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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Media Blitz Batters Romney; Drudge Sparks Condi Chatter; Internet Crazy Talk; Bravo Does "Silicon Valley"; Diane Sawyer's Newscast
Aired July 15, 2012 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: It just so happens that the media had been filled with stories about Mitt Romney's tax returns and his offshore bank holdings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: Swiss bank account, with money in the Cayman Islands.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: A Swiss bank account and holdings in the Cayman Islands.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: What's going on with Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Island accounts, and so on?
ERIC BOLLING, FOX NEWS: If you put money in a Swiss bank account, you're doing it for a reason.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: And it just so happens that President Obama and the Democrats have been hammering Romney over his tax returns and offshore bank accounts. Is that just a coincidence?
We'll also look at Romney's five-network counterattack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The truth is that I left any role at Bain Capital in February of '99.
Said good-bye to my colleagues. They took over the business.
This is reckless and absurd on his part.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: This magazine cover says the Internet is driving us all crazy. Not just distracted by gadgets, but in the serious mental illness/depressive/obsessive/compulsive sense. Is that nuts?
Plus, Diane Sawyer taking a very different approach to the nightly newscast than Brian Williams and Scott Pelley. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: We begin with a big break in a very cold case. The disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz. Many of us first saw his face on the side of a milk carton 33 years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Is ABC's "World News" going softer or giving viewers what they really want?
I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
KURTZ: It has been nothing short of a barrage with fresh artillery nearly every day. "The Washington Post" reports that Mitt Romney's firm, Bain Capital, funded companies that shipped American jobs overseas. "Vanity Fair" reports on Romney's private bank accounts in other countries. "The Boston Globe" reports that Romney remained the CEO at Bain three years after he said he had left.
This remarkable week began with the president's surrogates blasting on the airwaves and they jumped on each fresh media report, which in turn led to more media coverage about Romney's wealth and business background.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: All the new detail on Bain, the Swiss bank account issue, even his own surrogates calling for his tax returns.
BAY BUCHANAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He was a terrific businessman. He's done well. And he has paid every bit of his taxes. There is a man who's living by the law. That is it.
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC: Mitt Romney made a lot of money being in charge of a company and claiming that he had no responsibility at the same time.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: First, it's the Cayman Islands. Now, they're saying he might be indicted because he worked at Bain longer than he said. I mean, this is how absurd things have gotten.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS: You can say a lot of stuff about Mitt Romney, unfeeling, out of touch, stiff. But a felon he's not.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Romney fought back on Friday with a media counteroffensive. Interviews with NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, and FOX.
Joining us to examine the media's performance: here in Washington, Erin McPike, political reporter for "Real Clear Politics"; Jennifer Rubin who writes "The Washington Post" "Right Turn" blog and is a CNBC contributor; and Clarence Page, columnist for "The Chicago Tribune".
Jennifer Rubin, you're obviously sympathetic to the Romney case. What about this flood of media reports about Romney's finances and his business record is unfair?
JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think that there's a noxious cycle that the media is not being very honest about. Much of the information from these stories comes from the Obama campaign. And sometimes incorrectly, sometimes spottily, which leads to spate of stories. The Obama campaign uses it for fodder, for airs -- for ads on the air, and for their talking points. And then the media then reports that.
And there's this symbiotic relationship developing that is not fair, that is not transparent, and that is not honest.
KURTZ: On that point, Clarence Page, Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, said just this morning on "Face the Nation", when asked about all of these allegations -- well, it's not the Obama campaign making these allegations. It's independent reports in the press.
What about Jennifer described as a symbiotic relationship?
CLARENCE PAGE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, if there really was a relationship such that the media are being stenographers, in other words, just taken dictation from the Obama campaign, she would be right. But these are very reputable media we're talking about here, "Boston Globe," "Times," "Washington Post," et cetera. These are publications that checked things out before they go into print.
And so, we can say that these are independent media reports to that degree.
But as far as tips go, hey, Howard, you're going to take a tip from anybody. I'm going to take a tip from anybody and follow that tip up and make a story out of it.
KURTZ: I --
RUBIN: Part of the problem is that Romney campaign, when reporters, for example, "The Washington Post" reporter came back to it, the Romney people were exceptionally unhelpful in trying to explain their position, trying to give other side. To the point that they're being beaten by this media cycle, part of that is their own doing. I think they're going to take a slightly different tact. It's been very unhelpful for them.
ERIN MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: I want to say one thing. Many of these tips as we're talking about are coming not really from the Obama campaign but instead from the Democratic super PACs that are supporting Obama, Priorities USA and American Bridge.
We talk about super PACs so much with ad dollars, but the Democratic super PACs have less money to spend. What they're doing is digging up a lot of research on Mitt Romney. That's where a lot of this is coming from.
So, another effect of this --
KURTZ: OK. Let me give you my thought here, which is these are reputable news organizations, Clarence Page. These are legitimate stories. The subject is fair game. Romney's running on his record as a businessman.
But what I think a lot of people in our business miss is that the sheer tonnage here, the 24/7 nature of it, makes the media look like it is only pounding one candidate and, perhaps, is carrying the Obama message.
Conservatives look at this barrage and say, when has Barack Obama ever gotten this media scrutiny?
MCPIKE: They certainly are. But here's the thing -- so many conservatives now are calling on Mitt Romney to release more of his years of tax returns. So it's not that Republicans are really coming to Mitt Romney's defense in any great nature now either.
KURTZ: The stories on Bain Capital, "The Boston Globe" had had a couple of stories in recent days pointing out what the company filed with the SEC was that he was the CEO. He was the sole stockholder. He says yes but that he actually had left, had no active role.
And some of this previously been reported, as "The Globe" has acknowledged by "Mother Jones" and "Talking Points Memo". But it caused a media explosion.
Your point is that the Romney camp in terms of its dealings with the press has not dealt well with the media explosion.
RUBIN: That's correct. And I think what we have here also is the phenomenon that political reporters are dealing with very complicated economic transactions. So if they get a surface or -- an editor shortens a phrase or condenses something, the accuracy of the nuance is lost.
The Obama campaign will then reach into that story, pull it out, out of context, and run with it. That's happened in the outsourcing story that's happened in the resignation from Bain capital.
So, some of their fault here has to do with a lack of nuance in the reporting and the headlines that go to it. The headline in that "Washington Post" report was much more misleading than the substance of the report on outsourcing, because, in fact, he had not contributed Romney specifically in terms of outsourcing jobs.
So, I think you have a noxious connection of factors that makes for this firestorm.
KURTZ: There are disputes over some of the details of some of these stories. By and large, you know, Romney was listed as CEO for three years after he said he left. He does have offshore accounts.
How much voters care about this is another story. But it seems to me, Clarence, that the -- this has become the dominant story of the campaign in terms of media coverage.
PAGE: Right now, yes. I laughed when you said when has Obama had this kind of scrutiny, because four years ago, Howard, remember a fellow named Reverend Wright out of Chicago? Back then I was saying the same thing. You know, he's been reported out of context. Yes, the guy is eccentric, blah, blah, blah.
KURTZ: Yes, that was the only time in the '08 campaign where I think you have a point. What about now?
PAGE: The only time?
KURTZ: Is there any danger that all of this is seen by people out there as overkill by the media? As pounding one candidate and not the other? Is that a risk?
PAGE: People aren't that engaged with it. Really, Howard, this is a slow summer story that takes on legs of its own, because it is significant. I mean, Romney has based his campaign, based his qualifications for office on his experience with Bain Capital.
And it's fair game for the rest of us to look at that. If we didn't, people would be complaining like it like conservatives were complaining that people weren't looking at Barack Obama enough.
MCPIKE: President Obama also has taken a beating throughout the entirety of his first term by the media, almost four years.
URTZ: Of course, this is very personal in nature. And let's face it, I mean, this is what the Bush campaign tried to do to John Kerry to disqualify a presidential candidate. Taking his greatest strength and trying to turn it into a weakness.
I'm fascinated by what you said, that some of this research is being dug up by Democratic super PACs organizations supporting Obama. Is there anything about that that troubles you? I mean, obviously, reporters check this stuff, but it does seem to folks like there's kind of a cozy relationship here.
MCPIKE: The more they dig up and the more they can prove to donors, the more money then that these super PACs make. Yes, it does help the super PACs stay alive when they give stories successfully.
KURTZ: I get like 20 emails a day from the DNC saying, look at this "Boston Globe" story, this "Washington Post" story, et cetera, et cetera ,et cetera.
Let's turn now because it was fascinating to me is that Mitt Romney has not been terribly accessible to media organizations outside of FOX News, with some exceptions. So, for him on a Friday afternoon to do the five-network blitz as he did was very significant. Let's look at some of the questions that were asked and some of Romney's responses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: No responsibility for what happened to that company even though those SEC forms list you as chairman and the chief executive officer and president of the company?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN: How do you explain that discrepancy, though, that your name is on these filings?
JAN CRAWFORD, CBS NEWS: The Obama campaign is saying that you either committed a felony by lying to the SEC or you're lying to the American people.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think this kind of statement from the Obama team is really shocking. It's ridiculous. And it's beneath the dignity of the presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Your reaction to those interviews?
RUBIN: Well, I think they were fair. These were the questions of the week. I think Romney answered them.
And I think part of the issue that's going on here is that although Barack Obama received scrutiny, continues to receive scrutiny, the level of incredulousness by the media when it comes to Mitt Romney is entirely different than the president. I think they take --
KURTZ: Is it the tone?
RUBIN: The tone, and I think they take what the Obama campaign gives them at face value. And they often repeat it. Whereas --
KURTZ: I think it's a little unfair because that suggests that there's no independent checking by reporters who are experienced at doing this sort of thing.
RUBIN: Or not able to again because the Romney people won't check it or won't give them necessary information. I think the level of skepticism about everything Romney says and do, even in the absence of any information -- there is no one out there, you know, we've talked to Bain people, you've sign seen Romney's work, you've seen people at the Olympics that shows that he didn't have actually any control or any input at Bain after that date. And that was a misleading story by the "Boston Globe."
He was listed on the documents, but no one so far has come forward and said he had any operational control or input. No one has.
KURTZ: But "The Globe" came back with a second story in which there were press releases and comments by Romney or Bain indicating that he still was aware of some of the things that were going on. And he was being paid -- he was -- why was he paid $100,000 a year?
My point is -- you talk how, you keep talking about how the Romney campaign has handled it or you perhaps say mishandled it. By waiting so long to respond in person until he did those five network interviews wasn't the Romney campaign basically allowing the Obama folks to set the media narrative here?
PAGE: That's what's dangerous here. This reminds me of John Kerry and the swift boat story, which he waited three weeks to respond. The fact that the normally rather reclusive Romney suddenly is doing a blitz on all the channels tells me that inside the campaign they're looking at numbers and saying, hey, we better respond to this. This is not going away.
RUBIN: Let me follow up on something that Clarence said. I had the fortune to take a short vacation on a Romney -- a Romney-style vacation, vacation with the family. Out there in the United States, I don't think people are following this at all. And that's why the polls remain completely deadlocked. People are out doing their own thing.
And they see the general pattern, the general back and forth, and I think it goes over their heads. I don't think they care. I don't think they focus on it.
KURTZ: Because some of this is complicated and may be a media obsession now. Of course, if this remains a major theme of the campaign, it will eventually penetrate.
MCPIKE: Sure. But the bottom line is this -- the stubbornly high unemployment rate is no longer news. The lack of specifics that we're getting from President Obama on what he would do in a second term and also from Mitt Romney on his economic vision is no longer news. Everything we learn about Mitt Romney is news.
KURTZ: I'm sure you would agree, though, that the stubbornly high unemployment rate is --
MCPIKE: Is the key issue in the campaign, of course.
KURTZ: Is news to the 14 million people who are unemployed even though it's not a fresh story for the media except when job reports come out.
Let me get in on this about the tone of the coverage. Is it unfair to question why Romney has released only one year of tax returns? He's promising a second now. Is it unfair to talk about his Cayman Island accounts?
Is there an undercurrent in reports about this is kind of a rich guy, he must be hiding something, or not? MCPIKE: It's not unfair because when you run for president, everything is fair game.
KURTZ: But the tone --
PAGE: That's right. I think -- we're talking now about a country where most of the people made up their minds already who they're going to vote for. Narrower and narrower sliver --
KURTZ: A hundred and six people --
PAGE: Yes. We're talking about people in swing states who are still undecided. It's a narrow group. But they're also low information voters, as David Axelrod calls them. Meaning that anything they hear now about the candidates is going to have an impact. So --
KURTZ: I'd like to get you on the record on Jennifer Rubin's suggestion that the tone of these media questions, fair questions, fair subject, whether the tone is unfair or incredulous or somehow unfair to Romney.
PAGE: I think -- the tone to me has been pretty straightforward. The fact is that people have legitimate questions about Romney's financial background.
I -- I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think his answers were good answers. If you haven't got more evidence than you do now of wrongdoing, the talk of criminal wrongdoing is just really over the top.
KURTZ: All right. I'll going to let you button up that segment, because we need to take a break.
When we come back, why all this media talk about Condoleezza Rice for V.P.? Matt Drudge scores again.
KURTZ: All it took was a big headline on "The Drudge Report." "Romney narrows V.P. choices, Condi emerges as front-runner." No name sources, no quote. But as implausible as it sounds, the media were off to the races.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ROBIN ROBERTS, ABC NEWS: Now to reports surfacing overnight about the surprising name at the top of Mitt Romney's vice presidential list, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: Buzz building around Mitt Romney's V.P. choice. Condoleezza Rice is reportedly at the top of the list.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: We're seeing reports that there's now a short list of possibilities, and the biggest name on that so-called short list is the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Erin McPike, why did so many media outlets cover this blip on "Drudge" when almost no journalists think there's no chance of this happening?
MCPIKE: It's widely accepted that that leak came directly from the top of the Romney campaign because Romney's campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, is very close to Matt Drudge --
KURTZ: I think that's an overstatement. But when you say it's widely accepted, we don't know. We don't know where --
MCPIKE: The media --
KURTZ: We don't know where the leak came from.
MCPIKE: That's true we don't, but so many assume that it's that, but we also take it that they were deflecting from the issues we were talking it, these reports on Bain.
So, yes, deflection is the bottom line.
RUBIN: I actually think that's not the case. The Romney people, with respect to most of the V.P. candidates, will simply say nice things and don't comment upon their V.P. prospects. With Condi Rice, at least on background, many of them disclaim any interest.
I don't think they have interest at putting her atop the stage. I think this was Matt Drudge doing what Matt Drudge does brilliantly, which is create a story out of nothing. And the media -
KURTZ: You say nothing, but that suggests that he made it up. I'm sure he spoke to somebody --
RUBIN: I'm sure there are donors who went to that event and were impressed by her speech and came whispering into Drudge's ear and said, I'm bet she's at the top of the shortlist. I think that happens more than journalists are willing to admit.
KURTZ: Just to briefly summarize, I mean, she has said repeatedly that she doesn't like electoral politics and has no interest in being V.P. She is pro-choice, and she, of course, you know, was such -- close to George W. Bush, she brings up the Iraq war and weapons of mass destruction and all of that.
So some of the journalists purport it to be fair said, well, Drudge reported this but there's not much time of it happening. But they still gave it airtime. Why is that?
PAGE: Man, I was with my good conservative buddy, Pat Buchanan, when the news broke on this. And he was just outraged at the notion. That's how many conservatives view a possible -- possibility of Condi Rice as a candidate. And then many on the left are outraged over her connections to the Iraq war, et cetera, et cetera. And she herself has expressed no interest. I take her at her word. But, yes, in the media though -- for one thing, Drudge has credibility with reporters because they all have -- many as their home page. I've seen this, because of exposure to it. When he has a big headline, folks say, well, Drudge is well connected with the Romney campaign and others, must be something to this.
You know, there's no other evidence anywhere, Howard.
KURTZ: And sometimes his scoops are right. This one, I think we're going to look back and say, eh --
MCPIKE: That's right. She's never been a candidate, for one thing. It would be very juicy because she would be, again, new to the campaign send of political arena.
KURTZ: We've known that Matt Drudge drives a lot of traffic online. We know he can get the entire media establishment on a Friday in July to chase a story that he puts up on his home page.
Clarence Page, Jennifer Rubin, Erin McPike -- thanks very much for joining us. Up next, "Newsweek's" cover claims the Internet is driving us all nuts, in some cases, serious nuts s. Is that crazy talk?
KURTZ: The cover of this week's "Newsweek" is not exactly subtle. Is the Internet driving us eye crazy? As a frequent user of this Internet and as far as I know perfectly sane, I found this a little farfetched.
Here's the author, Tony Dokoupil.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY DOKOUPIL, NEWSWEEK/THE DAILY BEAST: A group of scholars are suggesting that the way we use the Web today is making us not only dumber and loner, but more depress and anxious, prone to attention deficit disorders, and OCD behavior, even outright psychotic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So, has my magazine pointed out real dangers for the millions who hang out on line, or is this a case of media hyper ventilation?
Joining us now in Las Vegas, Sarah Lacy, founder and editor of chief of PandoDaily.com. And in New York, Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia University's chief digital officer who blogs about digital and social media for CNET News.
Sarah Lacy, do you believe that all the web surfing and e-mailing and texting can lead to mental illness? Is it driving you crazy?
SARAH LACY, FOUNDER, PANDODAILY.COM: It is not driving me crazy. Although, you know, one sign of insanity is you don't recognize you're insane. You know, I just think this whole group of scholars thing -- I mean, you know, we could find six surveys right now saying wine is good for you and bad for you. And chocolate is good for you and bad for you.
I mean, this is the same sort of fear mongering hysteria that, you know, wanted people to believe that video games made kids go shoot up their schools. And the idea that a totally balanced kid plays a video game and then loses his mind and takes out classmates makes about as much sense as saying spending time on social media will suddenly make you have an, emotional breakdown, strip off your clothe, and run naked through the streets.
KURTZ: I'm glad you're not restraining yourself.
Sree, the article starts off with the case of Jason Russell, the guy who made the "Kony 2012" video about the African warlord that went viral and ended up running naked around the streets. But I would say people like that are in the minority.
SREE SREENIVASAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Yes, I think so, otherwise we would have interesting streets if that was happening.
I found my own expert about this. I want out and talked to John Kounios, who a neuroscientist at Drexel University. He said pretty much what Sarah said, that the web can be addictive, social media can be addictive. But it's the underlying disposition that causes people who are already predisposed to having problems or being addicted in ways that will cause problems to react in ways that the magazine is describing.
KURTZ: Right. And, Sarah, the evidence suggests, you know, the argument by some of these scholars is that there's an Internet addiction, there's a Facebook addiction. But also that teenagers are sending 3,800 texts a month. That sounds a bit excessive.
So is any of that -- if it doesn't cause mental illness, is it at least potentially unhealthy?
LACY: I mean, it's potentially unhealthy. I think the Internet is such an intense media. You know, you're both able to connect with people and get information at a rapid rate. More than we've ever seen before. And there's good and bad with that. The same way there's good and bad with humanity.
But you know, I think it's something we have to adjust to. This world is here to stay. And I'm pretty sure back when the telephone came out people were saying the same thing. You know, I think there's a lot ways that the Internet's been a throwback to the way things were before.
I think emails and writing people letters is, you know, actually sort of a nice thing again. So, you know, I think that in every time that -- that some sort of technology brings us all closer and more immediate and takes away parts of like space and time that separate us, there's a lot of intensity that comes with that. And certainly that intensity can be good and bad at the same time. But there's a lot of examples of it helping humanity, too.
KURTZ: I'm glad you brought it up. I want to come back to it in a second.
But, Sree, how much time do you as chief digital officer spend on Twitter and Facebook, and how much do you worry about the amount of your day that gets absorbed by such things?
SREENIVASAN: I do worry about it. And I have two 9-year-olds. So we're careful about how much screen time they get online and how much time they're watching things.
But you have to know that people have been worried about this for decades. And when I first went around talking about e-mail and the web in general, people ask me, how much time do you spend on e-mail? And they're worried -- they were worried about me then.
So, you can imagine that when Facebook and Twitter came around, even there's more things to worry about.
But, you know, I don't want to discount that it may be scientific evidence of long-term evolutionary trouble that's going on with our brains and our synapses and things. That's still to be found and confirmed. But in the meantime, my bigger worry is kids and others who are texting and driving, for example, because of this addiction they always want to know what's going on.
KURTZ: But aside from texting and driving, Sree, how much guidance do you give your kids, and are you worried?
We came to this late. We didn't grow up in a world defined by the Internet. There was no Twitter, there's no Facebook. I don't know how we survived.
But how much are you worried about your 9-year-olds, you know, because this is all second nature to them. That maybe there's too much of this in their lives?
SREENIVASAN: Right. We do worry, and we see that they have friends of theirs who are much more tech savvy than them. They had friends who were -- when they were 5, 6, who already had blogs. We also find parents sitting down with their kids and lying about their kids' age, you know, Facebook -- terms of service says you have to be 13 to use it. But 9 -- 8, 9, 10-year-olds, parents sit down with them and let them lie about this thing that they will be using for a long time to come.
So I think parents have a responsibility. And not to say that, well, the kids need to learn all this stuff because they'll be left behind. I don't worry about that at all.
KURTZ: And Sarah, I think you hit on a salient point, which is whenever we have articles of this type, people are -- you know, they're -- they don't leave the house for days because they're staring at their screens and they're spending all their time on Facebook, or whatever -- it's always -- it's often portrayed, I should say, as a kind of a dark, nefarious, anti-social activity.
But not only can we learn a lot from all of these sources of on- line information, but it does provide connections with other people.
LACY: Yes. Absolutely. I'm more in touch with people I grew up with. You know, I never have to lose touch with anyone in the world. And you know, I know that people say that, Oh, it's just more shallow relationships. But you know, I think I have more of them. And you know, that's a good thing.
I think the real issue here is less Facebook and Twitter and it's more the iPhone, the fact that we're carrying computers around with us. And on one level, you know, that's a bad thing when it comes to texts and driving, like Sree said. But it's also a good thing because it means we're doing this interaction while we're out in the world.
I don't see a problem in checking my e-mail while I'm standing in line at the post office. To me, that's actually a lot more social and healthy than sitting home in the dark for an hour doing it.
KURTZ: Right. I think you've hit on the great accomplishment of Facebook is that you can check out what your, you know, ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend is doing and not lose sight of...
LACY: I know you do that every weekend, Howard!
KURTZ: Well, I was hoping not to bring that up. Sree, but isn't there a danger that all this connectivity, and whether it's on the phone, the smartphone, or it's on the screen or it's on the iPad or it's on the laptop, all these devices, that in some ways, it becomes a substitute for real life?
SREENIVASAN: Oh, absolutely. I know people who worry so much about what picture they're going to capture of the thing they're experiencing instead of experiencing it itself, or as I'd like to tell people, like, if you're on FourSquare, which is, you know, after Twitter and after Facebook, a lot people use that as a way to kind of check in and tell people where they are at the moment, you know, instead of sort of paying attention to the person you're having dinner with, that that is going to be issues that -- an issue that kind of affects relationships. We have seen that already.
But these stories have been done, I think, to death on covers of magazines, of news magazines, for the last 20, 25 years about how terrible technology is and how it's ruining our lives and causing many of the things we've already talked about.
KURTZ: The same magazines then try to interest you in their iPad app.
SREENIVASAN: That's right!
KURTZ: Sarah, if the Internet doesn't cause psychosis, how about neurosis? I mean, are there times when you feel like technology has taken over your life?
LACY: It's absolutely taken over my life. But I also make a great living because of the Internet. I mean, you know, my entire, you know, world as a business reporter has been an exciting ride because of what the Internet's made possible and everything that's been created out of Silicon Valley. So...
LACY: ... you're not going to find me complaining about it.
KURTZ: All right, let me get Sree in on that question in our remaining half minute.
SREENIVASAN: Yes. So I think that there -- what we have to worry about is, where do we go from here in terms of, can we log off for our own sake and also for the sake of our friends and family? But at the same time, our bosses are expecting in this particular time of economic, you know, tightness that they're -- they want us to be more productive and be on line and participate.
So it's very hard to kind of kind of separate that out, and that's something that we are going to watch become even more confusing as time goes by.
KURTZ: All right, Sree Sreenivasan, I'll text you after the show. Sarah Lacy, stick around.
After the break, Bravo's latest reality series is called "Silicon Valley." So why does it look like a wild and crazy high school?
KURTZ: Bravo, which brings us all those "Real Housewives," has a new series coming out this fall called "Silicon Valley." Here's how it's being marketed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... is like being the new rock stars.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bravo's following these hot young professionals with big dreams on the road to becoming techie superstars!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the brightest minds in the world are right here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Silicon Valley" is high school, but it's only the smart kids. And everyone has a lot of money.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On "Silicon Valley"!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily, you totally went off on this Bravo series when that trailer came out. Why?
LACY: Well, you know, Silicon Valley is a place that will forgive a lot of bad behavior. The one thing it will not forgive is a lack of authenticity. And there is nothing about this show that is grounded in reality.
These people, in the most bullish funding time ever in the valley history, or close to -- these guys who are supposed entrepreneurs on this show are struggling to raise even, you know, $500,000. What does that tell you about how well they're doing? All they're trying to do is get fame and money.
KURTZ: This story landed on the front page of "The New York Times" this week, many weeks after you first wrote about it. You were particularly critical of the role of one of the producers, Randi Zuckerberg, who is the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. You've known her for a long time, but you wrote such things as, "How can you sleep at night?"
LACY: Yes, I mean, that's the problem with the show is -- look, this is not just a show about these individuals. It's a show calling itself "Silicon Valley." It's a show that's purporting to represent Silicon Valley. And when you have the last name Zuckerberg associated with that, people take that as truth. And that's my issue with this.
I mean, a lot of people have said, Oh, this is reality TV, why do you expect it to be true? But people will take it that way, and that's a disservice to the industry.
KURTZ: Was it difficult for you to criticize Randi Zuckerberg the way you did, since you, you know, have some relationship with her?
LACY: Look, I mean, I have relationships with a lot of people in Silicon Valley. And you know, I can't be in a place and write about it, and you know, have my own authenticity -- back to that sort of cardinal virtue -- without calling things like I see them. And you know, I'm happy -- I was happy to sit down and talk to her about it, as well. She didn't take me up on that offer.
KURTZ: And she didn't take up "The New York Times," either, which wrote about it, as I mentioned, and Randi Zuckerberg declined to be interviewed.
But she wrote on her Facebook page, "Inspiring more people to pursue an entrepreneurial American dream can only be a good thing." So she's obviously defending her role in helping get this series on to Bravo.
LACY: What she also said in that same Facebook note of, "this isn't a documentary, this is entertainment." And you know, I've talked to people who own different office spaces that some of these so-called entrepreneurs work out of. And you know, they've said, Look, we need releases because we're going to have to fictionalize and stage a party here. I mean, they're, like -- the way they're walking around in the valley, it's just absurd. Some of the stars are staying in a mansion in the Castro that costs $17,000 a month. There is nothing Silicon Valley about that! Entrepreneurs make less than 50 grand and eat ramen noodles and work 24 hours a day.
KURTZ: Well, in fairness, we haven't seen the whole show yet. So when we do, maybe we'll come back and offer our opinion. Sarah Lacy, thanks very much for stopping by this Sunday morning.
LACY: Thanks, Howie.
KURTZ: And next on RELIABLE SOURCES: Diane Sawyer is creating a softer, more emotional evening newscast. How does that differ from what Brian Williams and Scott Pelley are doing? We'll go to the videotape.
KURTZ: ABC executives have a name for the kind of stories that Diane Sawyer has been using to kick off "World News," the insurgent lead. ABC News president Ben Sherwood told "Columbia Journalism Review" "insurgent" is a word that means to rise up against the established order. So Sawyer has been playing up more colorful stories with a human element, as opposed to, say, news from the Beltway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIANE SAWYER, ANCHOR, ABC "WORLD NEWS": Tonight on "World News," criminal act. A landmark verdict says a driver who was texting behind the wheel is guilty of homicide.
Tonight on "World News," blazing heat, dangerously high temperatures fuel more than a dozen wildfires in nine states.
Tonight on "World News," bullying bombshell, tears and anger in the courtroom, the student who spied on his gay roommate sentenced to just 30 days in jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Scott Pelley's "CBS Evening News" has the hardest edge, heavy on politics and foreign affairs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PELLEY, ANCHOR, "CBS EVENING NEWS": Shameless brutality. Those are the words the United States chose today to describe Bashar al Assad's all-out military assault on Syria's freedom movement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And Brian Williams's "NBC Nightly News" stakes out a middle ground, using folksy introductions to set up political stories.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": While tonight people are on the move and mall parking lots are full amid the stress of everyday life in the week running up to Christmas. The nation's elected representatives are fighting and are again deadlocked between parties and within parties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So what do these choices tell us about how the networks cover the news?
Joining us now in New York, Paul Friedman, who wrote that article for "Columbia Journalism Review." He's the professional in residence at Quinnipiac School of Communications and a former vice president at CBS News, as well as a veteran of ABC and NBC News. And Andrew Tyndall, founder of the TyndallReport, a Web site that monitors the three network evening newscasts.
Paul Friedman, what is Diane Sawyer trying to do with her "insurgent" newscast?
PAUL FRIEDMAN, FMR. EXEC. VICE PRESIDENT, CBS NEWS: Well, I think all three newscasts, all three evening newscasts are trying to differentiate themselves in an era when there's a lot of competition for the audience.
KURTZ: And in particular, because Diane Sawyer seems to be trying not to do what the other two are doing -- I take your point about all three following their own path -- how would you summarize the changes in "World News" in the last year under Sawyer?
FRIEDMAN: Well, the differences are clearest at ABC. They are focusing on more popular stories, on "news you can use," on consumer stories, on health stories. They're still quite capable of doing a terrific job on the traditional news, but they prefer to put the emphasis on more popular stories.
KURTZ: Andrew Tyndall, you have written about the newscasts, and you say of ABC's "World News" that there's a lot less foreign news than on the other broadcasts and it also has what you call a morning show sensibility. Explain.
ANDREW TYNDALL, FOUNDER, TYNDALLREPORT.COM: Yes. On the -- if you think of the big major foreign news stories that have happened in the first six months of this year -- the revolution in Syria, the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the Chinese -- the blind Chinese dissident who escaped and came to the United States, the crisis in the euro zone -- on all of those, the amount of coverage on ABC is minimal compared to the amount of coverage especially on Scott Pelley's "CBS Evening News."
The switch from foreign to domestic has been extreme since Diane Sawyer took over. The only foreign story that has received considerable attention on ABC News was the diamond jubilee of the Queen of England...
KURTZ: And what about...
TYNDALL: ... which is sort of...
KURTZ: What about the...
TYNDALL: ... more a celebrity story than a foreign story.
KURTZ: What about what you call the "morning show sensibility"? Diane Sawyer, of course, spent more than a decade as co-host of "Good Morning America."
TYNDALL: Yes. And this change has happened under the presidency at ABC News of Ben Sherwood, who was her executive producer at "Good Morning America." Add the two together.
And the morning sensibility has stories about personal health, personal finances, things that exist in one's own life. But also, there's a category of story we call "water cooler stories," which is, basically, you set up a dispute that may or may not be very newsworthy or very important, but it allows people to have vociferous discussions over the water cooler about the pros and cons of a given story.
The tabloid label is often used for this category of stories, and for instance, the trial of John Edwards was much more heavily covered by ABC than either by CBS or by NBC.
KURTZ: Right. Well, of course, he was a former presidential candidate. Paul Friedman, what about this water cooler aspect? Is that good for an evening newscast to do, to try to engage viewers and maybe stay away from some of the worthy, important stories that a lot of folks don't care all that much about?
FRIEDMAN: Well, it's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a matter of the balance. It's a matter of the balance within a program and the balance over the course of time. I'm not immune to wanting to see a story about a cute animal. They do a lot of that on "World News." But the question is whether those stories push out everything else that's important.
KURTZ: Because you have that limited time, about 22 minutes minus commercials.
FRIEDMAN: Right. Right.
KURTZ: But as you know, Paul, many in the journalistic establishment say, Well, she's leading with the weather, she's leading with some criminal trial, that these aren't the important stories. Is that a fair bit of criticism?
FRIEDMAN: Yes, it is fair. But it's important to understand that the competitive situation is very tough. These newscasts used to have 90 percent of the audience at 6:30. They now have about 30. It's still an enormous audience, but it's their job to somehow be relevant and useful to the audience.
ABC is clearly choosing this path, which is new in the evening news field, and it remains to be seen whether it will work, and more importantly, whether, as some news purists worry, it will force the other newscasts to go, quote, "down market."
KURTZ: Right. It does seem to be helping ABC in the ratings, which is number two behind "NBC Nightly News."
FRIEDMAN: I would quibble about the thing -- that this is the new thing in the nightly newscasts. There have been other periods where one or other of these newscasts have tried to take the tabloid route in order to boost their ratings.
For instance, NBC went from being number three to number one largely on the strength of hitching its wagon to the O.J. Simpson trial in the mid-'90s. When Brian Williams inherited the show from Tom Brokaw, it got to number one, but it didn't go to number one doing hard news. It got to number one doing tabloid news.
KURTZ: I remember the O.J. period vividly. And Andrew, let's turn to a couple of the others quickly. Scott Pelley doing -- clearly doing the most traditional, hard news broadcast. But it's awfully meat and potatoes, you say, Andrew, very few warm and fuzzy stories.
TYNDALL: Yes. What Paul said, a really good index of how committed to warm and fuzzy is how many animal stories you have, and you don't hardly see any animal stories on CBS.
KURTZ: The cute "cat measurement" may be something we can invent here. And Paul, Brian Williams kind of doing -- he has, obviously, the number one rated newscast, as we just said, kind of down the middle, tackles a lot of important stories, does a lot of politics, but at least introduces them with a more personal take.
FRIEDMAN: And also has a nice sense of humor, which he's able to demonstrate in little items along the way in the newscast. But it's the most traditional of the three now, in the sense that it has the most traditional mix of both hard news and feature stories.
KURTZ: So more traditional, in that sense, than Scott Pelley, who you would say is trying to establish his own identity as a hard news guy?
FRIEDMAN: Right. I cannot recall a program as unremittingly serious as the Scott Pelley program is.
KURTZ: OK. I just want to touch on one other thing here, and that is news from a Gallup poll this week that's not just about the network newscasts, but television news in general falling to an all- time low in terms of people exhibiting a lot of trust in it, a low of 21 percent. That compares to 46 percent back in 1993.
Who's to blame for that precipitous decline, Andrew Tyndall?
TYNDALL: Well, I think the observation that Paul made in his article is the correct one, which is back in the day, when you talked about TV news, you knew what you were talking about. You were talking about the same gender on all newscasts, especially on all network newscasts.
Now there's such variety, when you talk about TV news, people don't know what you're talking about. Are you talking about Fox News, are you talking about your local news at 11:00, are you talking about the network nightly news, are you talking about "Good Morning America"? There's no such thing as TV news as a category.
KURTZ: Excellent point. Brief observation, Paul Friedman? Cable news obviously playing much more prominent role in 2012.
FRIEDMAN: Yes. The audience is fragmented. That's one of the reasons the evening newscasts are trying to develop different identities. I just hope that in the process of developing those different identities they don't lose their credibility, which is the single most important thing they have.
KURTZ: Right. But of course, the news not new to most people at 6:30, and that's the dilemma they all face.
Paul Friedman, Andrew Tyndall, thanks very much.
Still to come, a flood of bogus bylines, another unethical intern and a surprising name surfaces on Aaron Sorkin's cable news drama. The "Media Monitor" straight ahead.
KURTZ: Time now for the "Media Monitor," our weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business.
Some young journalists just aren't getting the message about ethics. We told you a couple of weeks ago how "The Wall Street Journal" had dismissed an intern named Liane Membis for making up quotes. And by the way, the HuffingtonPost has since taken down a story by Membis after finding it was fabricated.
Now NPR has deleted an on-line story by an intern named Ahmad Shafi. This one's even worse, a first-person piece in which he recounted having seen a public execution in Kabul. The problem is that while Shafi was indeed there, parts of the piece were plagiarized almost word for word from a "London Review of Books" article that ran back in 2001.
NPR expressed regret for the mistake, telling the Poynter Institute that English isn't Shafi's first language and that, quote, "He was completely upfront and honest and deeply contrite about the blunder."
Glad to hear it, but stealing other people's work is bad news in any language.
If you can't believe the name on a story, what can you believe? Journatic is a company that provides stories to newspapers, a kind of media outsourcing, and it turns out the company has been slapping fake bylines on many of these pieces. The story was broken by the public radio program "This American Live," which quoted a Journatic freelancer as saying he reworked stories done for a pittance by writers in places like the Philippines and put fake names on them.
These were published in "The San Francisco Chronicle" and "Houston Chronicle," as well as in "The Chicago Sun-Times," which has ended its relationship with the firm. Bogus bylines also appeared in "The Chicago Tribune," which is a bit awkward since the Tribune company is an investor in Journatic. On Friday, "The Tribune" said it was suspending its relationship with the company.
Now, I am a big fan of Aaron Sorkin, and as you may recall, was not a big fan of his HBO series, "The Newsroom," which seemed filled with journalists making self-righteous speeches.
Well, I've warmed to it a little bit. And there was one speech I sort of liked as the anchor, Jeff Daniels, tries to do a more responsible newscast and drops 7 percent in the ratings. Sam Waterston, the news division chief, is defending himself against the suits, including the head of the company, Jane Fonda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM WATERSTON, ACTOR: Media Matters, Think Progress, Howard Kurtz and "The Columbia Journalism Review" all praised our coverage of the Times Square bomb!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do any of them advertise on our network?
WATERSTON: I don't believe they advertise anywhere.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: That's right, Aaron Sorkin is making it seem like I, as a media critic, have given my august stamp of approval to his brave brand of journalism on this fictional newscast. And the sad truth is, he never even consulted me, wouldn't even accept my gracious invitation to come on this program.
So how do I feel about Sorkin using my reputation to validate his "Newsroom"? Hey, it's good for the brand. Maybe you can write me into a future plot, Aaron.
That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. By the way, if you miss a program, you can now go to iTunes on Mondays and download a free audio podcast or buy the video version.
We'll be back here next Sunday morning 11:00 AM Eastern for another critical look at the media. "STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY" begins right now.