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"Truth no longer matters in the context of politics and, sadly, in the context of cable news," said Aaron Brown, whose four-year period as anchor of CNN's NewsNight ended in November, when network executives gave his job to Anderson Cooper in a bid to push the show's ratings closer to front-runner Fox News.
Brown said he tried to give viewers a balanced diet of light and serious news with NewsNight. "But I always knew when I got to the Brussels sprouts, I was on thin ice," he said.
When NewsNight spent four hours covering the arrest of actor Robert Blake for the murder of his wife, Brown received thousands of e-mails criticizing the amount of time the show spent on the story. Nevertheless, that show, which aired in April 2002, received the highest ratings of any program since NewsNight's coverage of the November 2001 crash of American Airlines flight 587.
Many Americans on the left and the right aren't interested in the truth, but simply want news that confirms their viewpoints, he said. "You'd think that it's no more complex than good vs. evil," he said.
Journalists have fallen short in presenting important news in ways that allow viewers to see how it matters in their lives. But viewers must take up the battle as well, he said. "It's not enough to say you want serious news. You have to watch it. It isn't enough to say you want serious debate. You have to engage in it."