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CNN finds Brian Stelter unreliable for future of network

Former CNN media columnist and "Reliable Sources" host Brian Stelter.
Former CNN media columnist and “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter. (Still frame courtesy CNN/Warner Bros Discovery, Graphic by The Desk)

One of the top media columnists in cable news is leaving after his commentary and analysis show was abruptly cancelled by network brass this week.

On Thursday, multiple news sources revealed Brian Stelter will depart CNN after the network’s new chairman and president Chris Licht informed him and his staff that the three-decades long “Reliable Sources” show he hosted was being cancelled.

The cancellation is part of a broader shift away from punditry and opinion programming at CNN that Licth feels is not in line with a hard news-oriented product — one where facts and reliable reporting is in the driver’s seat.

Stelter was hired by former CNN president Jeffrey Zucker in 2013 to host “Reliable Sources” after long-time presenter Howard Kurtz left for the Fox News Channel. Prior to working at CNN, Stelter was a media columnist for the New York Times newspaper.

At CNN, Stelter was known for his no-holds-barred approach to media punditry regarding competing news outlets and others in the journalism space. But that mission often didn’t apply to Stelter’s reporting on CNN: He acknowledged his show was slow to report on the ongoing conflict-of-interest scandal that brought down Chris Cuomo. He also served as a hype man for CNN Plus, a streaming service that existed for less than a month before CNN’s parent company Warner Bros Discovery pulled the plug.

“It’s too early to say whether this product was a success or a failure,” Stelter claimed during an interview. (Data released by numerous third party analytics firms showed it was well behind many of its peers in customer adoption.)

On Thursday, a CNN spokesperson said the cancellation of Reliable Sources was part of a refresh of the network’s Sunday morning and afternoon line-up — one that will see former Fox News anchor Chris Wallace relaunch his CNN Plus interview program interspersed with facts-forward breaking news journalism.

Oliver Darcy, a former political editor for Business Insider and media columnist for Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, will oversee publication of a daily media-focused newsletter that Stelter once headed. The two have worked closely together since Darcy joined CNN in 2017.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).