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Brian Stelter Signs Off With Skepticism for CNNs New Mandate

Outgoing CNN anchor Brian Stelter began the ultimate bout of his Sunday show, Reliable Sources, by suggesting the gloves were off. Nobody from CNN management has reviewed my script in advance. They will have no idea what Im gonna say, he said near the top of the episode, a swan song that Stelter had hyped ever since the news headlines broke the other day that CNN had made a decision to cancel the 30-year-old media affairs showits longest-running programand that Stelter, the business man whod hosted it for days gone by nine years, will be departing the network consequently. As Columbia Journalism Review‘s Jon Allsop noted, at points, it had been unclear whether Stelter himself knew why his show had been axedeven, throughout a panel discussion, asking one of is own guests, Insider media correspondent Claire Atkinson, if she had any intel on the problem. Ultimately, Stelter’s sign off was sentimental and thankful for the opportunities CNN (and its own former leader, Jeff Zucker) afforded him. But he did close using what were somewhat veiled criticism of the business’s new corporate overlords, namely of CNNs new leader Chris Licht‘s mandate to help make the outlet more neutral: It isn’t partisan to operate for decency and democracy and dialogue. Its not partisan to endure demagogues. Its required. Its patriotic, he said, adding I really believe America needs CNN to be strong.

For individuals who havent followed the reporting around Stelters departure and, more broadly, CNN’s new leadership, this might sounds like an over-all touch upon the role of the press today. But Stelter’s comment assumes new meaning with speculation that John Malonethe billionaire media mogul and key shareholder in Warner Bros. Discovery (CNNs parent company) who has suggested he wants CNN to be less liberalplayed a job in Stelters ouster. Within an email to the NY Times, Malone said he previously nothing in connection with the cancellation of Reliable Sources, though added he wants the news headlines part of CNN to become more centrist, but I’m not in charge or directly involved. Malone doubled down on that stance within an interviewpublished exactly the same day as Stelters final showwith the Times Ben Mullin, where the 81-year-old libertarian cable magnate discussed the necessity for news channels, including CNN, to raised distinguish between news and opinion programming. He pointed to Fox News host Bret Baier as his ideal anchor. Puck on Monday framed Stelter’s departure being an apparent blood sacrifice.

Its not the very first time Malone has cited Baier, who shows hook willingness to rebel against Donald Trump, and Fox News in his vision for CNN. As a CNN employee told Voxs Peter Kafka the other day, John Malone doesnt watch CNN. John Malone only watches CNN via Fox News. EASILY watched CNN via Fox News, I’d hate CNN too. Back February, Stelter himself questioned what Malone criticizing CNN for an excessive amount of advocacy, an excessive amount of commentary, inadequate reporting from the planet designed for the future of the network. According to Deadline, Licht only bolstered anxiety inside CNN on Friday when, at Fridays editorial meeting, he said more changes are along the way. You will see moves you might not trust or understand, CNNs chairman and CEO said.

CNN pushed back contrary to the proven fact that Malone factored in to the decision, instead framing Stelters departure to the Times within a reimagining of the networks Sunday lineup. Notably, that lineup will include an interview show helmed by veteran Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who left a gaping hole in Foxs news division as he departed for CNN+. (Wallaces interview show was originally scheduled to air on Sundays, before much-hyped streaming service became the initial victim of the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger weeks following its launch.) Stelter, too, had a show on CNN+Reliable Sources Daily, a weekday edition of the Sunday show. We’ve been building upon the Reliable television brand with newsletters and podcasts recently, and today Reliable Sources Daily may be the ultimate expansion, Stelter said at that time.

That has been in February. Half a year later, appearing for the ultimate time on his Sunday show, at the very least a hint of bemusement cut through his typical sunny demeanor, Allsop wrote.

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