The Mirror

Memo To Mediaite: Please Stop Sucking Up To CNN’s Brian Stelter

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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In the past year, Mediaite, a news organization closely tracked by TV execs, has sucked up to CNN’s “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter way more than any TV journalist deserves.

And it’s certainly not his ratings that are giving him the boost. It’s just Evan McMurry, who apparently has a huge hard-on for the balding, awkward TV host that replaced Howard Kurtz last year after an exhausting revolving door of journalists all vying for the job, many of whom were far less strange than Stelter with his weird, wide-lipped teeth smile.

Over the weekend, McMurry reported on a cringeworthy holiday episode in which CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield completely lost her mind because Stelter’s mom, “Donna,” waltzed into a really terrible live shot Stelter did by Skype from his mother’s living room in Damascus, Maryland. Mediaite‘s headline is ridiculous: “CNN Made Brian Stelter Report From His Mom’s House.”


Oh, the network made him?

I hardly think CNN President Jeff Zucker needed to coax him out of his Twitter shell and onto national TV. Stelter smiled and donned an unremarkable Christmas sweater as he pressed on about the movie “The Interview.” “IS THAT DONNA?” Banfield asked, quasi-losing her mind at the sight of Stelter’s mother, followed by dumb questions about the sweater. Yes, Ashleigh, it’s Donna and please stop your mindless enthusiasm because none of this makes for good TV.

But just for the hell of it, because hey, maybe Stelter really is the best thing since MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow, we checked into the Nielsen ratings. As McMurry said recently in his smoochfest of a story about Stelter, he’s the “smartest new host on television,” and this was not based on ratings. Rather, it was just based on the bulge in McMurry’s brain activity whenever Stelter appears on the screen.

Earlier this month, Stelter celebrated one year at CNN. Since launching, Reliable Sources has averaged 458,000 in total viewers and 126,000 in the coveted 25-54 demo. This is actually down 10 percent since 2013.

During the same time period, FNC’s MediaBuzz, hosted by Kurtz, the former host of Reliable Sources, more than doubled Reliable Sources in total viewers (918,000) and far surpassed the show in the A25-54 demo (212,000).  In fact, MediaBuzz has a 100 percent advantage over Reliable Sources in total viewers and a 68 percent advantage in the demo.  Further, out of the 52 weeks that Kurtz and Stelter have gone head-to-head, Howie has beaten him 100 percent of the time in total viewers and 92 percent of the time in A25-54.

Asked why he’s so gushy about Stelter, McMurry told The Mirror, “I watch all the Sunday shows every week (lucky me) and after a few months I noticed that the most compelling and least predictable discussions were regularly occurring on Reliable Sources. I thought this was notable given that Stelter was relatively new to television; perhaps he knew something his competitors didn’t? Ratings are obviously relevant, but I find them a poor measurement of quality — and, honestly, not that interesting.”

Interesting or not, they are the business model of the entire TV industry. Even the so-called king of all media Howard Stern thinks Kurtz has a good show.  “I watch it all the time,” he once said on his show. “I’m a big Howie Kurtz fan.”

Please, McMurry, stop acting like Stelter in a Christmas sweater in his mother’s living room is so interesting or that he’s the smartest person on anyone’s TV screen. There are smart TV journalists out there who have a cleaner, practiced presence and a face beyond Twitter — please find them.