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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Rush, Sean and Talk Radio's Future; Focusing the Lens on Hillary; Covering the Anthony Weiner Saga
Aired August 4, 2013 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PATRICK GAVIN, HOST: Limbaugh, Hannity, two of radio's biggest voices may soon be dropped by one of America's biggest radio broadcasters, or not.
Limbaugh says there's nothing to see here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: I just want to assure you everything is cool. And as always, what's on the table for this program is growth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GAVIN: But if Cumulus Media does decide to drop Rush and Sean, and that's a very big if, is that really what liberals want it to be? Which is the beginning of the end of right-wing radio.
Did you hear? Hillary Clinton has won the 2016 Democratic nomination for president. I'm kidding, of course.
But NBC's dramatic mini-series about her life in the White House and after is coming to a TV near you, just in time for the next race to the White House. We'll look into whether TV is jumping the gun and prematurely anointing the next front runner.
And if you thought putting the news together seemed like a boring endeavor, you have not seen "The Newsroom." Now, in its second season, it has its fans and its detractors. And we'll ask, does this look anything like your newsroom?
And speaking of newsrooms, does your have a nap room? Or what a meditation room? Or better yet, a kegerator? Believe it or not, some actually do, and we'll take you there.
I'm Patrick Gavin, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
GAVIN: Cumulus Media is a giant in the radio industry and it has carried Rush Limbaugh's and Sean Hannity's talk show for years.
So when "Politico" reported this week that the network was considering dropping both hosts, the media took note. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC: We're back with news from inside the right wing talk radio bubble.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN: Two of the most powerful voices of conservative talk radio may go off the air in many radio markets very soon.
CHARLIE ROSE, CBS NEWS: Cumulus Media, the second biggest broadcaster in the country, is planning to drop Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity from its stations by the end of the year.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
GAVIN: Cumulus isn't commenting on the reports. In fact no one is. It still is debate about whether conservative talk radio and particularly Rush Limbaugh are losing the edge.
Joining me from Seattle, syndicated radio host Michael Medved; here in Washington, syndicated radio host, Thom Hartmann; and in Hartford, Connecticut, Michael Harrison, founder and editor of "Talkers" magazine, which dubbed its sale the bible of talk radio and new talk media. I like that.
Michael Harrison, let's go straight to you. There are two ways to look at this. One is that, in fact, this is a big blow to conservative media if in fact Rush and Sean get dropped.
The other way to look at this is this is simply people sorting out their negotiations in public and this is simply two people trying to resolve a deal and we can't read that much more into it. What is your take from what you're hearing about what exactly this whole debate means?
MICHAEL HARRISON, TALKERS MAGAZINE: It's clearly a radio deal. It has nothing to do with the future of conservative talk radio. It has nothing to do with the future of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. It just is a deal between two giant radio companies trying to negotiate whether they're going to continue to be in business together, politics and experienced bedfellows in radio, and they're two competing companies that also work together, Clear Channel and Cumulus. They're just trying to come up with a deal.
And all of these public proclamations about Rush Limbaugh's ratings are down or the conservative movement is drying up and all that, that's the politicization of the situation. In fact, it's just a deal. They're not going to be dropped from the air. If they don't come up with a deal with Cumulus, they'll be on Clear Channel stations or any other companies that would love to have the two biggest attractions in talk radio, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
GAVIN: Well, Thom Hartmann, let's go to you. Do you agree? I mean, David Brock from Media Matters said on MSNBC that this is a huge victory for progressive radio. You're in progressive radio. When you look at this, do you view the fact that they might get dropped by these 40 Cumulus stations as a victory for progressive radio?
THOM HARTMANN, SYNDICATED RADIO HOST: No, I agree with Michael that it is just a business deal. In fact, I can take it a step further. It is the further vertical integration of the radio industry. Clear Channel owns Premiere, the syndicating company that runs Rush and Sean's shows. And so they're moving that onto their stations.
Cumulus has their own syndication company. They bought the old ABC radio networks so they want to move their own talent on. If you own the talent that you have on your local radio shows, then you get to capture the network minutes, advertising revenue, as well as the local --
GAVIN: So why did David Brock say that this is a victory for progressives? For progressive radio -- is that just wishful thinking?
HARTMANN: No, David Brock and Media Matters were leading the boycott Limbaugh crusade, which did presumably some damage to the Limbaugh show. I can tell you it did a lot of damage to progressive talk radio, because a lot of advertisers right across the board said just pull me out of all talk radio.
So I don't know Limbaugh's numbers, but I do know on our side of it that progressive radio took a hit as a consequence of that.
GAVIN: Michael Medved, let's go to you. I'm curious to get your take on whether or not Cumulus drops them or not, or how this gets resolved. Who stands to lose more on this, Cumulus or Clear Channel?
MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO HOST: I have absolutely no idea. I think both companies will be fine, they're huge, successful companies.
I've got to agree here with Thom Hartmann. The trouble that I have with this entire logic that David Brock was expressing is it's not a victory for anybody if all of a sudden you have less political conversation.
I want my friend, Thom Hartmann's show to be successful. We disagree on everything, but I think it's great when people are listening to progressive talk radio. I think it's great when people are listening to conservative talk radio.
And one thing I can absolutely assure you, as sure as I'm sitting here, in every single major market, whether they do this deal between Cumulus and Clear Channel or not, Rush and Sean will be on the air. They will be on the air because they have very devoted listeners and because they fulfill a public need and because they're popular.
GAVIN: Right. We should note that even if they do get dropped by these 40 stations, they are still massively successful and lucrative. Michael Harrison, quickly to you. We are now more than a year since the sort of famous Sandra Fluke incident and Rush Limbaugh. And there's been a lot of talk and a lot of reporting -- some true, some spin -- about how many advertisers are boycotting or did boycott Rush Limbaugh's program.
More than a year out from that incident, what do you know about what kind of effect that incident had on Rush Limbaugh's show?
HARRISON: It hurt all of talk radio because it made sponsors wary of being in anything controversial, but there has been almost a complete recovery and the future is very bright.
And it's very dangerous when politics gets into the business of communications. We've politicized this open marketplace of ideas in the capitalistic system and it's very dangerous. Everything is going to be fine. And I assure you, we're going to get past this period.
GAVIN: I want to quickly go to Rush Limbaugh --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could just --
GAVIN: One second, I want to go to what Rush Limbaugh has said about this. We're going to play a clip. This is what he said on his radio show on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIMBAUGH: Nothing is going to change. You are going to be able to get this radio program on as many, if not more radio stations down the road than it's on now. And what you're being treated to is just a public business negotiation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GAVIN: Thom Hartmann, let me get your take. I mean, there is this idea that at some point Rush Limbaugh will retire and there's some research to indicate that his audience might be getting a bit older.
Where do you see Rush Limbaugh, his audience, his popularity, in, say, three to five years from now?
HARTMANN: Well, I think that's up to Rush. He's a brilliant and talented guy. He does radio really, really well.
GAVIN: Are the trend lines going up for him or going down?
HARTMANN: I don't know. I'm not inside. But I do know that in n general, talk radio is doing well, particularly as we move into other platforms, onto the web, into TV simulcast, it is helping right across the board.
So I'm guessing if he sticks around, he's going to do well. If he doesn't, there's a farm team -- you know, there are people ready to step in. GAVIN: Michael Harrison, what do you think about the future and the trend lines on Rush Limbaugh's audience?
HARRISON: I think Rush is going to be around as long as he wants to. He'll be 90 years old and still have a show. He's a brilliant broadcaster.
The point we have to take out of this is when people detract talk radio, take a look at where it's coming from. It's usually coming from political circles. They try to detract the success level of the hosts with whom they disagree politically.
GAVIN: You know, Michael Medved, I'm going to go to you on this but anybody feel free to chime in on it.
I mean, talk a little bit about the role of these advertiser boycotts lately. I mean, the Internet has made it incredibly easy to galvanize a lot of people, to protest, to boycott, to go after sponsors, who do sponsor some of these programs. It is a lot easier to get 100,000 signatures than it was, say, 20, 30 years ago.
What role has that had when you see a lot of people apologizing for fear out of losing some of these sponsors? Talk about the role that the Internet has had in galvanizing some of these boycotts.
MEDVED: Actually, I think all of the boycotts are a ridiculous idea. I've always been opposed to right wing boycotts. I've always been opposed to left wing boycotts.
It is a good thing if advertisers advertise shows that allow people to engage in political talk. And my message to the David Brocks of this world and people who are part of the flush Rush campaign, if you really want a victory for progressive talk radio, then organize people to tune into Thom Hartmann, organize people to turn in to Al Sharpton on MSNBC if that's what you care about.
But you see -- this is a basic point of freedom of speech. If you don't like what somebody else is saying, then say something different and get people to pay attention to it. This impulse that people have to shut somebody down because you don't like what they're saying I think is, and I use the term very advisedly, it's un-American and it's inappropriate and it stinks.
And, by the way, it's also wildly ineffective. Look at the numbers for Rush and Sean.
GAVIN: All right. Quickly before we go -- one-word answers. Thom Hartmann, will they resolve this?
GAVIN: Michael Medved?
MEDVED: Will --
GAVIN: Will Cumulus drop Rush and Sean? MEDVED: Probably not.
MEDVED: Maybe one or two stations.
GAVIN: Michael Harrison, what's your take? What do you say, Michael Harrison?
GAVIN: All right. We covered the gamut there.
Thom Hartmann, Michael Harrison, Michael Medved -- thank you all for joining us.
When we come back, Hillary-mania continues with three film projects now in the works. Hey, where's the Joe Biden action flick? That's what I want to see. More on that when we come back.
GAVIN: As Hillary Clinton prepared to leave her secretary of state post late last year, here's what she told ABC's Barbara Walters about a 2016 presidential run.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I've said I really don't believe that that's something I will do again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GAVIN: Don't tell that to the media. Between now and 2016, there is going to be intense focus on her.
First, there is a Hollywood movie in the works about Hillary's years as a young lawyer and NBC announced that it is planning a mini- series about Hillary with actress Diane Lane in the lead role. In the nonfiction world, CNN has commissioned and is expected to air a documentary about Clinton. The network says its editorial side has no role in its production.
Joining us from Los Angeles is Marisa Guthrie, senior writer for "The Hollywood Reporter"; and here in Washington, Matt Lewis, senior contributor for "The Daily Caller."
Matt, I've sort of teased this from the break, but I hope you're with me. I mean, why don't we have a Joe Biden action flick?
MATT LEWIS, THE DAILY CALLER: Yes.
GAVIN: I mean, you've seen him in the aviators, right?
LEWIS: Well, look, Joe Biden is a fascinating guy. And I'm sure -- but as a conservative, I would say why not "Un Hijo Americano", the life story of Marco Rubio. A great story, rags to riches kind of story.
And that's really the point here. I think whether you're worried about the Democratic primary or whether you're worried about media bias, which is always an issue, there does seem to be a little favoritism here, you know?
GAVIN: Well, let's get to that real quick. I mean, is this basically an admission by a lot of folks in TV that Hillary Clinton is going to run?
GAVIN: Because obviously that will make all these productions more successful, right?
LEWIS: Right. Well, that's the hook, right. For every story, there has to be a tiny media hook, news hook. That's the hook and that's the backdrop.
But then I don't think Hillary Clinton is that fascinating. But her story includes Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, then it becomes quite fascinating when you tie in the fact that she is going to run. We all know she's going to run.
GAVIN: Marisa, let's go to you. I mean, you obviously cover Hollywood. And the reality is that lot of this suggests that politics is big business. What do you know about sort of how these projects are expected to do? We've seen HBO's "Game Change" in the past.
Is a lot of this not bias or wanting Hillary to run but they want to cash in on a pretty intriguing story?
MARISA GUTHRIE, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Well, yes, she'll be all over -- if he decides to run, she'll be all over the news. I mean , She's all over the news now as the speculation is unfolding. Certainly her lunch with Obama last week only fueled that.
But the final chapter of her story being running for president again, a second time after two Obama terms would be a really nice capper for all of these projects. The NBC one will likely be on the air before she declares, certainly before she's really in campaign mode, if she does run. So -- but the movie project is focusing on her career as a young lawyer and her new at that time relationship with Bill Clinton.
So I mean both of these projects, I'm sure there will be things in them that Hillary and Bill Clinton do not like.
GAVIN: Matt, let's talk about the NBC series. You know we've seen this before in the sense that there's going to be a lot of people who I think are going to say, well, this is going to be bias or they're going to try to look to see if it's favorable or not favorable. Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit is already kind of saying, maybe we should start a sponsor boycott.
We saw this in 2003 with CBS with the Reagan mini-series, which was a little controversial. So CBS canned it.
I wonder does NBC run the risk of producing a bland mini series, not some sensational one as perhaps critics of this move might anticipate, because they know if they do, it will be deja vu like in 2003 when CBS had to can the Reagan mini series?
LEWIS: Right. And I think there are people involved in the Reagan mini series that are involved in this.
LEWIS: Look, I think the Reagan story is interesting because whether it's a hit job or a hagiography, it usually happens after the person is dead or has at least left office. You have somebody on the cusp of running for the most powerful in the position in the world getting what we assume will be flattering treatment. She's being portrayed by Diane Lane, pretty attractive, charismatic actress.
So I think the assumption is going to be that it's going to be a hagiography. It's going to help Hillary. Maybe we'll be terribly wrong. But I'm with Michael Medved, no boycotts.
GAVIN: Marisa, do we have any idea if there are other projects in the works? Especially with this as well -- I mean, 2016 has a lot of intriguing characters in the lineup. So, could Hollywood actually turn out more of these if the audience comes to them?
GUTHRIE: Well, the film that's in the works does not yet have a studio attached to it, and, you know, it's a small project. It's not expected to -- I mean, it's not something that's expected to do very well. It wouldn't be a wide release most likely.
And, you know, a lot of networks are trying to be more -- they're doing more event programming. And the Hillary Clinton mini-series for NBC was part of an announcement that included several other mini series projects. It's something that they can make a splash with promotion, make it feel like it's special, and this one has the added hook of being, you know, right on the news curve.
GAVIN: All right. We've got to wrap this up. Marisa, who should play Bill Clinton in this movie next to Diane Lane.
GUTHRIE: Oh, Lord.
GAVIN: Matt Lewis, you got an idea?
GUTHRIE: Joe Biden.
GAVIN: Joe Biden, there you go.
LEWIS: Since it's Diane Lane, I want Bill Clinton to play himself, and I'm sure she does too.
GAVIN: All right. Matt Lewis, Marisa Guthrie, thank you both very much for joining us.
Ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES, the Anthony Weiner sexting saga. Man, I'll be glad if we can stop saying that. It means ratings gold for entertainment outlets like TMZ and Inside Edition. We'll discuss their coverage of the embattled New York mayoral candidate after the break.
GAVIN: Despite his recent sexting woes, Anthony Weiner says he's staying in that race for New York City mayor. But that's not the only side to this story. The woman at the center of the latest scandal has been giving interviews saying she had some doubts about Weiner's campaign message to New York voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYDNEY LEATHERS, SEXTED WITH ANTHONY WEINER: I felt like he's saying one thing to me, saying another thing to his wife, saying another thing on the campaign trail. I don't know who the real Anthony Weiner is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GAVIN: And who Anthony Weiner is, is a topic of enormous fascination for some of the nation's juicier media outlets.
Earlier I spoke with TMZ news manager Mike Walters and Inside Edition chief correspondent Jim Moret in Los Angeles.
GAVIN: Mike, we go straight to you. You guys are the masters of Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian. Why are you focusing on this ex- politician who's running for mayor in New York City, but it's kind of an unusual subject for you all?
MIKE WALTERS, TMZ: Well, we're definitely not a political Web site in that sort of, you know, forum, but I would say that celebrities are -- you know, the politicians are celebrities of Washington, D.C. So we do cover pop culture and stuff that happens.
Weiner is a national story. Also with politicians, you always get their side of it or one side of it. What we like to do, and I know, Jim, you guys do the same thing, you like to get into the other side of the story.
Sydney Leathers, the young lady in this story, is interesting. Whether or not she's a victim or was she a professional. We did a story on our site about how she had been on these Web sites, these sugar daddy Web sites from years before she met Weiner. So was she going after him or was he -- could he be the victim?
And, look, it's New York, it's a mayoral candidate and it's one of the biggest cities with a ton of celebrities. So I just think it was such a big national story with so many levels, with the Clintons and his wife coming out, we just had to cover it.
GAVIN: Jim, let me ask you, ratings-wise, traffic-wise when you look at your coverage of the Anthony Weiner story compared to everything else you all do, how does it stack up? Is it ratings gold for you all?
JIM MORET, INSIDE EDITION: Well, it's not just ratings gold for us, and I think there are a lot of people interested, but when you look at how many people picked up. I had an exclusive interview with Sydney Leathers last week and it must have been picked up by 100 different outlets.
This is, as Mike said, a national story. When you're talking about the mayoral race for New York City, it's really a national story.
And it's not just a salacious story about sex. This is a story about Anthony Weiner's credibility, whether he's been lying to people. And it really puts so much on the line. He did this himself.
I've interviewed a couple of the other women that were involved in the previous scandal. And when Mike talks about whether this woman is a victim, you put it in the context that she's not just one, but one of perhaps a dozen or so.
I think people are fascinated by this and they're really fascinated by Anthony Weiner's reaction. You know, when he's asked a question how many were there and he says, oh, you know, it's less than a dozen, what's the big deal? And then he comes out with this tape -- a videotape saying, you know, this isn't how New Yorkers roll, we don't quit. It's unbelievable to see his reaction.
GAVIN: You know, and Jim is right, Mike, this is a national story, no doubt about it. But the reality is that this guy, Anthony Weiner, is polling fourth now. He's certainly not the front runner. There are a lot of people who think he has no chance of winning it.
So my question to you is he's in fourth place and if he drops out or decides to remove himself from New York's political scene, do you all drop the story as well or do you think for you and your audience Anthony Weiner is a subject that even if he drops out, even if he loses, you guys are going to continue to cover him?
WALTERS: Well, look, I can tell you and I'm sure Jim is the exact same way -- yes, I'm sure Jim is the same way. But I can tell you for us, sure, if he drops out as a candidate and he's not trying to become mayor anymore, yes, it kind of comes down a few notches on our scale. But I will tell you and I'm sure "Inside Edition" is working on the same stories as we are, there is other women here. When Weiner did his press conference, he said there's three women.
Like in this after he already went through the scandal and resigned, the year later with Sydney Leathers, there's more than one woman. There's three. And the two other ones are slowly starting to make their way out. So I want to know what he said to them. I want to know exactly how many times he did this and what exactly he said. And I think our audience wants to know that too.
GAVIN: Jim, speaking of women, how do you all handle the approach to his wife? Obviously, Anthony Weiner is a public figure, he was an elected official. I don't think there's anybody that says he shouldn't be held to account or ask questions.
But there is this sensitive issue about how people should treat his wife. Whether she should come under the same scrutiny Anthony Weiner does. When it comes to your coverage of her, do you handle that differently at all?
MORET: Well, we haven't been able to talk to her. But look, the fact is, and even Sydney Leathers said this, Huma is the victim in this case. She was the one who was betrayed. The other two parties both knew what they were doing.
And I just want to pick up on what Mike said. If other women come forward, and I suspect that they will, I'm really curious to know what makes these women tick. Why, after knowing Anthony Weiner's past, would you and could you get involved in a new relationship with him?
It's not like Sydney Leathers is the first person to be swayed and to have this sexting relationship. She knew about his past. How could she let this happened. Is she naive? Did she have low self- esteem and was just thrilled that this political hero of hers was paying attention to her?
But as far as Huma Abedin, she has come under attack and being criticized for standing by her husband. We've seen other political wives stay out of the spotlight, specifically Spitzer's wife.
GAVIN: Hey, Mike, real quick because we've got to wrap this up. Do either one of you hear from the Anthony Weiner campaign or from Huma Abedin's camp, or from the Hillary Clinton camp or from anybody here in D.C. in reaction to the coverage you give that story?
WALTERS: No. I mean we reach out to them every time we do a story on it. But, no, we have not heard from his campaign at all. But I do believe with his wife -- remember, she's putting herself into the redemption. I think it's fair to cover her and we've reached out to her also and gotten no response.
But she put herself in that press conference with the facial expressions while he's saying it. She's in the videos with him. I think it's fair for us to cover her and to put her in the headlines, because she's put herself there.
And I believe at a point hopefully, we'll hear from either one of them or both of them -- but it's just like Hillary Clinton with Bill Clinton, these guys, these sexual issues with politicians, Bill Clinton is one of the most beloved politicians in the world now after a sex scandal. I think that's why people stay on Weiner and his wife and everyone keeps going behind him and backing him, so that's why.
We're going to keep covering it and I think that hopefully at some point we will get a response from them.
GAVIN: All right. We've got to go. Mike Walters, Jim Moret with "Inside Edition," quickly, before we let you go, are we done?
Please tell me we're done seeing pictures from Anthony Weiner's cell phone?
What do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think so.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's more. There's more.
There is more. And they're coming.
GAVIN: All right. Mike Walters, Jim Moret, thanks a lot for joining us. I appreciate it.
Ahead, an update on the global terror alert, and then the HBO -- HBO's "The Newsroom" is back for a second season. And although it's fiction, some reporters say it's too far afield. We'll ask two real- life reporters to give us a fact check.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.
U.S. forces are on a higher alert today because of a terrorist threat in the Middle East and North Africa. The U.S. has also issued a worldwide travel warning. CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr is here.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Candy. The Pentagon has put forces in the region on a higher alert, ready to go if trouble breaks out. Three U.S. Navy warships with about 1500 Marines are offshore of Yemen, another several hundred combat-ready Marines are in Southern Italy and Spain.
All of this comes after a series of meetings in the Pentagon chaired by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to position troops to be ready.
At the same time, Candy, Interpol has now issued a global security alert asking its member nations to help determine if a series of massive prison escapes across the region in recent days may be linked. Hundreds of prisoners, including some Al Qaeda members, have escaped prisons in Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Syria, Candy.
CROWLEY: And you've got to believe, Barbara, that even if this is not connected with the current terrorist threat, it's not good because there's a lot of Al Qaeda prisoners, a lot of thugs.
STARR: That's exactly right. A lot of very experienced Al Qaeda operatives that may, may now be back out on the street in those countries. And given what is going on, may be ready to jump in and stir up an awful lot of trouble, Candy.
CROWLEY: Thanks, Barbara.
We'll have more on this at the top of the hour on "STATE OF THE UNION." But up next on RELIABLE SOURCES, real-life journalists grade HBO's series, "The Newsroom."
GAVIN: "The Newsroom," which is Aaron Sorkin's new HBO drama about the workings of the Atlantis cable news network, is now into its second season, taking viewers behind the scenes and into the action of a live newscast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to come back with only one camera.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't roll the graphics without the switcher.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we route them to the desk monitor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They'll be hard cuts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Partying, partying, yes. Partying, partying, whoa.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pull your shot back so we can see the monitor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, go wide and get the monitor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will, your graphics aren't going to be full screen, they're going to be on the monitor behind you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have a monitor behind me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GAVIN: The show has had its critics. Some dislike its progressive slant. Others say scenes on the fictional Romney campaign press bus are unrealistic. Sorkin's treatment of its female characters has also been criticized. We're going to find out how accurately the show portrays the lives of reporters and producers in the control room, on the campaign trail and, best of all, off the job.
Joining us with their assessment, Juana Summers, Defense reporter for "Politico Pro" and Rosie Gray, reporter for BuzzFeed Politics.
All right. We're a bunch of print people, but, Juana, we work in a TV newsroom as well. And I've been at CNN all week. I've not seen an anchorman throw his BlackBerry at the camera. I haven't seen an anchorman get stoned and leave weird voicemails.
Is this show anything like the newsrooms you've been around?
JUANA SUMMERS, "POLITICO PRO": What it does, it really amps up the scandal. Frankly, if someone were to take me on camera and show me fighting with my editor for 30 minutes over what the top of my story should say, that doesn't make for sexy television. So it takes those little minute moments of a reporter getting mad, someone doing something stupid, it escalates into something that's watchable, particularly for people who aren't in the business that you and I are in.
GAVIN: So nobody has thrown a BlackBerry at you?
SUMMERS: Not recently.
GAVIN: You know, Rosie, you've been writing about this on "Slate." One of your critiques is actually that the show sort of amplifies the competitiveness between reporters more than actually happens out in the real world.
So talk a little bit about that, about how it kind of makes reporters seem a little bit more foolish than perhaps they really are.
ROSIE GRAY, JOURNALIST: Well, I think a good example of this is the scenes on the campaign trail, when Jim is sort of -- you know, he's trying to -- in the most recent episode, he's trying to just really nail all these low-level staffers, basically, on Romney's different policy positions.
I'm all for an adversarial press, but I didn't see any of that really on the campaign trail with people trying to sort of nail down staffers that might not have necessarily known that much.
GAVIN: You know, it's interesting. So obviously in television there's a 7-second delay. On "The Newsroom," there's a 17-month delay.
And now they're sort of -- right, looking at the Romney campaign, and here's actually a statement from former Romney spokesman, Ryan Williams, who told RELIABLE SOURCES in reaction to how the campaign is being portrayed, quote, "The Newsroom" portrays Romney staffers an villains and the majority of the Romney press corps as bad journalists, who served as willing mouthpieces for the campaign.
"Both representations are laughably inaccurate."
All right, so, Juana, you covered the Romney campaign. You covered the 2012 presidential campaign.
How does that show portray the Romney campaign bus?
Is it accurate or totally off base?
SUMMERS: I think there is some truth to what Ryan, who I have traveled with and know very well, said. A lot of those things wouldn't have happened. Take, for example, there's the scene where one reporter is framing up another person's shot, completely gets him out of the shot.
We didn't treat each other that way in the press corps and we certainly didn't have that kind of relationship with campaign staffers.
That said, there's some elements of truth. I know in the very first few minutes of the most recent episode, there's a reporter; he's sitting there, he's reading off the tweets on the bus that everybody can see on their own computer and the people just kind of want him to shut up.
There are definitely those kind of characters. So there are moments of truth, but it is definitely not true to life, I would think, to the experiences that maybe Rosie and I both had on the campaign trail.
GAVIN: , You know, Rosie, it's pretty clear that Aaron Sorkin, if we're to sort of assume this is his sort of personal philosophy about journalism, that he wants reporters to be more assertive, more aggressive, not just take talking points from these presidential campaigns.
Is he right?
I mean, having covered the 2012 campaign, do you feel as if his critique of those reporters or any political reporter, that they're not aggressive enough, I mean, is there a part of it that's actually right?
GRAY: I think there's a grain of truth to it. I think that there is sort of a pack mentality on the campaign trail and people are afraid to step out of line and be really assertive and really aggressive. But as with everything with this show, it's very overblown. I didn't see a lot of high drama the way that happens with Jim on the campaign bus.
GAVIN: You know, it's interesting, this whole idea that they're a little bit behind the news cycle but still covering it, as fans or detractors of the show, do you like the way it sticks to these real news events?
You were actually telling me off camera that after the show you and other reporters just sit and e-mail about it and compare notes and say, oh, did this really happen or this reminds me of this.
Do you like the fact that it sticks to real news events or does it just get the show in trouble?
SUMMERS: I think that's definitely what gets me as a reporter to watch the show because they had clips in the first season of Herman Cain about the campaign I covered. These are news events that we've all been embroiled in. So it's very interesting to see how the drama of Hollywood depicts these very real things. That said, I guess it's a little revisionist history at the same time.
GAVIN: Are you guys going to watch this Sunday?
GRAY: I'll probably be watching, yes.
GAVIN: We did talk to HBO; we did ask them to bring somebody on the show to talk about it; they declined.
Rosie, if you had to, I mean, you've got a number of critiques of the show. If you had to give Mr. Sorkin one piece of advice and maybe make his portrayals of newsrooms more accurate, what would it be?
GRAY: I would say try to show people actually doing their jobs and not just yelling at each other and having interoffice romances and drama.
GAVIN: Does nobody yell in your office at BuzzFeed?
GRAY: Occasionally, occasionally but now --
GAVIN: What about Politico?
SUMMERS: Oh, you know we never yell at Politico.
GAVIN: All right. Juana Summers of Politico, Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed, thank you very much for joining us.
Coming up next, from pretend newsrooms to real ones, and some of the cushy amenities you'll have to see to believe. Here's a hint. It involves beer. We'll be right back.
GAVIN: When you think about a typical newsroom, you may think of this scene from "Citizen Kane."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ORSON WELLES, ACTOR, "CHARLES FOSTER KANE": I don't know how to run a newspaper, Mr. Thatcher. I just try to everything I can think of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GAVIN (voice-over): Or this from "All the President's Men."
JASON ROBARDS, ACTOR, "BEN BRADLEE": How much are you going to tell me about Deep Throat?
ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR, "BOB WOODWARD": How much do you need to know?
GAVIN (voice-over): That was then, however, and, boy, have things changed. And even Hollywood has picked up on it.
As you can see on "House of Cards" from Netflix. Here's a scene from that show set at the offices of the fictional news organization Slugline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've only been in this space about three months.
KATE MARA, ACTRESS, "ZOE BARNES": It's cool.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not exactly "The Herald" is it?
"BARNES": Have you been to those offices?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. (Inaudible).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GAVIN: Long gone are the days of cigarettes and fax machines, so long to funky carpet and bad lighting. Some of today's newsrooms actually look like the Four Seasons compared to newsrooms of the past. Even our refreshments have evolved.
Coffee, that's a no-brainer, but what about booze? "The Huffington Post" is renovating its D.C. office this week and it includes a yoga room, an open air breakout space and -- get this -- a Kegerator, with not one but two taps.
According to CEO Ariana Huffington, quote, "Taking care of yourself makes you more productive, more creative and less stressed. Taking the time to recharge," she says, "whether by taking a nap, doing yoga or taking some time to meditate will make you a more effective and happier employee."
Old school types and even today's hyperspeed newsrooms are sure to say naps and beers aren't going to help productivity, they'll kill it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN COMPTON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Napping on the job, as a reporter, how does that help?
You close your eyes for two seconds and you've lost a story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GAVIN: So "The Huffington Post" is actually standing by their nap rooms and whatnot.
After all, a well-rested journalist should be a better journalist, right?
I'm not so sure about a drunk one, but we talked to some other reporters with some more practical requests.
APRIL RYAN, JOURNALIST: I'm a dedicated mother and I'm a dedicated journalist. I wouldn't mind having like a baby-sitter service, whatever, day care in the area not far from me.
COMPTON: I want a window. I want sunlight. I go 12 hours a day at the White House, where I am, there are no windows, there are no doors.
GAVIN (voice-over): The trend may be catching on. "The Huffington Post" actually isn't the only news organization creating a model that combines both work and play.
Take "The Daily Caller," for instance. They have got a ping-pong table, a popcorn machine and putting a mere Kegerator to shame, although they have that, too, they have a full bar all for the sake of good journalism. I paid a visit to that bar earlier this week.
CHRISTOPHER BEDFORD, JOURNALIST: You want a beer?
GAVIN: I don't know. What's -- what's the policy on this?
Yes, let's do it. Why not? Cheers.
GAVIN: All right. So let's get to the real issue here.
You guys are in the business of journalism.
How does this affect your journalism output?
BEDFORD: I think it makes it better.
GAVIN: Really? People would assume it would have a negative influence on that.
BEDFORD: Well, I think people have to handle themselves responsibly, but folks come in here, they'll have a beer if they're coming back from the White House, coming back from The Hill and needs to unwind. They can play a game of ping pong, have some popcorn.
It also makes people want to be at the office. Tucker's philosophy is if you don't love your job, you don't love being here, then you're not going to stick around.
GAVIN: He was talking there about "The Daily Caller's" cofounder, Tucker Carlson, who apparently shares the same opinion as "Huffington Post" executives.
So why are those cool kids at "The Huffington Post" doing this?
Earlier I spoke with their political managing editor, Amanda Terkel.
GAVIN: Amanda Terkel, thanks for joining us.
So walk me through how this works. You're working on a big scoop at work and you decide the one thing I need to do to make this happen is to do yoga, to meditate? How does this fit into your job as a journalist in a productive way?
AMANDA TERKEL, POLITICAL MANAGING EDITOR, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Well, "The Huffington Post" has what we call the third metrics. Success is usually money and power, but we are much more productive and we are much more creative if we're also focusing on our well- being.
So if you need to take a nap, if you need to go to the meditation room, if you need to grab a drink from the Kegerator, you can do that; it's all there.
GAVIN: And people don't frown upon you for like, in the middle of the day, taking a two-hour snooze? I would think like traditional journalists, old-school journalists would say that's an awful way to get your work done.
But you have this different philosophy.
TERKEL: Maybe if you have a breaking news story, that's not what should you do. But we did have a reporter use the nap room this week. We had a yoga class after work the other day. So you know, I think that --
GAVIN: Do you really want to see your colleagues in yoga pants?
That's why I wouldn't want a yoga room myself.
TERKEL: (Inaudible) some of the colleagues. So we had a small group try out yoga. I think some are going to get there. But if you want to relax at the end of the day, things are slow and I'm looking forward to the nap room when debate night and we're there late and there will be the nap room.
GAVIN: Fair point. So here's my philosophy on why this is happening in your newsroom and perhaps slowly in some others.
It's a way to keep you at work longer. It's actually not this great way to make you more relaxed reporters. It's a way to say instead of leaving the office and going to happy hour, take a beer at our Kegerator. Instead of going home to get a nap, take a nap in our nap room. I think they're bamboozling you.
TERKEL: I'm not staying at work any longer because of all of this. But it just makes the office a more fun place and now more large U.S. companies are starting to offer these stress reduction, yoga, meditation, these sort of initiatives.
And I think this is becoming more common.
GAVIN: Whatever happened to a good old fashioned treadmill and some free weights and a gym?
TERKEL: We have a gym.
GAVIN: Oh, you do? You have that as well? You don't have a lactation room, by the way.
TERKEL: We don't.
GAVIN: CNN does.
TERKEL: I heard CNN does. That could be next. Or you could maybe use the meditation room if it's not being used.
GAVIN: See, I think they all work together. You sort of get a beer at the Kegerator, that makes you a little bit tired, you take a nap, but then Ariana wants you to go to work, so you got to go do a little yoga to get the blood going and then some meditation to get you focused.
Boom, back to your desk.
TERKEL: Maybe. That hasn't -- no one has used every amenity at one time yet, but it could happen.
GAVIN: Is this the future, though? I mean, seriously, do you think that more news organizations -- you know perfectly well that right now a lot of journalism gets done at hyper speed and what you guys are saying is it's OK to take time off.
Which argument's going to win in the end, yours or this idea of work, work, work, work, work?
TERKEL: We still work at hyper speed. "The Huffington Post" is still getting things up fast. But that doesn't mean you should never sleep, you should become really, really unhealthy and just not worry about yourself. I think that there is a balance. I think that's what we're trying to achieve.
GAVIN: Is there any peer pressure in the office that, if they say, oh, Amanda's taking a nap, that you're not going to be employed in a month or anything?
TERKEL: Not yet. Maybe we'll throw pillows at each other, though. GAVIN: All right. Amanda Terkel of "The Huffington Post," thanks for joining us.
TERKEL: Great. Thank you.
GAVIN: Three cheers for Kegerators.
Up next, my thumbs up and thumbs down, some of the top stories this week.
GAVIN: All right. Some quick thumbs up and thumbs down this week before we go.
A thumbs up, the controversy I guess? At the very least, this week proved that nothing sells like controversy. That hotly debated "Rolling Stone" cover, featuring the Boston Marathon bombing suspect, all that outrage caused the sales to double. And that uncomfortable interview on between author Reza Aslan and Lauren Green on FOX News, seemingly everyone got something out of it.
Reza's book sales shot up the charts. A video of the interview posted on BuzzFeed earned the website millions of views. And FOX itself got leverage out of it by subsequently having a segment that largely defended Green's interview and denounced Reza as, quote, "the left wing media." Reza's Twitter followers soared.
In the end, there was a little bit here for everybody.
And a thumbs up to NPR host Scott Simon, who took to Twitter to document and mourn the passing of his mother in real time, an intimate and intensely personal glimpse into not only his life, but that of his mother's. It was too much for some who thought maybe Simon and all of us in similar situations should put down the phone during such moments, like the passing of a loved one.
For others though, it was poignant, moving and honest.
Either way, the fact is that the ship long ago left the station when it comes to using Twitter as a personal medium.
So why the thumbs up for us? Regardless of your take, we're hoping that Simon's tweets at the very least gave everyone a reminder to pick up the cell phone -- which, by the way, pauses your Twitter feed -- and actually call your parents once in a while.
You know, I hate to do this on his birthday, but it's thumbs down to the president. POTUS refused to take questions Thursday from reporters eager to get his take on the latest Edward Snowden developments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, everybody. Thank you, everybody. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GAVIN: In his defense, if you're going to turn down questions, that is about as polite as you can do it. But we should also note that it's two weeks since the president said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks, there are going to obviously be a whole range of issues -- immigration, economics, et cetera. We'll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GAVIN: We're waiting, Mr. President.
And last, I don't know if this is technically accounts the thumbs up or a thumbs down or whatever, but here in the world of Washington journalism, everyone is eagerly awaiting what will be a bit of comedic levity in our town come November.
The Newseum's exhibit of "Anchorman" -- yes, that "Anchorman" -- "Anchorman 2," the comedy from Paramount Pictures starring Will Ferrell as the San Diego local news anchor, two parts pompous, one part ignoramus, one part loveable softy, and totally hilarious.
The Newseum was good enough to give us a sneak peek at some of their promotional posters, which of course included the now-famous phrase, "Stay classy."
That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. By the way, if you miss a program, you can now go to iTunes on Mondays and check out our podcast. Just search for Reliable Sources in the iTunes store.
Join us again next Sunday morning at 11:00 am Eastern for another critical look at the media.
"STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts right now.