“America needs CNN to be strong”

Brian Stelter signed off his final broadcast of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday with a message to CNN.

“I think America needs CNN to be strong,” the CNN anchor said. “And they will continue to be, because all of us will help make this happen. The free world needs a reliable source.”

This Sunday’s broadcast marks the final episode of the morning talk show as Stelter departs CNN in a move announced Thursday.

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After nine years as host, Stelter reflected on his time at CNN, even thanking CEO Chris Licht, who reportedly wasn’t a fan of Stelter’s on-camera style, for the “unusual” opportunity to have one last show despite the fact that it was cancelled.

The CNN host put the onus to hold both CNN and the rest of the media industry accountable to the public, since “we’re all members of the media now.”

“But it’s going to be up to you to hold CNN accountable,” he said, “and not just CNN, you’ve got to hold your local paper accountable, you’ve got to hold your local digital outlet accountable. It is in all of us. We are all members of the media, we all help make it better.”

“This show is going, but there will be many more. We need to have a space for media criticism and debate and discussion and we will,” Stelter said. “We also need to make sure that we’re representing the full spectrum of the conversation and that we’re representing what’s going on in this country and in this world.”

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At the start of the hour, Stelter opened the show by noting the program’s continued importance and legacy, calling it one of “CNN’s highest-rated weekends.”

“This small but mighty show punched above its weight for so many years — even a former president commented on its cancellation,” the CNN anchor said. “I was lucky to be a part of it for nine years, but it started 30 years ago, right after the Gulf War.”

“The thing about television is that it’s ephemeral. It is fleeting. It evaporates into thin air and a lot of it is not even going to be remembered,” Stelter said. “But this program surpassed that,” noting that “Reliable Sources” is increasingly being used in journalism programs and classroom courses.

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The veteran journalist used the last hour of his show to focus on a familiar topic: the media industry. “This week, thanks to CNN management, we’ve been given the gift of signing our terms and actually speaking for the media industry,” he said.

During the hour, Stelter hosted an array of journalists and news experts, including Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, NPR’s Eric Deggans and Insider’s Claire Atkinson, who discussed the state of journalism in the current political landscape and not only. Stelter’s last guest, Brian Karem, came full circle, having been the first guest hosted by the show in 1992.

While the doom of the show is involved layoffs entire “Reliable Sources” staff, the Reliable Sources newsletter will continue under the leadership of CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy. News of Stelter’s departure from CNN comes less than four months after Licht took over as head of the company.

“It was the gift of a lifetime to address these issues on international television with the support of CNN,” concluded Stelter.

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