September 30, 2013

CNN’s “Reliable Sources” has a history of covering the media scandals of the week, even when CNN finds itself in the middle of them. Yesterday, guest host Brian Stelter of the New York Times continued the tradition, delivering an extended, nearly four-minute monologue on the brouhaha over conflict-of-interest disclosures on the recently re-launched CNN program “Crossfire.” According to a story advanced by Mother Jones and Media Matters for America, a superPAC with ties to co-host Newt Gingrich had given donations to “Crossfire” guest Sen. Rand Paul, among other possibly corrupting entanglements. Stephanie Cutter, another co-host, has been meeting with the White House even as she comments on the administration on the program. Yet CNN last week declared that the co-hosts weren’t required to disclose financial relationships on air, on the weak rationale that everyone already knows whether they’re conservative — Gingrich and co-host S.E. Cupp — or liberal — Van Jones and Cutter.

Stelter wasn’t having any of that: “You, the viewer, should know what Gingrich and Stephanie Cutter and S.E. Cupp and Van Jones are up to. Just like you should know what Sean Hannity is up to. CNN can do better than this,” said the guest host. Right he is. Yet the message from this segment transcends the particulars of the Gingrich-cash-”Crossfire” affair. It shows that CNN has the courage to promote criticism of itself on its own air, a rare — if not outright unavailable — commodity on other networks.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.