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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES

What's Behind Pete Buttigieg's Sudden Rise?; Trump Admin Has Mostly Abandoned Press Briefings; Zuckerberg Calls For Social Media Regulations In Op-Ed; Knight Foundation's Next Big Investment In Local News; The Post-Mueller Media Landscape; Where President Trump Gets His Information. Aired 11-12p ET

Aired March 31, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:00:01] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": At least 45 activists have been killed, according to international rights groups.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter. It's time for RELIABLE SOURCE, our weekly look at the story behind the story. Of how the media really works, how the news gets made, and how all of us can help make it better.

A lot ahead this hour. Looking at the post-Mueller media landscape. Right wing outlets are warning the border. Left wing outlets are more worried about health care. We'll talk about that coming up.

Plus, a fresh face on the campaign trail with Mayor Pete Buttigieg standing out from the 2020 pack. His top communications adviser will join me live to talk media strategy.

And later, a big announcement being broken here on RELIABLE SOURCES from one of America's best known foundations. It's a local news rescue mission, coming up.

But, President Trump right now celebrating Robert Mueller's no collusion conclusion. He's celebrating by condemning the press. He's repeating a Fox News talking point.

You can see it right here. It says "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post's" Pulitzer Prizes for Russia coverage should be taken away. Fake, he says.

But the papers were actually honored for covering Russia's real 2016 attack against the U.S. election and for covering Trump world's connections to Russia. All that was real news.

But there's also been an enormous amount of speculation in the past two and a half years about collusion and even worse. There has been a reckoning in the past week about the media's coverage of these issues.

And yet, we're still kind of in the dark. I mean, remember that headline there. The Mueller report is more than 300 pages long. So far, we've only seen 101 words.

So there's a lot to dissect. I want to do it with four insiders from all different points of view about the news coverage.

Here to debrief, White House correspondent for "The Atlantic" and a CNN political analyst, Elaina Plott, senior politics reporter for "Vox", Jane Coaston, "New York Times" opinion columnist Farhad Manjoo, and here with me in New York, Republican strategist and CNN political commentator, Alice Stewart.

hank you all for coming on today.

Elaina, let me start with you. You've been reporting on the president's media criticisms and his attacks in the past week. There have been a lot of calls from right wing media for accountability, for apologies.

Do you think anyone is going to step up and apologize for their coverage of the Mueller probe?

ELAINA PLOTT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think apologies are necessary. I do think that would look a bit silly. But I do think reporters, at this point, if they don't recognize a tonal shift is in order after what many, I think, rightfully perceive to be a pretty big mess up in their coverage of Mueller's investigation, you know, I think that's an issue.

So I think rather than having the media get in an defensive crouch, they should look at the fact that a lot of journalists actually when Barr's summary came out seemed disappointed. And that's the kind of tonal shift that I think is going to cause America's trust in the media to crater.

STELTER: Disappointed. Jane, do you agree there was disappointment when the summary from Barr came out?

JANE COASTON, SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER, VOX: I think somewhat, because I think that as journalists, this was an interesting story to cover. You know, it had a foreign policy element. It had kind of the spy craft element that I think a lot of people were intrigued by.

But you did get the sense that people were weirdly being disappointed they finding out that the president of the United States had not been, as far as we know, colluding with the foreign power, and I think that that really reflects how invested people, even people within the media became in the Mueller investigation as an overall story arc.

STELTER: I think others were relieved not disappointed. Relieved there wasn't evidence of a wide ranging conspiracy. Yet aren't we seeing, especially from the left, calls to wait for the real full report. I'm worried right now that new conspiracy theories are festering in the darkness because we haven't seen the full report.

Alice, is that something that you've seen as well?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think initially we did see people come out of the gates saying this is good news. This is a reward for America or good news for America and its president that our president and his presidential campaign was not colluding with the Russian government. Initially, that's what we're seeing.

I hope, and I've been saying this from day one, let's not prejudge what Robert Mueller is doing. Let's wait until we get the full report. While we have a summary from Bill Barr, I think we still need to wait until we can get the full report out to make a more accurate conclusion as to what happened.

STELTER: Yes.

STEWART: But, initially, yes, I was pleased to see a lot of those in the media, the mainstream media, conservative and liberal, saying this is good news for the president. We need to continue to focus on that.

But in terms of anticipating what the full details of the Mueller report, I think we still need to, again, wait until we see that.

STELTER: And the years before you became a strategies, you were a journalist working in television. I wonder if the television strategy about the president has been put out his version of the story, put out the Trump administration's version of the story, and then in a few weeks we'll see the Mueller report.

[11:05:03] By then, his framing will be baked in.

STEWART: It will with his base. Look, all along, you can travel around this country. His base never bought into the collusion story.

They never believed that he was involved. They believed exactly what the president said. No collusion with Russia. And that is an important for many people to certainly keep in mind.

And as the Barr summary came out, they recognized the fact that, look, there has been no evidence that there was this campaign conspired with Russia. They did not coordinate with them. While some of the actions they did might not have been very well thought out. In my view, sometimes it was based on not being very educated on campaigns and things most campaigns wouldn't do.

It did not result in anything that should result in criminal charges. I think that's what many people need to take away from this.

STELTER: And to that point, Alice -- Farhad Manjoo at "The Times", you wrote a column this week that set out to be among the thousands of columns written. The headline says "Collusion was a selective delusion", seductive delusion.

What's your argument here?

FARHAD MANJOO, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I mean, I think for many liberals and many in the establishment, you know, especially in the Democratic establishment, collusion offered this kind of undue button, this convenient undo button, this possibility that maybe Donald Trump wasn't elected, you know, fairly and legitimately, and maybe we didn't have to examine some of the problems that happened in the 2016 election.

I mean, I think the real problem here in kind of investing everything in the Mueller investigation was we took our eye off the real problems in 2016. You know, voter suppression, you know, the fact we had another presidential election where the winner of the popular vote didn't become president -- the huge mistakes that the Hillary Clinton campaign made, and the mistakes of the media itself. We in the media focused on Hillary Clinton's e-mails to a degree that was unnecessary and, you know, for everyone involved, the Mueller investigation was a convenient pivot to say, you know, maybe Putin did it and if Putin did it, we wouldn't have to focus on the deeper and more challenging problems that we have in America in, you know, in democracy and voting for presidents.

STELTER: So, your message going forward is what?

MANJOO: I mean, I think it's important to wait for the Mueller report, but I still -- I think we should just completely down play, you know, how much we invest in what happens with Mueller. I mean, the real problems in America can be solved in the next, you know, we'll look at it in the next two years of campaigning for the 2020 election, and I think, you know, the Democrats who are running for president are smart to be pivoting away from Mueller. I mean, many of them didn't invest a lot in talking about Mueller because it was, you know, it was this kind of vague and background noise.

I think with a lot of Americans, you know, don't care. Weren't that interested. It's important that Russia interfered in our election and for a national security implications and other things, people should focus on that. I don't think it's the big story for the next year and a half and I hope that the media and, you know, politicians kind of pivot away from Mueller and all that is in that report.

STELTER: And here is the new narrative we're hearing from hosts on Fox News. Let me play this montage from this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: You have been lied to by other networks and the news media on a spectacular level for years and years.

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: When will the liberal media apologize?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: They completely terrified the population. They should be punished.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Not sure what he means by punished. Not sure what the punishment would be in a free press and open society. But, Elaina, is this a kind of preview with the strategy will be for the next 18 months all the way through 2020?

PLOTT: Yes, Brian, as I reported this week, you know, the pro Trump super PAC America First and the Republican National Committee, there are conversations underway right now about the ways in which that operatives there can use past clips, past tweets, past statements from reporters who spoke about collusion as though it were a given and there were, you know, it was no room for error there, ways in which they can use that if a reporter to say something negative about Trump blasting that immediately.

And actually, Brian, I'm told you're one of the primary targets for that. So, you might want to look out. I guess what I mean to say is by conflating the media with the elite, Trump gets to play into the us versus them mentality that allowed him to coast to victory in 2016, and I think it's incumbent upon reporters not to take the bait, like I said, get in that defensive crouch and instead do their jobs, report the news, and not let this campaign bait them into one versus the other.

[11:10:11] STELTER: Yes. Look, I know I'm a convenient hate object for a right wing media. I recognize that. And I usually just blow it off.

But I think there's something important throughout this conversation that I want to emphasize. Something you said, Jane, off-air, you said, sometimes the biggest stories involving the president and the administration they're happening in plain sight.

COASTON: Right.

STELTER: It doesn't require a two-year-long investigation.

COASTON: Right, exactly. You know, we could talk about Trump's pick for the fed as being, you know, called radically under qualified by both conservatives and liberals. We could talk about what is taking place in Puerto Rico and how Trump has played into Puerto Rico not receiving the aid it needs.

These are things that are happening now. You know, it doesn't require, like, an HBO series on spy craft or any sort of collusion or a federal investigation to understand that the Trump administration is underserving a whole number of Americans, including many of the Americans who voted for this administration.

We should be talking about agricultural subsidizes and the issues farmers are having. We should be talking about the environment. There are a lot of issues we can be talking about that I think are less convenient both for this administration and for the media, because I think occasionally it turns into a weird tennis match between the media and the Trump administration that everyone actually kind of enjoys while there are a lot of issues we aren't talking about that matter to Americans who vote, and those who don't.

STELTER: Yes. Alice, let's take one moment to have a journalism class here. What is the lesson? What is the takeaway that you would be teaching in this class?

STEWART: My takeaway from this is we can all take a step back from the last two years, whether you're part of politics or you're in the media. And let's take this as an opportunity to learn. Let's make sure that as a journalist, having been one before, I subscribe to the contractor rule of measure twice, cut once.

And as journalist, double check or triple source check your facts before you go to print. Oftentimes, and I experience this often in campaigns, a journalist in the rush to beat their competitors, and in a rush to get their story out there online, they put something out there and realize it's not factually accurate and pull it back. But by then it's taken on a life of its own.

STELTER: Right.

STEWART: It's all over the Twitter sphere and online and it's stories have been picked up.

So, I think as journalists, this is an opportunity to learn, let's make sure we have our facts accurate and correct on the front end and focus on the things that this administration wants to push. There are positive things to talk about, jobs and the economy. And what we're doing with -- remember, what happened to infrastructure week? That never got --

(CROSSTALK)

STELTER: Yes.

STEWART: Let me say, there's an opioid crisis, there's things we're doing for criminal justice reform. I can't remember how many times those were big stories of success this administration was working on and there was just ad nauseam coverage of this Mueller report we didn't know the facts on. So, I think from both sides we can learn. And from the administration side --

STELTER: We say it all the time -- less speculating, more reporting. It's easy to say. It's hard to put into practice but less speculating and more reporting is a good thing. There were mistakes made in the coverage of this Russia report.

But there were tremendous investigative reports out there. There was a lot to investigate. I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water here.

STEWART: Look, both sides. I don't think this president is doing anyone any favors by referring to all the news media as fake news and saying that the media is the enemy of the people. That doesn't help the situation.

And if they want to talk about the positive aspects of this administration, which there are so many to talk about, then there doesn't need to be tweets about witch hunts and fake news media. So if there is on both sides a little more restraint on one side with regard to pointing the fingers at the media and, in my view, a little bit more fact checking on the part of the media, I think that we'll have learned a big lesson from all of this.

STELTER: To our panel, thank you so much, everybody, for being here, for being a start of this hour. You know, the only network that actually has apologized for something

this week is Fox News. I'm going to show you what they're apologizing for in just a moment.

Plus, Susan Glasser will join me with her big takeaway from this Trump rally. That's in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:18:26] STELTER: Hey, welcome back.

If President Trump was watching Lou Dobbs the other night, he heard that foreigners may kill millions of Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LOU DOBBS, FBN HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Just literally put out welcome wagons. Pile them high because, you know, we're going to consign tens of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans to their deaths.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: Terrifying, right? That's the whole point. It's nonsense but it's scary.

You know, the president praised his Fox friends several times this week. He even got on the phone with Sean Hannity and chatted for 45 minutes and said he hoped Jeanine Pirro would be back soon. Pirro's suspension was scheduled to be over, it is over. She was back on the air on Saturday night, and if the president was watching, he heard that his opponents should be jailed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: You stood witness to the biggest scandal in American history bar none, the attempted coup of the United States government. This is bound to happen again unless we stop them. And the only way to stop them is with justice -- true justice. And that's behind the bars justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STELTER: I don't know what to say.

And if the president was watching "Fox & Friends" this morning, he saw this banner. It says: Trump cuts U.S. aid to three Mexican countries. The reference, of course, to Central American countries.

The network apologized several hours later and said the banner never should have appeared.

[11:20:01] Obviously, that's the case. But I don't know what is going on over there.

Look, let's talk about what it means for the president to be watching this kind of programming, what it means for him to be getting this information, and what it means for him to have one heck of a week.

Let me bring in Susan Glasser. She is, of course, the author of Trump's Washington column for the "New Yorker" and she's a CNN global affairs analyst.

Susan, I think 20 times in the last two years we've heard something about Trump's worst week ever. I think it's probably fair to say this was his best week ever, yes?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, there's no question starting with that late Sunday afternoon release of the Barr letter. He doesn't want us to call it a summary. But the Barr letter announcing that Robert Mueller had found no -- had not established any reason to proceed on any collusion or conspiracy between Trump and Russia. You know, Trump has been telling us and defining the stakes in this investigation for nearly two years as no collusion.

And on Sunday, his attorney general said there was no collusion. So, you know, that should have been his greatest week. But I think you and I and many other people were struck by the fact that Donald Trump is still Donald Trump. Win or lose, he's the same public persona, angry, vindictive, and, also, clearly somewhat relieved this week.

STELTER: Yes, not only does the Barr summary come out, Barr letter come out, Michael Avenatti gets arrested. There's a culture war story the president waded into about Jussie Smollett. All the stories to stoke fires and yet the president is still angry. He seems really angry.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. I called it our president of the perpetual grievance in my "New Yorker" column. And I think it's key to understanding his public persona and his private persona. People who have spent a long time studying the president's biography, his personal history, have incredible number of stories going all the way back in his career, long predating his entry into politics in which winning was never enough for Trump.

He often has had a habit of over reaching when he went either other mischaracterizing the nature of his victory, which is something he did right away, remember on Sunday when he said he was completely and totally exonerated, which literally the language in the letter said he was not exonerated on obstruction of justice. But, also, just he really -- he takes it personally those who oppose him. And he seeks to want to defeat them.

You see him now attacking those who have called for the investigation demeaning the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee with nicknames, things like that, things that would have been unthinkable, of course, in any other presidency.

STELTER: And we have to remind folks of that. I think many Americans know it, but we've got to keep reminding, this is all unthinkable. The president's number of lies this week is shocking by any standard.

And yet he keeps telling the same story over and over again, right? He was doing it about Mueller. He's doing it about the border, as well. I've noticed the divide in the news coverage now. One side is really focused on the border situation. The other side focused on Trump trying to take away Obamacare. These are probably two narratives that are going to continue in the weeks to come.

But the existence of Fox as a repeater of his narrative over and over again, I just think those clips I was playing in the intro underscore how powerful it is for him. That he has this megaphone.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. You know, my colleague, Jane Mayer, has obviously done incredible reporting, helping to understand this feedback between Trump and Fox in an almost seamless way, in which it operates.

If you listen to the president's Grand Rapids rally the other night, to me, it's amazing when he starts to call out -- he attacks the fake news media, as you know, quote/unquote, repeatedly, he did so in a direct way the other day, blamed them for the greatest political hoax in American history.

But at the same time, he also calls out the Fox hosts as if he was actually a part of the Fox line up. And I'm always amused by that.

STELTER: Yes.

GLASSER: He's on a first-name basis with them. And he goes down and he says, well, of course, Sean and Tucker and, you know, he goes on and on about the Fox line up in a way as if he was a paid promoter of the network in his public appearances.

STELTER: Yes, he fills in as a Fox News PR person. He really does. He also credited the network's ratings which have been high since the Barr letter came out. We can put the "Washington Post" headline up on screen about the TV ratings being one barometer for Trump's success.

Do you think with these anti-media, anti-journalism messages coming out of Fox's prime time line up every day to 3 million to 5 million people, is it doing damage to the press's credibility?

GLASSER: No question. If you just -- it's graphic. You look at the numbers over the press's institutional credibility, it has gone down dramatically. By this is a turn that predates Donald Trump, as with many of the ongoing sort of political disruptions in our national life. Trump is an amplifier and accelerator of those trends rather than an originator of them.

[11:25:05] I think that's true for the attacks on the media as well.

And, by the way, Trump just likes to find things that work for him. He said something revealing the other day along those lines. He said, you know, they like it when you attack the press.

And so, you know, is he doing it because it works for him politically? Or because it's something he believes. Who knows? But, you know, we do know that Donald Trump is somebody who likes and needs an enemy and from the beginning of his administration, that's been a tactic.

STELTER: Yes.

GLASSER: So, there was nobody, right, who was surprised that his response to the Mueller findings as reported by Barr this week that he was going to attack the media.

STELTER: Right.

GLASSER: There was nobody -- what it unfortunately means, they're conflating, you know, lots of terrific reporting out there by the "Washington Post", "The New York Times" and other news outlets with every kind of statement and characterization and speculation surrounding the investigation, as well. That's very bad news, I think, for the media.

STELTER: Right. Conflating investigative journalists with idiot resistance Twitters is a time honored tactic of the president's media allies. It's cynical, it's ridiculous but it's effective for them.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. And by the way, it's tactic of right and left. I think you saw some left commentary, as well, beating up on legitimate journalism and conflating it in irresponsible ways.

STELTER: That's a good point, yes.

GLASSER: And people, by the way, so eager to over correct. You know, these are complicated subject which is why I have been awaiting the Mueller report for the last couple of years. And I do hope that, you know, we're journalists. We always vote for as much to be released as possible.

But I think in this case, it's particularly important because the credibility of the conclusions are at stake in this incredibly divided political atmosphere.

STELTER: Yes.

GLASSER: There are many disturbing data points. I would like somebody who is responsible and not partisan to be able to stitch them together for me in a way that we have not yet had.

STELTER: Susan Glasser, thanks so much for being here. Great talking with you.

GLASSER: Thank you.

STELTER: Up next, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is gaining momentum, rising in the polls. We're going to speak with his top communications advisor about the media strategy, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:30:00] BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Brian Stelter. And here's a funny headline from the front page of the New York Times this week. It says he's caught on with voters however they say his name. The person of course is Pete Buttigieg, others say Pete Buttigieg. He says he doesn't care what you call him. Here's what he does care about though.

Buttigieg is rising in the polls. Crystals of the day say he's the hottest candidate out there right now. And Buttigieg has been making the T.V. rounds. you might have seen him on Real Time with Bill Maher, or The View, or Colbert, or here on the Van Jones Show. So how did someone who was virtually unknown a few months ago get to this point?

Let's talk media strategy. Lis Smith is the Top Communications Advisor to the Mayor and she's with me here. You've been working with Mayor Pete as he says he likes to be called for what, a couple of years now.

LIS SMITH, COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER TO PETE BUTTIGIEG: Yes. 2 1/2 years since right before he announced for dance teacher.

STELTER: And right now he's officially only exploring a presidential run. What have you done in the past few months to try to raise his profile?

SMITH: Well, look, we started this race and he started this race as a virtual unknown. You know he's a 37-year-old mayor from the industrial west and those aren't the people that are going to be on the front page of the New York Times or featured wall-to-wall on CNN. But throughout career, he's always been a very open, accessible, transparent leader, and it was important for us to be open, accessible, and transparent with the media and to get him everywhere.

You know, one problem that I' see in politics, I've worked on a lot of campaigns and you know, you've covered them certainly is that there is a polarization in the media atmosphere and you know, you do see this trend of Democrats just going to talk on MSNBC, Republicans just going to talk on Fox, and then maybe some cross-pollination at CNN.

And what's important to us is to go and talk to people everywhere, talk to them where they are. You know, he was the first candidate to go on Fox News Sunday.

STELTER: The first Dem to the 2020 lineup.

SMITH: Yes, the first -- yes, first Democratic.

STELTER: And why that choice to go on Chris Wallace's show?

SMITH: Because we need to be talking to everyone. Even if we don't agree with the folks on everything, I think it's important to go out, get your message out there, but also treat people with differing opinions with respect.

STELTER: And does he feel it was a mistake for the DNC to say we're not going to have any debates on Fox News?

SMITH: No, look, he'll use that stuff to the DNC. I can only speak to our strategy and our strategy is to get him out there everywhere even with people who disagrees with and --

STELTER: What are the underappreciated media venues or outlets? You know, I know The View matters --

SMITH: Right.

STELTER: I know Colbert matters. What are the ones that you think also are important to the Dems in the primary?

SMITH: Well, you know, podcasts are really hot right now and I think underappreciated. And there's a wide range of them. Look we got him on The Intercept on I think it was one of their most downloaded podcasts. We got him on The Breakfast Club. We got him on Preet Bharara's podcast. And these things all have very unique different audiences and it speaks to his range and his ability that he's willing to do it. And I think people give you points for being willing to be creative.

You know. we had him on the West Wing weekly show which is not exactly a normal stop for a 2020 potential candidate.

STELTER: It does remind me of the competition in 2016 about President Trump, then-Candidate Trump being available, being accessible. He's not these days but he used to call into show.

SMITH: Yes. And I think if you or someone that is comfortable in who you are, comfortable in your own skin, and that is something that Mayor Pete definitely is, it makes sense to get out there. And people are so sick of the artifice and the bluster in politics.

I mean, we've got this carnival barker in the White House and on the other side you have people who just rely on these very tightly scripted poll-tested lines. And people are you know, can read through that. They can see the artifice.

I think what they like about him is that he's someone who listens, he engages, and he's not running or you know, not potentially running just to potentially run. He's running because he has a message, he has a vision, and he's always been motivated by a sense of service. That's what you know let him to volunteer -- to go to Afghanistan, to run for Mayor of South Bend, when it was named one of the ten dying cities, and that's you know, I think that's what's compelled him to get in this race.

[11:35:30] STELTER: These headlines, these polls, there's been a lot of headlines in the past week about him rising in the polls. What do you do about peaking too early? Do you worry about this press perception that he has nowhere to go but -- you know, anymore because he has already risen?

SMITH: Right. Well, that's what I think what we like to call champagne problems. You know, peaking too early is better than not peaking at all. And what's important is being able to sustain the momentum. And you sure, people in the political bubble have gotten to know Mayor Pete but it needs to trickle down to everyone. And it -- and I really do believe that the more people see him the more they will like him.

STELTER: And how do you pronounce his last name? How do you personally --

SMITH: Buttigieg.

STELTER: OK. All right.

SMITH: Yes. It's really easy.

STELTER: I think journalists are still trying to get the hang of it.

SMITH: Yes, you know. Most people are not familiar with Maltese last names and that's cool. And a lot of people are like well, is this going to hinder him? I actually think it creates some buzz and makes it interesting and as he says, you just kind of -- you don't have to pronounce it just pick him out of a lineup on a ballot.

STELTER: I see. Lis, thanks for being.

SMITH: Yes, thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Good to see you.

SMITH: Good to see you.

SMITH: A quick break here and then a question about the lack of press briefings. There's a lack of press briefings not just in the White House but also at other parts -- within other parts of the government. For example there at the Pentagon. CNN's Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr joins me from there in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:40:00] STELTER: The T.V. to Trump revolving door keeps turning. Fox News Contributor Morgan Ortagus is the latest example. She's expected to be named the State Department's Spokesperson. She would be replacing another former Fox News personality, Heather Nauert.

For now, Ortagus is out at Fox but not yet in its state. But she's not the only one. Stephen Moore for example, a regular here on CNN. He's out at CNN as you know because he's up for a Fed seat. There's also former Fox News reporter Lea Gabrielle. She's joining the State Department in a key role. And Marc Short who was at the White House, then joined CNN, then went back to the White House. Now he's V.P. Mike Pence's chief of staff.

Just four examples of that revolving door. Even though it does spin around and around, there hasn't been much openness we've seen and that is not just at the White House. Of course, it has been 20 days since the last White House on-camera press briefing. Remember, these used to be held daily, now their monthly if we're lucky.

But that's not the only place who has a lack of briefings. Over at the Pentagon, it's been 304 days without an on-camera briefing. Why is that? What's going on over there? Let's ask Barbara Starr. She is CNN's Pentagon Correspondent and she's joining me from there now.

Barbara, I didn't know that there'd been this kind of blackout for so long. What kind of access do you experience there?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, blackout extraordinaire, Brian. I mean, more than 300 days. The last on- camera briefing by a Pentagon spokesperson was last May last year. And so what has happened here is they have shifted of their own free will in this administration to off-camera briefings.

We have people who will come down and conduct single-subject briefings, off-camera briefings. The secretary, Secretary Mattis, and now Acting Secretary Shanahan will occasionally do on-camera especially when they travel but they're very short. They only take a few questions. So what is happening is nothing.

The problem, of course, is always the same. There is no spokesman that goes on a podium and subjects themselves to rigorous questioning from a press corps. Any and all questions all comers. It is not happening and really I think what is suffering very greatly is the flow of public information and that's what this is all about.

STELTER: Yes, the worse continue but access there does seem to be restricted. And by the way, we've seen this at the White House where Sean Spicer and then Sarah Sanders is sometimes they were worried about what the President was going to think at the briefings. You know, they'd even wear the certain kind of tie and Spicer's case. Is there something similar going on the Pentagon where there's concern about catching Trump's attention?

STARR: Yes, totally. I mean, so first you have no civilian political appointee spokesperson because they're afraid of upsetting the president. But then of course what has also happened here, when is the last time you saw a four-star general admiral get on a podium in front of the camera and take questions from the press corps about what their troops are doing, how capable the U.S. military is.

You see them testifying about all of that before Congress but not in front of the press corps. And you know, rip the Band-Aid off. It is 100 percent we know this because they are concerned about getting crosswise with the president and because every day when they come into work, and these are the most senior commanders, they don't know what the president's going to say.

You know, a lot of times off-camera in the hallways here at the Pentagon, you get the sort of shrugging shoulders, what's he done now, literal words that you hear. They don't know what the president is going to say so they are very nervous, full of anxiety about going out there speaking publicly, getting crosswise with him.

And if they get crosswise with him they may lose their influence in the decision-making in the national security process. so everybody's nervous, everybody's full of anxiety, but it's the American public that's not getting information.

STELTER: Yes, stressful times and I hope the on-camera briefings can make a return. Barbara, thank you for being here. Great to see you.

STARR: Sure. STELTER: Up next here, Mark Zuckerberg in a brand new op-ed saying

the internet needs new rules. But what are they going to be? And is Facebook really doing enough to kind of stem online radicalization? We're going to get into that in just a moment.

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[11:45:00] STETLER: Online radicalization, we saw it again in New Zealand earlier this month. Every month, actually every day there's more and more pressure on big tech to account for the consequences of their creations. So this weekend, Mark Zuckerberg is out with an op- ed outlining what he thinks government regulators should do.

He admits Facebook has a responsibility to keep people safe on its services, and there been a lot of developments in the path week about this. About Facebook and other tech companies saying they are stepping up to the plate.

Now, Taylor Lorenz is here. She's a Staff Writer of the Atlantic who's been covering this extensively. She has a new piece about Instagram, Facebook's Instagram being a new home for hate. But first Taylor, this news that was announced couple days ago, Facebook says it's going to ban white nationalism. How do you -- how do you ban a racist idea?

TAYLOR LORENZ, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, they've had a lot of fun with this before. I mean, actually white supremacy was previously banned too. This is something that they've actually promised to crack down on repeatedly over the past few years. But it's really hard to moderate this type of content.

And you know, right now they rely on a huge force of you know, contract workers to go through a lot of this stuff. They say that AI is going to be able to detect it. But you know, there's a lot of nuance and regulating you know this type of speech and it's ever- evolving.

[11:50:10] STELTER: Yes. They say they'll ban support for white nationalism. We'll see if they're able to. But you've been pointing out that Instagram, Facebook's normally you know, friendlier part of the company, there's a lot of nastiness and misinformation on Instagram and I think it's underappreciated. But what do you think is most important to understand about Instagram?

LORENZ: Well, I think there's a big misconception that it is this friendly, sunny, nice place.

STELTER: Yes.

LORENZ: I mean, I think it's -- I mean, I'm sure you and I, it's like you used to follow your friends, family, much in the way that people did initially on Facebook too, right. You go there to connect with people you know, then you go there you know to look for more ideas. It's -- especially for young people really where they go to form their identity, find news information about you know breaking news events and stuff like that. So -- and it's growing it's growing you know by the day. It's because

-- it's a far more culturally relevant platform than Facebook.

STELTER: But when I searched the term vaccine, I see all this anti- vaccine misinformation right on Instagram.

LORENZ: Oh yes. And it's not even just searching the term. I mean, you can follow you know anti-vac account that's served you. And Instagram's recommendation algorithm will actually try to push more and more and more of that content on you.

So it's not even just blocking a hashtag, its revamping and figuring out you know, working moderation into the algorithm, into the recommendation algorithm.

STELTER: That's ultimately what all of this is all about, right? For folks who haven't heard this, what does it mean that the algorithm radicalizes people?

LORENZ: Yes, I know. It sounds scary because you hear this word algorithm. But there is no one -- you know, there is no one big algorithm. But essentially what all of these you know, platforms do is try to surface you more content that you're going to be interested in. A lot of times they optimized for engagement and radical ideas.

And so it's not so much people searching out stuff but more that they're fed on progressively more extremists.

STELTER: Down the so-called rabbit hole.

LORENZ: Yes.

STELTER: It's whether you're on YouTube, or Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, but it's a huge problem on YouTube right now.

LORENZ: Oh yes.

STELTER: That you go down this rabbit hole as a result of the recommendation engine. Do you think any of these companies is really addressing that fully?

LORENZ: I don't think any of these attack CEOs really you know understand the breadth of the problem. And I'm sympathetic to them in the sense that what they -- I don't think they've realized what they've created. But this is -- you know, this criticism has been lobbied against them for years. So this is not the first time you know, that people are pointing out some of these issues.

We saw a lot of criticism two years ago, the 2016 election. So they've had years to figure this out and they need to be taking it far more seriously than they are now for sure.

STELTER: You can read Taylor's piece at the TheAtlantic.com. Taylor, thanks for being here.

LORENZ: Thanks for having me. STELTER: A quick break here, and then talking about some of the impacts of technology on the news business. We all know about the woes, the troubles of local news. I hear about a brand new investment trying to turn the tide right after this.

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[11:55:00] STELTER: So many headlines so often here on this program and elsewhere about the troubles of local news. But there's a lot of investment going on and here is one example. The Knight Foundation has committed $300 million to a news initiative focusing on local news and on startups that are trying to make a difference.

Today they're announcing another $6 million that they're allotting to three different programs. So let's get right to it with Knight Foundation Chief Executive Alberto Ibarguen. He's joining me here in New York. What's the ultimate goal of this $300 million commitment to try to reshape news?

ALBERTO IBARGUEN, CEO, KNIGHT FOUNDATION: Look, they're really two basic goals. One is to reimagine local news in a way that is sustainable as a -- as a business, as a nonprofit. We're experimenting with lots of different things. But in a bigger way, what we're really trying to do is to figure out how we regain trust.

This is the big crisis in democracy in America today. There is a fundamental lack of trust in institutions. So where can you best find trust? In the people you know and the people you're closest to. The people who write the stories that you know something about.

And if somebody writes something -- I live Miami. If somebody writes something about Hialeah and Homestead as two neighborhoods in Miami, I know they don't know what they're talking about because these are two different worlds.

That kind of local news is verifiable in an instinctive sort of way and we want to get back to that. We want to get back to feeding the middle where we can agree on the facts and then left and right can come in and interpret it.

STELTER: And big tech companies say they want to help as well. We can put on screen Facebook committing $300 million, Google committing $300 million. Apple launching a new news subscription service just this week. Are you confident these companies can be part of the solution because a lot of folks blame them for the problems?

You know, you look at digital ad dollars. You can put on screen how Google and Facebook eat up most of the digital ad dollars in America. Isn't that part of the problem?

IBARGUEN: I think they're absolutely part of the problem and they're absolutely part of the solution. Who knows more -- who invests more in technology than these companies do? Our investments at the MIT Media Lab are significant for us but puny for any one of the companies you just mentioned. Facebook is looking at some structural issues. Look at Zuckerberg op-

ed talking about what kind of regulation is necessary. Google is looking at what businesses, what business practices might work. We're trying to do a little bit of both of those and we're also funding the actual journalism and the legal support for those journalists that often will kill a story.

STELTER: And that's also essential. Alberto, thanks for being here. How can people find out more about what you're doing?

IBARGUEN: Well go to KF.org/localnews.

STELTER: There it is. Thanks for being here. And thank you all for joining us this week on RELIABLE SOURCES. A quick minder here. CNN's series "TRICKY DICK", it was preempted last week due to the Mueller news. It is on tonight. It continues tonight 9:00 p.m. Eastern time here on CNN.

Thanks for joining us and we'll see you right back here this time next week for more RELIABLE SOURCES.

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