I knew on the day that I accepted my job at CNN that a ratings victory at 8pm was going to be a formidable challenge. As I have been told over and over, this is the toughest timeslot in cable news. That is obviously due to the incredible talents of my 8pm competitors. I have also always marveled whenever a television anchor says that he or she pays no attention to ratings. I'm pretty sure the last time any anchor could honestly ignore ratings was well before I was born. Of course I pay attention to ratings. And simply put, the ratings for my program are not where I would like them to be. It is largely for this reason that I am stepping down as anchor of CNN's "Campbell Brown".
Sorry to use a sports analogy here, but imagine a football quarterback walking off the field halfway through the third quarter and just saying, "I suck. Put somebody else in." It would be contemptible; it would also be nearly unprecedented. Anybody who has gotten as far as Campbell Brown has, thinks her supreme talent and judgment will, eventually, win viewers over.
To be clear: this is my decision, and one that I have been thinking about for some time. As for why, I could have said, that I am stepping down to spend more time with my children (which I truly want to do). Or that I am leaving to pursue other opportunities (which I also truly want to do). But I have never had much tolerance for others' spin, so I can't imagine trying to stomach my own. The simple fact is that not enough people want to watch my program, and I owe it to myself and to CNN to get out of the way so that CNN can try something else.
And we're to believe the CNN executives begged her to stay, but she was the clear-eyed one who knew "something else" would work better than her act. It's possible, but it's not the way to bet!
CNN will have to figure out what that is. The 8pm hour in cable news world is currently driven by the indomitable Bill O'Reilly, Nancy Grace and Keith Olbermann. Shedding my own journalistic skin to try to inhabit the kind of persona that might co-exist in that line up is simply impossible for me. It is not who I am or who I want to be; nor is it who CNN asked me to be at any point. This is the right decision for me and I hope it will be a great opportunity for CNN.
And now the thinly veiled self-pity: It appears I'm just not enough of an asshole to compete these days. Sigh.
Since its launch three decades ago CNN has strived to be an independent, credible and enduring source of news. While the rest of the cable news world moved to opinion, CNN allowed me to stay true to my hard-news roots and supported me with a true commitment to old-school journalism. There is plenty of debate now about whether real journalism even has a place in primetime. I may be taking myself out of that debate on a nightly basis, but I am truly proud of the work we have done on this program and I do still believe that journalism has an essential place in primetime and at all times. I am also especially proud of the people who put this show on the air every night. They are an amazing, dedicated, loyal and caring team. To them, I will be forever grateful.
And I'll leave it to others to compare me to Edward R. Murrow.
My plan right now is to help CNN through any transition, and then to enjoy, for the very first time, the nightly ritual of "Good Night Moon" and good night kisses with my two little boys. I wish my CNN colleagues all the best. And as long as bedtime doesn't conflict with primetime, I will be watching and pulling for them.
So actually, in the end, I am leaving to spend more time with my family.