Brian Stelter's Meltdown Does a Disservice to Real Journalists

Brian Stelter

Local journalists, like many people, are facing extremely difficult times right now. Even newspapers owned and operated by major companies like Gannett are having to furlough or even lay-off workers in order to make up for lost ad revenue as local businesses have to close down temporarily (or for good). And that’s the newspapers that are fortunate enough to have the backing of a major company. Many outlets don’t have that.


For a local journalist, the job is taxing. Depending on the size of the community, you are fairly well-known. If it’s a small community, everyone knows who you are because you’re covering basically every beat. If it’s a city, you’re known for your coverage of your beat. People know when they see a headline who probably wrote it or who reported on it. Broadcast journalists are seen and heard every day. It’s impossible to not recognize them if you consume your local news.

These journalists, like you, are dealing with the complications of life during an era of this novel coronavirus. They are out there, covering stories about the disease and how it’s affecting pretty much every facet of our lives. Or, their beat is rendered obsolete as things like sports and cultural events simply don’t happen when everything is shut down. Day in and day out, they are facing not only the stresses of finding the stories and bringing them into the spotlight for you, but also wondering if that day of covering stories may be their last.

I know people, both journalists and non-journalists, who have faced life-altering adjustments because of the economic shutdown. I know many people who are either worried about losing their jobs or, worse, finding a new job. It is a tough time for everyone right now. Luckily, there is a plan in place to help re-open things, and the process that is set up appears to be a solid one that several states are already beginning to use to re-open.


It is impossible not to feel sympathy for people who are deeply affected by all this. You would have to be heartless not to.

It is also impossible, though, to ignore people who make this about themselves. Who want the attention and the spotlight back on them so they can go back to their normal. That brings me to CNN’s Brian Stelter.

I don’t really like calling people out by name, largely because they are either just an example of a larger problem that should be addressed or because they are simply clamoring for attention and they don’t really deserve it. But in this case, I can’t ignore the blatant spotlight hogging that was practiced this weekend by CNN’s Chief Fox News Critic.

Here he is, two days ago on Twitter.

On the face of it, this tweet is largely accurate. Friends are losing jobs, kids are missing school, senior citizens are being hugely impacted. Those are all true things and, as I said, only a heartless person would not feel those emotions during this crisis. But, in the second tweet, Stelter gives away the game. It’s not really about those people. It’s about the ones who matter most to him: The journalists.


I’ll be charitable and assume he’s talking about all journalists, but I routinely assume that anyone who  is national media only cares about national reporters, because they rarely give any real credit to the local journalists who do amazing work every day. But in bringing up “political rhetoric” and talking about journalists, you know that he’s talking about the press that President Donald Trump routinely attacks during his daily Airing of Grievances.

How many of those journalists are losing their jobs right now? How many hours has he lost because his employer has seen ad revenue drop? How much of that 7-8 figure salary is he losing, and how dire are the straits he is in right now because of it? Sorry, Brian, but you get paid to watch clips of Fox News and President Trump and critique them all day. You offer base-level commentary and no real substance to the world of journalism. You’re a glorified PR flack.

Many of these national reporters are doing the same thing now that they were doing before the COVID-19 pandemic. They don’t seem to have lost any work over this. Yes, journalists are “living this, hating this, like everyone else.” But when he sits in a studio, or even broadcasts from a laptop in his living room, he still has a job and is not in danger of losing it.


You know what the journalists who are furloughed or out of work are doing right now? They’re still working on stories for when they come back, or they’re looking for someone else who may be hiring. They’re working freelance, or homeschooling their kids, or any number of things that are meaningful to their lives.

They aren’t on Twitter telling 702,000 followers (not to mention the tens or even hundreds of thousands more who see his tweets through social media dissemination) that they are crying because everything looks so grim right now. That’s a luxury only journalists with job security can do. So, forgive me if I can’t take your meltdown seriously.


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