And now some news about the news program that covers the news.
“Reliable Sources,” the media-news program that has been on CNN since 1993, is the latest piece of content to go on the chopping block under the cost-cutting regime of Warner Bros. Discovery. The show, which has evolved from a dusty public affairs program in its earliest days to a lean-forward show that often took on Fox News and President Donald Trump under former CNN chief Jeff Zucker, will broadcast its last episode on Sunday, August 21. Its anchor, Brian Stelter, will leave the company.
“We appreciate his contributions to the network and wish him well as he embarks on new endeavors,” CNN said in a statement. Stelter is said to be just a year or so into a four-year contract, according to a person familiar with the matter, and is expected to be paid out for the rest of this term. He isn’t the only CNN regular parting ways. CNN cut ties with legal affairs analyst Jeffrey Toobin, last week.
Stelter, who joined CNN from The New York Times in 2013, expanded the show with a six-days-a-week newsletter, and, for a brief time, a companion program on the now-scuttled streaming outlet CNN+. He also came for many to symbolize CNN during Zucker’s tenure, when the network cast off its image as a vanilla purveyor of down-the-middle news and allowed its anchors to show more passion and feeling about the subjects they covered. Stelter, author of “Hoax!,” a book that examines the inner workings and journalistic processes of Fox News Channel, often aimed “Reliable Sources” at topics such as disinformation and media polarization.
Chris Licht, the former CBS executive who has taken the reins of CNN, has articulated a plan to return the network to its news bona fides. But he does so as CNN’s parent, Warner Bros. Discovery, is looking to cut $3 billion worth of costs and is struggling with a massive debt load incurred as the result of acquiring WarnerMedia, CNN’s former corporate overseer, from AT&T. The company has eliminated programs like Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal,” jettisoned a soon-to-debut “Batgirl” movie, and enacted layoffs at its ad-sales unit as well as HBO Max.
Licht has already indicated he plans to retool CNN’s Sunday schedule with a block of programming that includes a new show led by Chris Wallace as well as a newsmagazine focused on enterprise and feature reporting. He is also working on plans to revamp “New Day,” CNN’s morning show. Viewers of CNN’s recent programming will no doubt have noticed some tinkering. The network’s 9 p.m. hour has become home to a panel of guests led by CNN anchors like Sara Sidner, Laura Coates and Alisyn Camerota. The routine swapping of the anchors suggests CNN is trying out different combinations of on-air personnel to see what plays best. CNN last weekend had Brianna Keilar, who currently co-anchors “New Day,” host Sunday mainstay “State of the Union.”
“Reliable Sources” has in recent weeks won the most viewership among audiences between 25 and 54 — the audience most coveted by advertisers in news programming — on CNN’s Sunday daytime schedule. It regularly beats its time slot rival at MSNBC. But the show has been outmatched by Fox News Channel’s “MediaBuzz,” led Howard Kurtz, who anchored “Reliable Sources” before Stelter started his tenure.
“I’m grateful for my nine years with CNN, proud of what we accomplished on Reliable Sources and so thankful for the viewers who tuned in every week for our examination of the media, truth and the stories that shape our world,” Stelter said in a statement. “It was a rare privilege to lead a weekly show focused on the press at a time when it has never been more consequential.” He indicated he would have more to say on Sunday, when the last broadcast of “Reliable Sources” takes place.