CNN’s Brian Stelter looked especially bald on Sunday and perhaps sounded that way too.
What does that even mean?
It means the once physically inflated journalist — who set up a Twitter account just to monitor his calories during his dramatic 90-pound weight loss — gave a concluding speech on his “Reliable Sources” program that was thin on humility and fat with condescension. It sounded in the vein of the far more seasoned MSNBC’s Chris Matthews or even FNC’s Bill O’Reilly but without the wrinkles, bluster or dyed blond-gray hair required to pull off such a preachy sendoff. Matthews and O’Reilly are opinion journalists. They are meant to do this. Stelter is supposed to be hosting a news program.
While both the Matthews and O’Reilly memos tend to be grating, getting preached to by Rev. Stelter, who has been in the business a fraction of the time of TV personalities who routinely put on their religious robes, is, at best, vomitous.
Stelter’s wise words, on a Sunday no less, came when commenting on President Obama‘s speech at the Toner Prize award ceremony last week in Washington to honor the late NYT national political correspondent Robin Toner. Obama proselytized that journalism was more than a quick hit or a Twitter feed and ought to be a deeper endeavor than it is.
Rev. Stelter enthusiastically agreed. He just didn’t like the messenger. He much prefers himself.
“Many journalists are digging deeper every day, are demanding more and no, Obama is not the best messenger on this,” he said, echoing some of Obama’s words. “But had I said the exact same words, wouldn’t you be nodding your heads in agreement?” (He said, nodding his head in agreement with himself.)
“Journalism is not just about handing the microphone over. It’s what you do with the mic.”
CLAP. CLAP. CLAP. CLAP. CLAP.
“So fucking dumb,” a Washington journalist texted over the weekend. “I cringe even thinking about it. Wow – so deep. Thank God Stelter is telling it like it is. Every real journalist should pay attention to that advice. He gives America the cold truth about what journalism means and should be.”
My media observer wondered about Rev. Stelter’s words.
“Literally what the fuck does that even mean?” the source asked.
Being the religious expert I am, I tried to translate. (A literal translation is difficult, as it isn’t clear who is doing the handing and who is doing the doing.)
Many journalists (well, some) are digging deep and no, Stelter is not the best messenger on this. If he had stopped at the audacity of Obama lecturing journalists on the topic of digging deep when he gave an involved interview to a woman who eats Fruit Loops in a bathtub, that might have been fine. But Rev. Stelter could not stop himself.
Some seasoned sources in the journalist industry strongly disagree with my assessment of the host’s preaching skills.
Alberto Ibarguen is President and CEO of the Knight Foundation in Miami and former publisher of The Miami Herald.
Jeff Jarvis is a blogger and a J-school prof at the City University of New York’s graduate program.
Media journalists are especially disliked by the people they cover unless you’re writing something gooey and complimentary, which happens.
Sorry, Rev. Stelter. This won’t be one of those times.