Brian Stelter signed off in his final airing of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday with a message to the network and its viewers.
“I believe America needs CNN to be strong,” the CNN host said. “And they will continue to be, because all of us are going to help make that happen. The free world needs a reliable source.”
This Sunday’s show marks the final episode of the morning talk show that has been on the air since 1992, as Stelter exits CNN in a move announced Thursday.
After nine years as a host, Stelter reflected on his time at CNN, even thanking CEO Chris Licht, who reportedly wasn’t a fan of Stelter’s opinionated on-camera style, for the “unusual” opportunity to have a final show despite being canceled.
The CNN host put the responsibility for holding both CNN and the rest of the media industry accountable on audiences, since “we are all members of the media now.”
“But it’s going to be on you to hold CNN accountable,” he said to his viewers, “and not just CNN. You got to hold your local paper accountable, you got to hold your local digital outlet accountable. It’s on all of us. We are all members of the media, all helping to make it better.”
“This show’s going away but there’s gonna be so many more; we need to have room for media criticism and debate and discussion and we will,” Stelter said. “We also must make sure we are representing the full spectrum of debate and representing what’s going on in this country and in this world.”
Stelter also noted the ongoing importance and legacy of the program, calling it one of “CNN’s highest-rated weekend shows.”
“This small but mighty show punched above its weight for so many years — even a former president commented on its cancelation,” the CNN host said. “I was lucky to be a part of it for nine years but it began 30 years ago, right after the Gulf War.”
“The thing about TV is that it’s ephemeral. It’s fleeting. It evaporates up into the air and a lot of it is not even meant to be remembered,” Stelter said. “But this program transcended that,” noting that “Reliable Sources” has been increasingly used in journalism programs and classroom lessons.
The veteran journalist used his last hour of the show to focus on a familiar topic: the media industry. “This week, thanks to CNN management, we’ve been given the gift of signing off on our terms, and actually talking about the media industry,” he said.
During the hour, Stelter hosted a slew 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 beyond. Stelter’s last guest, Brian Karem, came full circle, as he was the show’s first guest ever.
While the show’s demise involved laying off the entire staff of “Reliable Sources,” the Reliable Sources newsletter will continue led by CNN’s senior media reporter Oliver Darcy. The news of Stelter’s exit from CNN comes under four months after Licht took over as head of the company.
“It was the gift of a lifetime to get to confront these issues on international television with the backing of CNN,” Stelter concluded.
You can watch a portion of his closing words in the clip at the top.