Brian Stelter Signs Off On ‘Reliable Sources’ Finale: “CNN Must Remain Strong”

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Brian Stelter signed off from CNN on Sunday with the final edition of Reliable Sources, telling viewers that “CNN must remain strong,” while his guests warned throughout the hour of the threats facing the media and democracy.

“I know it’s not partisan to stand up for decency and democracy and dialogue,” Stelter said at the end of the show. “It’s not partisan to stand up to demagogues. It’s required. It’s patriotic. We must make sure we don’t give platforms to those who are lying to our faces. But we also much make sure we are representing the full spectrum of debate and representing what is going on in this country and this world.”

“That’s why CNN needs to be strong. That’s why believe CNN will be strong. You viewers at home — it’s on you. CNN must remain strong. I know the 4,500 staffers are going to do their part to make it stronger than ever. But it’s going to be on you to hold CNN accountable, and not just CNN. You got to hold your local paper accountable. You got to hold your local digital outlet accountable. It’s on us. We are all members of the media, all helping to make it better.”

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On Thursday, CNN announced that it was canceling the show and that Stelter would depart the network. That led to some speculation of the influence of John Malone, one of the largest shareholders of Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s parent, who has been critical of the network and has said he wants it to move in a more centrist direction. In an email to The New York Times, Malone denied that he influenced the decision, while the network said that the change was motivated by a desire to program a show for a broader audience.

But from the start of the show, Stelter made the case for Reliable Sources  and its 30-year existence. He opened by noting that Reliable Sources was one of CNN’s the highest rated weekend shows and that it “punched above its weight for so many years. Even a former president commented on the cancellation,” referring to Donald Trump. Former CNN CEO Tom Johnson also commented on its cancellation, writing that the show was created because network leaders ‘felt very deeply that media organizations have a responsibility to report and evaluate the journalism profession itself,” while teachers, Stelter said, featured segments in classroom instruction.

The hour was devoted to the theme of change in the media, but some of the discussion was seemingly directed at Warner Bros. Discovery, Malone, and to CNN’s current leadership, which has signaled that there is more upheaval to come. Malone’s desire for a more centrist network, for instance, may bring neutral coverage, but it’s also the type of “both sides” journalism insufficient in an era of rampant misinformation.

The hour’s first guest, Carl Bernstein, CNN political analyst, gave credit to Jeff Zucker, the former CNN president for his commitment to journalism at a time when democracy is under threat.

But as if to remind CNN’s new corporate parent of its own commitment, Bernstein noted that, in a town hall interview with Oprah Winfrey, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav identified All the President’s Men as his favorite Warner Bros. movie.

“It’s a movie about getting the best obtainable version of the truth. I think Jeff Zucker was committed to that. It’s basic. It’s what we do,” Bernstein said. “And again, it’s not about neutrality. It’s about fairness. It’s about doing the reporting. It’s about getting multiple sources. All of cable news has commentary. It should be labeled perhaps a little better as commentary. … We have room for both. We need to be doing both, but both need to be of the highest caliber.”

(It should be noted that Bernstein did ding the media for giving Donald Trump “unprecedented free airtime” during the 2016 campaign, and the Zucker-led CNN was a culprit.)

Later, Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor of The Atlantic, told Stelter, “You have to be willing to stand up to authority. You have to be willing to lose friends.”

 

 

 

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