Brian Stelter, the senior media correspondent for CNN and host of “Reliable Sources,” discussed journalism in an era of misinformation at a talk on Wednesday afternoon. The event drew about 20 students, community members and visitors, including Rebecca Schneid, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who appeared last week on “Reliable Sources” to talk about the March for Our Lives.

“[The rise of fake news] is such a great opportunity for journalists and reporters in newsrooms to take on this task of sorting out what’s fact and what’s fiction,” Stelter said during the talk. “In an age where everything is a source and everybody is a source, the question for journalists is: What is reliable?”

Since he joined CNN in 2013, Stelter said, the biggest change to journalism has been the rise of misinformation, which he said is “polluting our media ecosystem.”

Stelter, whose show scrutinizes each week’s top news stories, dissected the phenomenon of “fake news,” describing it as a spectrum that ranges from misinformation — false, intentionally harmful reporting — to “malinformation,” which is accurate information contorted to confuse, deflect or deny reality.

Stelter also discussed whether journalism is a form of activism, a debate that arose from his interview with Schneid on Sunday. During the interview, Schneid, who is also the co-editor-in-chief for Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s newspaper, argued that the act of elevating the voices of certain people through journalism is an inherent form of activism. Schneid attended Wednesday’s talk while at Yale for a college visit.

In an interview after the event, Schneid said she identifies as both a journalist and activist in the wake of the recent mass shooting at her high school, as she covers the March for Our Lives movement for her school newspaper and advocates gun reform alongside her classmates.

“For any journalist, when you cover a tragedy, you have to compartmentalize and cover it, and you also have to deal with your own emotions,” Schneid said. “And for me, that’s tenfold: … It’s a lot of trying to find a balance between being a survivor and being a journalist and also someone who’s trying to fight for change at the same time.”

Asked about the false accusations proliferating in far-right media that Stoneman Douglas students are paid actors, Schneid said she mostly finds the conspiracies “funny.”

“If the only thing that they can criticize us about is our age or that we’re crisis actors, obviously we’re doing something right,” she said. “They can’t find any fault in our argument. We find all that funny to us because it just means they’re threatened by us and that means they know they’re doing something wrong.”

Still, Schneid stressed that disrespectful comments about the shooting and victims’ families are deeply upsetting.

During the talk, Stelter admitted that he is concerned about the issue of fake news worsening in the future but said that its rise has also increased interest in media coverage and the work of journalists.

“[President Donald] Trump has provoked some very basic questions about journalism, and I thank him for that,” Stelter said. “It’s a gift that he’s given journalists the chance to challenge our biases and to explain ourselves.”

While he acknowledged that fact-checking Trump often puts anchors and journalists in an “adversarial position,” Stelter said that he aims to strike a decent tone in his work and avoid seeming smug or overly combative. He added, however, that he believes “shaming and naming” propagators of misinformation is also a way to counter the spread of fake news.

Ruchira Rya ’21, who attended Tuesday’s event, said she was drawn to the talk because she regularly watches “Reliable Sources” on TV. She added that she appreciated how Stelter made distinctions between different types of misinformation.

“Reliable Sources” airs every Sunday at 11 a.m. EST.

Alice Park |

  • td2016

    Exquisite! CNN is a leading and prolific source of fake news. And the message the network has hammered on since the Stoneman shooting is one of the more amusing fake news efforts of the last several years, at least: That these not very well informed, self-important, manipulated, inarticulate Stoneman students are actually brimming with wisdom and can’t be contradicted, and the March for Our Lives has something meaningful to say, rather than being an inflated political gimmick that Planned Parenthood, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Move On, the Women’s March, the American Federation of Teachers and other banal leftist groups were involved in promoting, organizing, and funding. Exquisite!

    CNN and its ilk have consistently implied that the March for Our Lives is a spontaneous teenage movement, suckering even retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens into penning an embarrassing op-ed in which he wrote “rarely in my lifetime have I seen the type of civic engagement schoolchildren and their supporters demonstrated in Washington and other major cities throughout the country this past Saturday.”

    But only 10% of the March for Our Lives participants were teens. According to the Washington Post, for those over the age of 18, the average age was 49.

    From WaPo: only about 10% of March for Our Lives protesters were younger than 18. For those older than 18, the average age was 49.

    — Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) March 28, 2018

    The Washington Post reports:

    However, the young faces of the advocates have created an assumption that “youth” and “students” are the core of the movement. My research tells a different story about who participated in the March for Our Lives — and it is more complicated and less well-packaged for prime time.

    . . . . Like other resistance protests, and like previous gun-control marches, the March for Our Lives was mostly women. Whereas the 2017 Women’s March was 85 percent women, the March for Our Lives was 70 percent women. Further, participants were highly educated; 72 percent had a BA or higher.

    One really has to admire how people like Stelter are able to keep a straight face during events such as this one.

    I ❤️ it!

    • Ralphiec88

      Your post (other than the quotes of others) is long on opinions and straw men, short on data. CNN certainly has more of an editorial line than it used to, but it is not even close to a “leading purveyor of fake news” in a world where conspiracy grinders like Infowars are treated by the White House as legitimate outfits, false claims about Parkland students rocketed through the right wing media industrial complex, and FOX has gone from the biggest critic of the presidency to the president’s personal Pravda.
      Also it should not come as a surprise that the protests in Washington attracted more than just students, or that they got help organizing a protest so massive. What strikes fear in the hearts of many politicians is that taking that 10% number at face value, 200,000 young people who will soon become voters took the time to go to Washington to participate. It’s the first significant challenge to those who believed that what’s good for the NRA is good for their political fortunes.

      • td2016

        Lots of left wing sloganeering in there, Ralphie, not much in the wsy of supported facts.

        • Ralphiec88

          Give me a break. It’s not “sloganeering” just because you don’t like it. And I used the numbers in the article you cited or support.

          • td2016

            Well, you can cling to your drivel and intllevtual dishonesty if you like, but the great majority of Americans have clearer eyes and heads, and beg to differ, Ralphie. According to a new survey by the Monmouth University Polling Institute, the vast majority of Americans believe that mainstream media outlets report lots of “fake news.”

            A whopping 77 percent of over 800 respondents relayed their distrust for major news organizations in both television and print — a marked increase from the 63 percent that was already skeptical a year ago. Of those, 31 percent believe it to be a regular occurrence, while 46 percent see it as a more occasional issue. If you choose to believe that CNN is not among the worst mainstream media offenders, then which mainstream media outlets are worse than CNN?

            Suspicion is not divided along party lines, though differences still exist. While Republicans are most convinced of the media’s impure intentions, with a pervasive 89 percent distrusting mainstream news networks, Democrats are now 61 percent in agreement, up double digits from just 43 percent a year ago. Those not affiliated with either party maintain a healthy skepticism of their own. Last year, 66 percent of independent voters already distrusted the media. This year, it has risen to 82 percent.

            The definition of what constitutes “fake news” varies.

          • Ralphiec88

            Moving the goalposts again? “Leading purveyor” proved untenable, so in two posts you’ve walked that back to a point few would argue with. Now if you could just dial back the sprinklings of insults to total strangers and the self congratulatory talk, you’d be getting somewhere.

          • td2016

            Once again, you serve self serving nonsense.

            We now know that the overwhelming number of Americans know that the mainstream media report a great deal of fake news.

            CNN is part of the mainstream media.

            You evade stating that no mainstream media outlet is worse than CNN.

            So CNN is a major purveyor of fake news.


            CNN is the market leader.

            CONGRATULATIONS! You are there without even knowing you arrived, clown!

      • td2016

        CNN is not a major purveyor of fake news? You have a very convenient memory. Consider, just in the year 2017:

        CNN ran a story on June 6 that claimed former FBI Director James Comey would use his testimony the next day to refute President Donald Trump’s claim that Comey had assured him three separate times that he was not under FBI investigation. That story was debunked the same day.

        Later that month, published, deleted, and then retracted and apologized for an article that claimed Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci was the subject of a Senate investigation for his ties to Russian bankers. After an intense public backlash, three key members of CNN’s investigative team resigned over their role in the retracted story.

        CNN was one of several establishment media outlets to spread fake news about a new study on Russian influence efforts in the United States. CNN cited the study, from the Oxford Internet Institute, to show that fake news targeted swing states during election week. But the study didn’t show that, as The Daily Caller first reported. The study focused on “junk news,” not “fake news.”

        While CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer discussed the so-called “Russian dossier,” the chyron on his show indicated that a Republican donor had initially funded the dossier. That is incorrect. The opposition research firm behind the dossier, Fusion GPS, had contracted with Republican donor Paul Singer for research on candidates including Trump, but that was unrelated to the controversial dossier.

        During President Trump’s visit to Japan last month, CNN reported that Trump committed a faux pas while feeding Japanese koi fish by impatiently pouring out his entire box of fish food. CNN zoomed in close on Trump while he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were feeding the fish, appearing to show the president making the embarrassing mistake. The full video, however, showed that Trump followed Abe’s lead and only dumped out his box of fish food after his host had done the same.

        In the second false narrative that CNN spread during Trump’s Japan visit, the network took the president’s words out of context to make him appear ignorant of the fact that Japan makes cars in the United States. “Trump asks Japan to build cars in the U.S. It already does,” CNN Money’s Daniel Shane wrote. Trump’s full remarks clearly showed that Trump was aware of the fact that Japan makes cars in the U.S. His remark, which CNN took seriously, was a joke.

        CNN reported that Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump campaign had received advanced access to stolen emails published by WikiLeaks. The network hyped the story as a bombshell for most of the day before. The story was totally inaccurate and full of obvious red flags.

        One could go on. And on!

        And it’s not just my view. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article in The Hill by Jeffrey McCall, a professor of communication at DePauw University:

        “There might well be journalism to be had in the sagas of McDougal and Daniels, but CNN has found little of it. … CNN’s warped obsession with reporting about supposed adultery demonstrates a larger problem at the once-proud and groundbreaking channel. CNN’s focus is not on news, but on distracting itself and the nation’s news consumers with peripheral and sensation gibberish that fails to enhance the national dialogue. ….

        “CNN … likes to suggest it is on the objective, high road… News consumers who are political moderates or right-leaning, however, have a hard time buying it. … CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta is working hard to be the Trump administration’s harshest antagonist. CNN provided massive airtime and follow-up analysis to former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg in early March. Almost three-fourths of CNN’s time over an eight hour period focused on Nunberg, who has since drifted into insignificance…..

        “The nation could benefit from the CNN of yesteryear. Real news with real journalists running the show.”

        So the CNN of yesteryear once offered real news. But not now. What does one call news that is NOT real news, Ralphie?

        • Ralphiec88

          For almost any source, one can certainly find examples of errors, reporting news that is true but later found to have more to the story (e.g. the dossier was funded by both sides) and jumping the gun on fact checking. That is unfortunate whenever it happens. But in an environment where some outlets simply don’t care about facts and others are relentlessly flacking the president and his agenda, you seem to be very selective in your condemnation.