CNN's Brian Stelter on Monday plainly stated what many have long since observed much of the media morphing into — particularly in this age of Facebook journalism, reporters rushing to espouse their views on Twitter, and commentary increasingly becoming part of what was once hard news.
"What's the role of the press in this broken environment?" Stelter asked, looking straight into the camera. "In part, our role is to keep collecting facts, all the facts so citizens can make up their own minds. But I think it's also our role to stand up for decency and morality, especially if others won't."
"What's the role of the press in this broken environment?" @brianstelter asks. "In part, our role is to keep collec… https://t.co/rMjUrmmfp5— Reliable Sources (@Reliable Sources)1555951547.0
What else did Stelter say?
Stelter's "Reliable Sources" clip began with him telling his audience to pay attention to the "big lies" from President Donald Trump and his administration, particularly "no obstruction, no obstruction at all" in the wake of special prosecutor Robert Mueller's report — which indicated there wasn't enough evidence to say Trump colluded with Russia and that Mueller wouldn't exonerate or accuse Trump of obstructing justice.
But Stelter didn't see it that way: "The attempts to obstruct are screaming off the page," he said before adding that while there was "no conspiracy found in the Mueller report, but there's no integrity, either."
With that, Stelter launched into his media-as-moral-agents pronouncement.
'Journalists, after all, work with a code of ethics'
He added, "Journalists, after all, work with a code of ethics. We have — and we try to enforce — standards, and when we fall down on those standards, we try to learn from those mistakes."
Stelter then decried Trump attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for telling CNN's Chris Cuomo that "if we're gonna start making moral judgments about everybody in public office, we'll have nobody in public office."
"We can do better than that. And journalists can help lead the way by talking about morality and ethics," Stelter said before letting out a dramatic sigh and then adding "if the people in charge aren't."
What was the reaction to Stelter's statements?
Apart from the legion of examples of the mainstream media, particularly CNN, being accused of not covering the news fairly — with the Mueller investigation at the top of the list for the moment — a number of Twitter users took issue with Stelter's declaration that the press should assume the role of "decency and morality" watchdogs:
- "No. Don't try to be a moral agent. Report facts, then sit down & shut your mouth. Media & politicians have a messiah complex. Neither of you are that important. Just do your work & do it well and then hush your hole."
- "... the media's job is to 'report' the facts, which you fake news networks do not. You are only a propagandist not a journalist."
- "Quick question: what is morality and how it is established?"
- "Unbelievable. You mean it's your job to tell people what to think? The arrogance! This is the problem. That's exactly what the media is NOT supposed to do. They're supposed to be completely impartial."
- "Why do you keep harping on the fact that no [one] trusts you. Get it together and start telling people facts not conjecture, and maybe we'll start to trust you again."
- "The problem with your statement is that the media very rarely reports just the facts. You guys always add your opinions and most of the time make stuff up to fit your narrative. What happened to who what where when and why?"