Brian Stelter still views the media as an essential part of the American democracy.
In an Oct. 19 Zoom lecture to Miami University students titled “The Role of American Democracy,” the Chief Media Correspondent for CNN talked about his career and the role of journalism in modern America.
Stelter emphasized the purpose of the news media should not be “tilted in one political direction,” or staffed with people “from only certain kinds of schools” or specific “races or ethnicities.”
“When the news media doesn’t reflect the diversity of the audience, then we fail that audience and we don’t serve the nation’s citizens,” Stelter said.
Sitting in the empty offices at CNN, Stelter read excerpts from two of his favorite books, “The News Media” by CW Anderson, Downie Jr, and Schudson and “Geeks Bearing Gifts: Imagining New Futures for News” by Jeff Jarvis. They were written before the Trump presidency and much of the current mainstream media being infamously labeled “fake news.”
Stelter talked about the freedom CNN provides him, valuing the autonomy he has regarding what he can say on the air or when interviewing certain politicians.
As part of a global media brand, he considers the Fox and CNN media organizations to have two different priorities.
“In many ways, we are different businesses,” he said. ”There are some overlaps, some similarities, but there are also a lot of differences. CNN is a massive newsgathering operation ... Fox News, on the other hand, is much more talk radio format, much more focused on opinion programming, and obviously skewed to the right.”
Throughout the lecture, Stelter cited “Geeks Bearing Gifts” and mentioned the role the public plays in the journalistic process, as they “know more” about certain topics than the journalists themselves.
Stelter said when there are researchers, scholars or people who are knowledgeable about a certain topic, “We can now help each other and make those connections [through news brands] so we are a part of the democracy.”
As the current media outlets were attacked by the “fake news” label, Stelter gave an example of how the phrase loses its meaning when emergencies occur.
Stelter said when tornado and hurricane warnings are broadcasted, most people flock to their local news and trust what they say, despite if they believe that all media is fake news.
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Stelter also talked about “The Morning Show,” the award-winning Apple TV+ drama series based on his book, “Top of the Morning.”
Stelter said he’s spoken to both Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, the stars of “The Morning Show,” and the second season has just begun filming after being pushed back because of COVID-19.
He hopes that “The Morning Show” will demystify journalism while still being entertaining.
Stelter recalled when going over plans for the second season with writers, that there was a disconnect between the expectation and reality of newsrooms.
“We don’t do a good enough job of telling people how we do what we do,” Stelter said, “[Or] of telling people the processes that are put in place before we report a story, especially a really sensitive story.”
Stelter also addressed the ongoing preparations of CNN’s election night reporting.
“Rehearsals, run-throughs and conversations are already on their way,” Stelter said.
No matter who wins the election, Stelter said, the media will respond in the same way regardless of the president-elect’s political party.
At the end of his lecture, Stelter was asked what advice he would give to future journalists or people considering the profession.
“This is the best possible time to become a journalist,” he said. “Start today, make a Youtube video … interview a person. Everybody can just go ahead and do it.”