Brian Stelter Leaving CNN as ‘Reliable Sources’ Is Canceled Amid Warner Bros. Discovery Shakeups

Brian Stelter has been a fixture on CNN for nine years, and now that tenure is at an end. The media reporter confirmed on his Twitter feed that his show “Reliable Sources,” the last of its kind on cable news, is coming to an end, and with it his own exit from the network.

Puck’s Dylan Byers, himself a former media reporter alongside Stelter at CNN, reports that Stelter was summoned to new CNN chief Chris Licht’s office on Wednesday “looking ashen.” The final episode of “Reliable Sources” will be this Sunday, August 21.

“Reliable Sources” is the longest-running show in CNN’s history. It debuted in 1992, hosted by Bernard Kalb, and then was taken over by Howard Kurtz for 15 years until he left to launch a similar show on FoxNews in 2013 called “Media Buzz.” The CNN show was unique in the television landscape: an hour-long weekly program analyzing not the “what” of news but the “how” of news — how journalists cover and frame stories and how those framings can shape our understanding of the facts. It routinely called out FoxNews and other right-wing media for presenting facts to fit preordained narratives, with Stelter himself becoming a bogeyman to the right.

Think of the now-defunct “public editor” role at The New York Times. That was what “Reliable Sources” was, and the show frequently even held CNN itself accountable: Stelter used it as a platform to ask hard questions about Jeff Zucker’s departure and about Chris Cuomo and the conflicts of interest that led to his departure from the network. The former is all the more notable because it’s believed Stelter was a darling of Zucker’s.

Stelter’s newsletter became ubiquitous in media circles, widely regarded as a must-read temperature check on the health of the industry. It continued its clear-eyed analysis of the Warner Bros. Discovery merger and its transformative impact upon CNN, which, less than 30 days after the launch of the new regime of WBD CEO David Zaslav and just-installed CNN boss Chris Licht, resulted in the streaming service CNN+ being canned.

A graduate of Towson University, Stelter became one of the best-known media reporters of the past 15 years. While still in college, he launched his own website devoted to covering media issues, TVNewser, which he sold to MediaBistro upon getting a job as a media reporter right out of school with The New York Times. Fans of the Times documentary “Page One” remember well what a presence he is in that documentary, clearly being teed up as the next generation’s David Carr.

When he joined CNN as “Reliable Sources” host at age 28, he also appeared all over the network covering media and entertainment stories whenever needed, sometimes at outrageous hours of the day: His on-air presence for the late-night coverage of David Bowie’s death in January 2016 showed his range and ability to present complicated news narratives quickly and competently. CNN has since beefed up its on-air entertainment reporting with the hiring of Chloe Melas, but Stelter could be reliably called upon to comment on air about virtually anything at any time. His demeanor for CNN was of substance more than style, but his was a clearly well-honed TV presence with skills most journalists who came up on the digital side like he did would kill to have.

No word yet on Stelter’s next plans.

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