By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Sep 22, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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It has been more than nine years since Aaron Brown stood on a rooftop in New York City and anchored coverage that is burned in our collective memory, keeping his head as buildings crumbled behind him on Sept. 11, 2001.

As the Walter Cronkite  professor of Journalism at Arizona State's University's Cronkite School of Journalism, he's teaching a class called "Turning Points in Television News."

And, yes, he does use his CNN coverage of that terrible day in class, reluctantly. 

"It's really hard for me," he tells me in a phone conversation. He hadn't planned to include it.

"The first class I taught said, 'What do you mean you're not going to do that. C'mon.'"

So he devotes an hour of class time, describing his spiel thusly:

"I will tell you, to the best of my memory, what I was thinking, feeling, what it was like, having the biggest story of your life breaking behind you."

Here's a bit of what Brown is remembered for:

At 61, Brown has a far different focus these days. He's long gone from CNN. All the cable news models have evolved far beyond the 24-hour news channel -- focusing on politics and debate.

"I’m interested in policy these days. I'm really kinda done with politics and politicians. It’s just not interesting to me," he says.

That's what's bringing him to Milwaukee this week, where he's emceeing a noon Thursday event at the Grain Exchange introducing Refocus Wisconsin, a study of education, economic and "quality of life" trends in the state.

Of TV news, Brown says he doesn't watch that much. But he's still high on the traditional network newscasts, despite their steady decline in viewers. He spent a decade at ABC News, which he remembers warmly, along with its late anchor, Peter Jennings.

"In many ways they were the 10 most challenging, fun years, was running around the world for Peter and 'World News.'"

And cable news?

He's not exactly enamored with the move toward constant political debate, with ideologues on both sides. He talks of "hundreds" of people who've come up to him with the same complaint:

"The thing I don’t like about the news is I don’t hear what I think. It’s always what Ann Coulter thinks or Michael Moore.

Brown has no solutions to make the news better. He understands the business constraints all TV news outlets face.

Instead, he's focusing on the next generation of journalists, to get them to think like reporters by watching the work of other reporters.

War coverage is one focus of his class, as he moves from Vietnam reports to the war in Iraq, tracing the technological changes, but the timelessness of good reporting.

"There's a difference in covering the fact that 4,000 people died, or that one person died 4,000 times," he said. "I want them to give that person life."

On the air: Milwaukee radio veteran Annmarie Topel has been named vice president/general manager of the Milwaukee group of Saga-owned radio stations that include WKLH-FM (96.5),WHQG-FM (102.9), WJMR-FM (98.3), WZBK-FM (106.9), and WJYI-AM (1340). She replaces Tom Joerres, who retired last month.

  • If you're interested in the official news that Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler are joining "American Idol" as judges, go to the Web site at noon for a live "reveal."
  • It took one dance to send David Hasselhoff home from the new season of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."
  • After the opening night of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" pulled in 4.8 million viewers -- the biggest opening night since 2004 -- the show has been picked up for a second season.
  • Channel 4 kicks off the general election campaign with a gubernatorial debate between Democrat Tom Barrett and Republican Scott Walker at 7 p.m. Friday. It also airs on Channel 10.
  • Fox Business Network, available on satellite and digital cable, is shuffling its midday lineup a bit. Starting Monday, Dagen McDowell and Connell McShane will co-anchor the 10 am. hour, with Cheryl Casone continuing in the 10 a.m. hour. Lori Rothman and Chris Cotter will co-anchor from noon to 1 p.m. weekdays, and Brian Sullivan has the 1 p.m. hour.

Today's new shows: NBC's "Undercovers" premieres at 7 p.m. on Channel 4, while ABC has two new shows, "Better with You" at 7:30 and "The Whole Truth" at 9 on Channel 12. CBS' "The Defenders" premieres at 9 on Channel 58.

But my attention will be focused on the season premiere of ABC's "Modern Family," last year's best new sitcom, at 8 p.m. on Channel 12.

Here's a preview:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.