Brian Stelter – host of CNN’s laughably misnamed “Reliable Sources” — is supposed to be CNN’s media critic. He is supposed to be a journalist. His is neither of those things. And in a world where image is a factor, Stelter is the nerd in the movie who gets the wedgie – and everyone laughs.
Stelter’s problem goes far beyond looks and style. He is a wannabe political analyst. Occasionally his commentaries, interviews and appearances as a panelist on other CNN programs deal with media issues, but even then, he runs them through his internal political spin machine before offering them to the public.
In everything he does on air, Stelter is the dependable anti-Trump/Republican/conservative/FOX-hating propagandist. He spends inordinate time attacking the top-rated FOX News network from his puny perch in the domain of media obscurity.
That may be a bit hyperbolic, but Stelter is a ratings catastrophe even for a network that is sinking. In case you do not follow these things, CNN is hemorrhaging viewers – sinking to third place behind FOX (way behind) and MSNBC. When measured agains all cable networks, CNN’s primetime audience is in 17th place – and 31st place in the key mid-age demographic.
If Stelter was a journalist, he would bring on a broader range of guests – and ask the tough questions. But noooo. Stelter offers a friendly platform for his progressive partisan pals – and then asks questions that could have been submitted by the guests’ mothers.
He recently interviewed White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, and this is the level of the questioning: “What does the press get wrong when covering Biden’s agenda?” he asked sheepishly. WHAT? In that one inquiry, Stelter offers up an apologia – assuming that any bad coverage President Biden may receive is the fault of the press. Stelter clearly sees himself as a partisan of the political left with follow-up questions like, “What are WE doing wrong?” A high school newspaper reporter could have done better.
With this kind of performance, the new owner of CNN, David Zaslav, may have a lemon on his hand. (Well, he literally does, but that is for another commentary).
I have no inside information, but a gut feeling that CNN is in for a shake-up in the near future. They lost their prime-time Chris Cuomo. Don Lemon still has a court appearance ahead for sexual assault – unless he pays the big bucks to settle. The demotion of Alisyn Camerota has not proven beneficial to CNN’s morning show or the mid-afternoon program where Camerota landed after being replaced in the morning by Briana Keilar.
If there is such a shake up, the question is whether Zaslav will replace the talent with people of similar political disposition. If he does, it is not likely to improve the network’s ratings.
Arguably, the weakest link in the CNN daily line-up, however, is Brian Stelter. He has failed to reach the million-viewer mark for the past 11 weeks. I cannot imagine that Zaslav can afford to keep Stelter. He will not be missed.
So, there ‘tis.