New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter was the guest host for today's "Reliable Sources" on CNN, the media watchdog show which has been missing a host since Howard Kurtz curtsied his way to Fox News to host their media watchdog show. Saying that his stint was phenomenal would be an understatement.
What Was So Phenomenal About It?
Stelter was able to incorporate many different elements to this guest hosting stint which many other guest hosts hadn't done. He was able to get an interview with journalists covering the turmoil in Yemen via Skype, he got some of his fellow colleagues (including David Carr) in the industry to weigh in on conversation via video selfies sent in and throughout the week, he has taken his viewers behind the scenes of his journey (practice reading the teleprompter, meeting with producers etc.) via Instagram and Twitter and solicited viewer suggestions of what to talk about.
But the most impressive thing about this whole experiment was that he was able to live-tweet the show which he was hosting on his account. Well actually, he wasn't the one "live-tweeting".....his girlfriend, Jamie Shupak (New York City television traffic reporter) was doing that for him while he was in the studio. But the live tweeting was able to drive in viewers who may have forgotten about the show as well as start a social media dialogue among the viewers who were already watching who wanted a forum to react to what they were seeing on TV.
The time and work which he put in to this simple guest hosting gig shows that CNN might have a new host on it's hand.
Possible Brand New Niche
The experimentation of live-tweeting on the @BrianStelter account during today's show should be a wake up call in terms finding new ways to innovate cable news and television as a whole. You can make your program a bigger hit if you are able to integrate Twitter and social media naturally. The problem with the way some television show accounts tweet is that the account will literally tweet quotes from the program verbatim without any context.
The live-tweeting on @BrianStelter's account gave context to what the conversation was about at certain points of the program. For example, if an article was referenced, Shupak tweeted out a link to that article as they were talking about it on TV. The account also gave out insider details about certain segments, showed how they planned segments and posted behind the scenes pictures and videos of what was happening so that the commercial break didn't detach viewers from the experience.
If I were CNN, I would give social media stars such as Stelter, Phil DeFranco and others who are experts in certain fields that aren't covered as much as they should be on cable news TV and fit the demo (such as media, sports, technology, health etc.); a one hour live show each weekend. Let them experiment and utilize social media as much as possible to draw in an audience.
I'm not sure if today's show is going to have any better ratings than it usually does, but it definitely was able to bring in more influential viewers than usual. A show like "Morning Joe" succeeds because of it's influence in politics not ratings, and a figure like Stelter could grow "Reliable Sources" into a pillar in the media industry if he's given freedom to experiment with ideas such as live-tweeting.
What Does The Future Hold?
There will be a couple of more guest hosts coming soon to "Reliable Sources" but there's no question that as of now Stelter has the lead among all the candidates. The only problem I could forsee is that he doesn't have the hosting chops that someone like Patrick Gavin had the week before.
As the show started off, he seemed to be reading the teleprompter more than just naturally hosting and using inflections in his voice. But as the show went on, his comfort zone rose and settled down. This shouldn't be a big issue at all though because if he got the gig, eventually he would develop those attributes. He didn't have any experience in television before so I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.
If I'm the New York Times, I would be very nervous about Stelter's impressive performance and the fact that he asked good questions and had a compelling television show in his first tryout. After losing a lot of other key faces to the allure of television, I think it's time for NYT to invest in television more (possibly taking over nighttime for Bloomberg TV, which is nothing but Charlie Rose repeats at night?) even though it's last experimentation via Discovery Communications was a failed project, but all of this is another story for another day.
I make all these points to say that since NYT has no television venture, maybe it should team up with CNN to create a multiplatform venture for Stelter to cover the media similar to their deal with Andrew Ross Sorkin, who hosts on CNBC and has his own mini website on NYT's site, Dealbook. Give Stelter a media site, appearances on CNN and the Reliable Sources gig etc., to avoid him leaving the media post, whose star power really only includes David Carr.
He seems to have a lot of loyalty towards the Times, especially given the fact that the Times has given him so much freedom to host TV shows and write books. But that doesn't mean that the Times has him all locked up. Even in the Times' profile of Stelter in his younger days, Stelter confessed to having a desire to sit on the anchor chair.