James Brown On His CBS News Role: ‘I would like to think there will be no limits’

By Alex Weprin 

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CBS Sports anchor James Brown is no stranger to television news. He has filled in on “The Early Show,” and his 2009 interview with Michael Vick for “60 Minutes” drew accolades. Now, CBS has formalized the partnership, signing Brown as a special correspondent. He starts tomorrow, filling in as an anchor on “CBS This Morning”‘s Saturday edition.

“I mean this from the bottom of my heart, I am excited and humbled that a division as synonymous with news excellence would welcome me into the fold as a special correspondent,” Brown told TVNewser.

While he is best known for his sports reporting, be it on “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” or “60 Minutes,” Brown says that he does not want to restrict himself to any particular type of news.

“I would like to think there will be no limits, having done something akin to news for a number of years leading up to this. I hosted a program called ‘America’s Black Forum’ which was like an African-American version of ‘Meet the Press’ in syndication for a number of years,” Brown says. “I thoroughly enjoyed my role as a correspondent for ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,’ which is one of the best shows on television be it sports or general news, so that certainly gave me a comfort level because we would do long-form pieces on a range of topics that just happened to have sports as the backdrop.”

In past interviews Brown has expressed an interest in anchoring the “CBS Evening News.” When asked whether he would still like to pinch-hit on that program, Brown said yes, but that it isn’t a priority.

“My attitude is one of a team player. However, Jeff Fager, David Rhodes and Chris Licht see me being utilized however I can best be utilized,” Brown says. “[Anchoring] would certainly be of interest to me if they see that as something that I can do to be of help. Right now I am just kind of a utilitarian. Anyway they see fit.

I have had the chance to interact with a number of people there over the years, be it Scott Pelley or Bob Schieffer, who I am a huge fan of,” Brown added. “I am just excited to be part of the roster over there, and to be a good teammate, and work effectively with my other colleagues.”

Brown credits an early producer of his at CBS Sports with instilling in him that philosophy.

“The executive producer Ted Shaker said to me, ‘JB, to the degree that you can be as versatile as possible will help to ensure some degree of longevity in this business,’ and boy has that really been true. He had me do a number of sports, and reporting and anchoring, and it really has paid dividends.”

As for his move toward CBS, Brown credits his boss at CBS Sports and the former head of CBS News, Sean McManus.

“Sean McManus certainly had an awful lot to do with tilling the soil, and encouraging me to do that,” Brown says. “When I came back home to CBS to host the football show and do college hoops, Sean had asked me f I would consider doing some work on [The Early Show]. At the time, I asked him if I could politely put that on hold, and focus on doing as good a job as I could hosting the football show first.”

With football season over, we asked Brown if he now has some free time to dedicate to reporting for  CBS News.

“My wife would probably deny that,” he quipped, noting that he is active in his church, speaks out as an advocate for stopping domestic violence, and serves as co-founder of an IT company.

“It is a pretty full schedule, but clearly this will be a priority,” Brown says. “I am type-A personality, I really can’t just sit still.”