A media career that began right here at the Brownwood Bulletin has taken Paul Brown to New York state, and back to the capital city of his native state, where he now hosts Capital Tonight, an hourlong program that delves into Texas politics.
Capital Tonight appears at 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, with a replay at 11 p.m., on YNN, a statewide news channel available on Time Warner Cable.
“We started it three years ago as a weekly show, and I was still anchoring the regular news of the day around that,” Brown said. “This year we started running Monday through Friday. The focus is on state politics and we get everybody from the gubernatorial candidates to the speaker. I love politics, I’m a political junkie, it’s so much fun for me and right up my alley.”
Brown, who was preparing to interview Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams for the Capital Tonight telecast when this interview was conducted, started his run at YNN as a daytime news anchor. Time Warner Cable’s discussion to add a program to its news lineup that had experienced success at the company’s branch in New York state proved to be a landfall for Brown.
“Our newsgroup has other news channels in other parts in the country, one in New York state, one in North Carolina,” Brown said. “The one in New York has been around quite some time and it’s been very successful there, so they said lets replicate there here in Austin, it’s the state capital and it makes sense. That’s why they started Capital Tonight, but started it slowly on a once a week basis. It became so successful they decided to do this every night.
“The difference in New York state and here is that our legislature only meets every other year. We were wondering how it would go in an off session, but now that everybody who’s a Republican is running for a statewide office, we’re probably busier now than we were during the session. We’re not short of material at all.”
Before Brown was appearing on televisions in the greater Austin area, he was a student at the University of Texas. Brown, a 1980 graduate of Brownwood High School, earned a degree in Radio/Television/Film at Texas in 1985. He then returned home to Brownwood after graduation, awaiting a break in the field of media.
“I went back home trying to get my first TV job to no avail just because it was so competitive,” Brown said. “I worked just a few months at KPSM and Dave Fair operated KPSM back then. I worked very part time but I got to go and cover city council meetings and school board meetings and all the things reporters do regardless of where reporters are at. That’s kind of how news is everywhere.
“(Former Bulletin editor) Gene (Deason) would cover some of those meetings, too, and he saw me there and appreciated what I was doing. In college I interviewed Gene for a project I was doing, so between those two circumstances he offered me a full time gig. He told me he knew it wasn’t broadcasting, but I told him I’d take it. I knew I wanted to do reporting work and at that point I didn’t care. I loved the fact it would be at the Bulletin, the paper I’d grown up reading, and working for Gene, who I admired.”
Brown worked at the Bulletin from 1986-89 and during that span elevated from reporter to city editor.
“At the point I was there the Bulletin was under the Woodson Newspapers and we had an Early weekly,” Brown said. “I was covering the Early school board, Early City Council and the Early Longhorns football team. The last year I was there I was the city editor and Gene was the managing editor, so I got to put together the layout of the paper for the Bulletin.”
In 1989, KRBC-TV in Abilene came calling and lured Brown to his dream career.
“After a couple of years, KRBC called me up out of the blue,” Brown said. “I had sent them a tape after I graduated and apparently they saved it. While I regretted leaving the Bulletin, my first desire was TV broadcasting. I landed there and was there for a couple of years.”
Looking to move to a larger media market, the next step on Brown’s professional journey was a 2 1/2 year stint at WROC, the CBS affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. He endured three winters in the Northeast, which influenced his return to Texas.
“I had an opportunity to go from a small media market to a medium sized media market, as you do in this business unless you’re going to be one of the main anchors,” Brown said. “I basically auditioned all over the phone. There was no Internet, so I sent in a tape and did my due diligence of what it was like there, what the competition was like in the city.
“At that point I was single so I jumped at that. I don’t regret it all. It was such a great TV market despite the harsh winters. I made some life long friends there, but I was anxious to get back to Texas after that third season of snow. I had no idea, truly, what the term lake effect snow meant until I got up there, and I learned very quickly within a month.”
In 1993, an opportunity presented itself at KTXS-TV in Abilene, and Brown made the leap for a 10-year stay.
“KTXS had a management position, assignment editor position at the time, and it was an opportunity to get back to Texas,” Brown said. “I did a little bit of anchoring during morning cut ins, and a year and half into it the news director got another job. I applied for news director and got it at the age of 32. We also launched the 5 p.m. newscast around that time and I anchored that with longtime friend Jennifer Bray, who was my assistant news director. We did that show for seven or eight years.”
Opportunity again knocked for Brown in 2003, which led he and his wife — fellow Brownwood High graduate Dodie Brown, and their family — to Austin not only for an exciting new job, but to pursue another goal he felt was almost impossible.
“A mutual acquaintance from my time on the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Board that I served on, and another person who served on that board, was part of this operation, which was really intriguing to me,” Brown said of the jump to YNN. “They had a dayside anchor position and I was always interested in trying to get my master’s degree. At this point I was married with two stepsons and a 2-year-old, and I decided to come down here.
“I’ve had a wonderful experience down here and it’s evolved into this political show I do. I also got my master’s degree and now I’m a candidate for Ph.D. Hopefully by this time next year I’ll be wrapped up with it. I was able to get this political show that didn’t even exist when I got here, and I never dreamed I would pursue my Ph.D. and now I’m year away, hopefully, from finishing it.”
In a career that’s approaching 30 years, Brown has more memorable moments than he can count. Among Brown’s proudest as a professional occurred just this past April in Dallas at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.
“We covered the opening of the George W. Bush Library and all the living presidents were there,” Brown said. “I didn’t get to interview all the living presidents, but we were probably less than a football field, if not closer, to all of them and all the former First Ladies. We had to go through Secret Service to get that close, but to see all of them at one time, with me doing research on presidential debates for my Ph.D. and loving presidential politics, that was such a treat. I realize not everybody gets that opportunity.”
For Brown, the career path he has followed has brought much joy to his life and respect from his peers, and he treats each day with both intense passion as well as an immense sense of responsibility.
“I love being able to interview all the people who are basically responsible for the policy decisions that run our lives, and to be able to question them about their decision making and what’s at stake for all of us in general,” Brown said. “I just really enjoy that. These are people I look at as our state’s leaders. To be able to interview Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis and ask them why they’re running for governor, to me that’s such a privilege that I don’t take for granted.”