Mediaite columnist Joe Concha wrote a very thoughtful piece over the weekend about what Reliable Sources has evolved (devolved?) into… and it’s what he called “CNN’s version of [former MSNBC host] Olbermann’s non-stop Fox bashing.”
There are other examples from the past ten weeks, but you get the point: Reliable Sources is now a program that is essentially a mix of Olbermann’s old Worst Persons segment and The Daily Show in terms of consistent focus on Fox News. Almost every Sunday morning, the viewer can count on the host sitting down with someone who has a gripe with the network for an in-depth discussion.
But is the strategy paying off?
Well, since the 29-year-old Stelter took over in late 2013, the program has beaten Fox’s Media Buzz with Howard Kurtz twice in approximately 65 tries (“approximately” because Reliable has been partially or totally pre-empted for breaking news a few times). And before you say Fox always beats CNN, think again: CNN often beats Fox on Sundays as a whole, yet Reliable‘s numbers continue to show no signs of improvement.
Yes, Brian Stelter’s Sunday show recently hit a year low, losing out to Fox’s Howard Kurtz and HLN’s Lynn Berry. And, as I’ve written about in the past, Brian Stelter juggles an interesting role at CNN: straight media reporter and critic, without acknowledging the latter.
Concha ends his piece with the following:
But if he wants this run to continue, it might be time to start to rethink what Reliable Sources is: A program that breaks down big media stories and issues of the day? Or one that engages in inter-network food fights every Sunday morning few outside the bubble care about?
Spud of InsideCableNews offers up this:
Being a fellow nuts and boltser I can see why Stelter does focus in on big stories involving “the competition”. Concha is focussing only on the “what” part, not the “why” part. So we get stories like this one where Concha writes about all the bad FNC stories out there being reported on Reliable Sources. I’m still waiting for Concha to pen a piece on all the bad MSNBC stories out there being reported on Media Buzz, but whatever.
Spud goes on to justify (for the most part) the legitimacy of Brian’s guests, and many of his arguments have merits.
But something I think both Concha and Spud are overlooking is the simple question: is it not natural to try to tear down the leader?
Fox News is, by far, ahead of CNN, MSNBC, and HLN. Isn’t it completely normal to try to take swipes at the leader, if only to one day topple them? After all, it’s all a competition as to who can be the #1 in news – just ask Fox, who regularly runs commercials about their ratings win. MSNBC primetime hosts have been going after Bill O’Reilly for his own “Brian Williams moment.”
It’s only natural for CNN to do the same… Just like Fox or MSNBC would do, if the roles were reversed.
In rebuttal to Concha’s aforementioned remarks, Spud wrote:
News flash: You can make the point that few outside the bubble care about any media navel gazing, inter-network or otherwise. What I don’t like is conflating genuine media stories with inter-network food fights.
And I end with… Few outside the so-called “bubble” watch Media Buzz or Reliable Sources to begin with… so give them what they want: “food fights.”