Aaron Brown’s visit to the Terrorism and the Press “think-tank” on Thursday, April 22, was nothing short of captivating. Although I was not aware of the extra credit assignment regarding guest speakers in the course, I was compelled to start writing down what Brown was saying.

Former CNN anchor Aaron Brown sat down with the class to discuss his views on terrorism and the press

As if it was a press conference or a one-on-one interview, I knew he was going to say things I would regret missing if I didn’t have them down on paper. Throughout the course of the conversation, the class developed a relationship with Brown, and as the class became more comfortable asking questions, he began to answer is a frank, candid manner.

Brown’s opinions on terrorism and the “War on Terror” are what dominated the conversation from the beginning. Being that it is a course dedicated to the topic of terrorism, almost ever question he faced was related to terrorism in some way.

The sound bites he provided were, in some cases, remarkable. At one point, when asked about how he fell about Timothy McVey’s execution and subsequent request to have it nationally televised, Brown said, “I would have shown McVey’s execution at the IMAX theatre complete with the 3-D goggles.”

While invoking a bit of sarcasm, he also made a very interesting implication: The public, especially the people of Oklahoma, had the right to see a terrorist put to death. And, if a network was looking for a ratings boost, there’s no doubt this would have been an enormous draw.

Another compelling moment during the Q&A session on terrorism was the conversation about the United States and its much-publicized “War on Terror.” About the phrase itself, Brown said, “It was good way to justify this war to the country, and made sense to the lower third of the people. But we should declare war on the people committing the acts vs. the acts themselves.”

He then went on to address the recent video released on WikiLeaks, depicting American soldiers in a military helicopter picking off people on the ground (two of which were Reuters photographers from Iraq) while saying things like “Look at those dead bastards” and “Light ‘em all up.” Brown defended the actions of the soldiers, saying, “If you thought about taking a human life every time you pull the trigger, it would drive you nuts… So you dehumanize it, and sometimes, that makes you say stupid things.”

Brown also commented on the initial military report from this incident, which stated that “coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations with a hostile force. He said: “Well, generally, a report that reads ‘We fired on innocent civilians’ doesn’t sit to well.” This was a pointed comment because it made me wonder: how much of the script a reporter reads about the war do they actually believe to be true?

When the conversation turned to the journalism aspect of the issue of war and terrorism, there was an immense amount of passion in Brown’s voice when talking about reporting on these types of stories. He was clear to point out that, in terrorist attacks or in war, “a journalists job when reporting a mass casualty is to give the victim’s stories life.”

If journalists stop focusing on 5000 people dead, Brown said, and instead focus on “one person dying 5000 times,” the story will truly have a purpose and an impact.

It was a conversation that could have lasted well into the afternoon, and the sincerity with which Brown spoke reminded me why I trusted his words as I watched the events of September 11, 2001 unfold on CNN.

The relationship an anchor has with his/her audience is equally, if not more, important then the words being read into the camera.

Brown formed a relationship with his audience on Thursday, and this time, we didn’t even have to suffer through the commercials.