.

Brown engages in thoughtful discussions at the 8 p.m. hour. I suspect that Brown has gained such a reputation for even-handed discourse that it startles some critics when she asserts herself.

On Sept. 1, during the Republican convention, she prodded McCain strategist Tucker Bounds to answer her question about the qualifications of McCain running mate Sarah Palin and not skirting the issue.

On Sept. 23, Brown blasted John McCain for his "chauvinistic chain." Brown implored the GOP braintrust to "Free Sarah Palin" and refrain from gender-demeaning behavior.

Brown clearly can't please all of the people all of the time. It's an occupational hazard for a journalist to be accused of partisanship. Bloggers have pooh-poohed Brown by asking if she would put Democrats against the wall over Obama's lack of foreign-policy experience. CNN officials have said that the network is impartial toward all of the candidates.

Meanwhile, Brown's approach to the news hasn't yet translated into a ratings victory. With an average of 908,000 viewers a night, Brown trails time-slot rivals Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (2.9 million) and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann (1.3 million). (Fox, like MarketWatch, the publisher of this column, is a unit of News Corp. .

Vindication

I suspect that Brown is pleased about her notoriety. The talk was that she had hoped for a while to be named to succeed Katie Couric, who left her perch as co-anchor of NBC's "Today" to anchor the evening news at CBS in 2006. It didn't work out, though.

When Brown's contract with NBC News was set to expire last year, she was sought after and agonized about her next move. She worried that there wasn't going to be enough room for her at NBC (or another network news division) to continue doing serious journalism.

She seems to have found a niche. The danger is that Brown's bosses at CNN, in a short-sighted move, will be tempted remake craft her as another cable-news crusader who is content with mouthing off and prompting splashy headlines.

Having watched Brown on TV for many years, I'm confident that she won't cross the line from serious journalist to loudmouth personality. I only hope her ratings-driven superiors see it that way, too.

What do you like or dislike about CNN's Campbell Brown?

to on Time magazine's coverage of Sarah Palin:

I have to take issue with your story claiming that Nathan Thornburgh broke the Sarah Palin story." I profiled Palin in Newsweek's October 2007 Women's Leadership Issue, nearly a year before her nomination. My story led to her being featured in Vogue and invited on "Charlie Rose."

In March 2008, I again interviewed Palin and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano at Newsweek's Women's Leadership Forum in LA. At that time, I discussed with her the possibility she could be a GOP vice presidential pick. Vdeo of this event was posted within hours of her nomination, and widely picked up by cable and network news.

Newsweek also published back-to-back covers containing exclusive information from my 2007 interviews with Palin, including the fact that she hadn't supported McCain in Alaska's GOP caucus and wasn't particularly impressed with the GOP field.

We continued our exclusive coverage with Mark Hosenball and Mike Isikoff's reporting on "Troopergate" as well as my story on Palin's comments about benefits for same-sex couples, which were at odds with her statements during her debate with Joe Biden. You write that Thornburgh was "surprised -- and thrilled-- that his competitors weren't conspicuous at the outset."

Thornburgh is a fine writer, but to claim that he beat the competition is simply not supported by the facts. We were in fact there, a full year ahead of the story. And we've been there ever since.

-- Karen Breslau, San Francisco Bureau Chief, Newsweek

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By Jon Friedman

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