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Campbell Brown Leaving CNN

Campbell Brown has apparently had enough of getting shouldered out of the conversation by shouting heads Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann. The anchorwoman will step away from her eponymous hour-long 8 p.m. program as soon as the network can find a replacement, Mediaite reported. Brown asked to be released from her contract months ago, after having asked to be moved to the 7 p.m. hour (eventually occupied by John King, who has proven a weak lead-in for her). While Brown did better than her predecessor, Paula Zahn, the Times has the ratings breakdown:

The Nielsen Company’s ratings show that “Campbell Brown” has attracted an average of 591,000 viewers so far this year, while “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” has averaged 1.03 million and Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor” has averaged 3.34 million. Nancy Grace, who hosts a tabloid-style crime and justice talk show on CNN’s sister channel, HLN, at that hour, also regularly out-rated Ms. Brown, with an average of 724,000 viewers so far this year.

Nielsen has Brown down 38 percent in total viewers from this time last year. Her departure will likely be a blow to CNN, which has been at the receiving end of a lot of (no doubt unwanted) public advice on how to “fix” itself lately. But it also presents another opportunity for some outside-of-the-box programming, which wouldn’t be forced to compete so directly with O’Reilly and Olbermann.

Brown issued a refreshingly honest statement explaining her departure, citing her show’s low ratings as the impetus for her decision and claiming she owed it to herself and CNN to “get out of the way so that CNN can try something else”:

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.

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.

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.

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.

Campbell Brown Leaving CNN