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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Prosecutors Target FOX Reporter; Tackling Tornado Tragedy; Yahoo! Buys Tumblr
Aired May 26, 2013 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: The Obama administration's war against leaks just seems to keep on escalating. Now, we discover that the Justice Department seized personal e-mails from a FOX News reporter and phone records from the network.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC: You can't look at this and see it as anything other than an attempt to basically scare anybody from ever leaking anything ever again. So they want to criminalize journalism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Does this administration view national security reporters as potential criminals?
The devastating tornado in Oklahoma that cut such a swath of destruction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following the breaking news. Indeed, a massive twister ripping through the Oklahoma City area.
CASEY STEGALL, FOX NEWS: This isn't out in the middle of nowhere. This is a densely populated area with schools, malls, homes, businesses that have been destroyed, blown apart into bits, into millions and millions of pieces.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: We'll talk to a local columnist about covering the heartbreaking story in his backyard.
Talk radio is dominated by conservatives, so is there really a place for a host who proudly proclaims he has no labels. A conversation with Michael Smerconish.
Plus, my close encounter with Google Glass.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: I have to get used to the fact while I can see you and see all around this room, there's a computer here that I can see out ever my right eye.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: They look downright weird, but could we all be getting our news from these digital glasses? We'll try them on for size.
I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
KURTZ: We learned this week -- thanks to "The Washington Post" -- of yet another leak investigation by the Obama administration. This one with a disturbing twist for those who champion freedom of the press. It was in 2009 that James Rosen, FOX's chief Washington correspondent, reported the findings of U.S. intelligence officials that North Korea was likely to respond to U.N. sanctions with more nuclear tests.
Now, that prompted federal prosecutors to investigate Rosen's dealings with the state department official, including monitoring Rosen's Gmail account and the badge that allowed him access to the State Department.
But the Justice Department wasn't just trying to catch a leaker. A government affidavit describing Rosen as at the very least either as an aider, abettor, and/or co-conspirator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: The Justice Department was alleging that the reporter in question, our colleague, James, had engaged possibly in a conspiracy, a criminal conspiracy, which means, Martha, that the Obama/Holder Justice Department is now prepared to treat the ordinary news gathering activities of reporters trying to seek information from government officials as a possible crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: FOX's lawyers have asked Rosen not to discuss the case, but he did say this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS: As a reporter, I will always honor the confidentiality of my dealings with all of my sources.
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: The Justice Department says it doesn't anticipate bringing any charges beyond the indictment of Stephen Kim, the State Department official being prosecuted in the leak case.
Joining us now in New York, Keli Goff, special correspondent for theroot.com.
And here in Washington, Tim Carney, senior political columnist for 'The Washington Examiner", and Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" and a CNN contributor.
Ryan Lizza, you broke the news this week that justice had gone after several phone lines belonging to the FOX News Washington bureau. Let's start with the latest developments.
CNN and "The New York Times" reporting last night that Justice -- or you should say law enforcement officials say that Justice did notify three years ago News Corp, the parent company of FOX News, about the subpoena for the phone regards. This is separate from James Rosen's personal Gmail account and News Corp executives indicating that FOX News was not informed.
Does this change the nature of this story?
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think it changes that much. It adds a piece of information. When I called FOX this week and asked them, did they know that these five FOX phone lines were targeted, a spokesperson said, no, and they referred me to a previous statement.
It sounds like from what FOX is saying now is that there was some kind of communications gap in between News Corp, the parent company, and FOX News, and that this information, I mean, if you can imagine this, wasn't passed on to FOX News.
I don't think -- look, the reason that this seems to be leaking out of the government right now is because the government is -- wants to at least put forward that they were somewhat responsible in this case. The Justice Department is supposed to inform us when they subpoena our phone records.
KURTZ: By us you mean journalists --
LIZZA: By us, you mean journalists. They have guidelines. They have very strict guidelines to govern this. So it was curious -- it would have been very odd if they hadn't told FOX News. And I think what we're seeing over the weekend is the government trying to say, hey, as bad as this case may look, we swear we did tell News Corp about the subpoenas to the phone lines.
KURTZ: And that sensitivity may be underscored by the fact in the case involving "The Associated Press", a couple months of phone records by "A.P." editors and journalists being monitored by Justice, there was no notification, note to "The A.P."
Keli Goff, if Justice Department notified News Corp, FOX's parent, three years ago, does that change the nature of the story?
KELI GOFF, THEROOT.COM: Well, it changes the nature of that specific story, Howard. I don't think it changes the nature of the fact that I think you can't help being a member of the media and not be upset about this. I mean, that's just the reality.
Unfortunately we don't seem to have much backup. When I say we I mean members of the media from the rest of Americans. Pew just released a poll that showed in terms of news coverage, Americans are following Benghazi and the IRS scandal more closely than they're following this scandal which we're all very concerned about.
Now, there are some obvious reasons for that. All Americans have to pay taxes. Not everyone has to report news.
But I think that ultimately, it doesn't change the fact that this I think could end up being a more harmful story to the administration in the long term than Benghazi or IRS, because ultimately, media helps shape the coverage of the administration, and I think there's a huge measure of distrust that's brewing that is not going to go away particularly as more details come out.
TIM CARNEY, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: I think Keli makes a great point. That the distrust of Obama, that, frankly, a lot of us on the right have been saying there should be more of, has really bubbled up in the last few months. It started with, I think, Jay Carney very clearly -- the White House press secretary, no relation to me -- very clearly trying to be Clintonian with his words talking about Benghazi and reporters realized their legs were getting pulled, and this comes up and reporters are starting to see not only can we not always trust that the administration is being forthcoming but that they play hardball.
And, again, this is something that conservatives have been saying the auto --
KURTZ: So, you're saying the mainstream media is catching up --
CARNEY: They're catching up.
KURTZ: -- that some of you conservative critics have --
LIZZA: Can I just -- at the risk of being in the position of the scandal I care about is more important than the scandal you care about, the IRS and Benghazi are very important. Long-term, though, what the Justice Department did the search warrant, they crossed a line that no administration has ever crossed. The Nixon administration didn't do it, the Bush administration considered doing it and there was an uproar --
KURTZ: And in talking about that line, let's make that line bright, red, and clear. This search warrant referred to James Rosen, widely respected FOX News correspondent, as a co-conspirator or potential co- conspirator. He hasn't been charged. He's not going to be charged. It was a way of getting at his e-mails to track this leak investigation.
That in and of itself is a sea change you're saying?
LIZZA: It's a sea change. I would challenge the last parted of that, Howie. I think if you look at all -- everything they did in the early parts of this investigation, they were pursuing a criminal conspiracy between James Rosen and Kim. Some people are saying, oh, they were never going to charge Rosen to begin with. I'm not so sure about that. If you read the language of the warrant, they were saying this guy is engaged in espionage with the State Department official and we've got to go get his e-mails.
If you look at what separately they went into federal court and they said we can't tell Rosen ever about the search warrants because we may need to go back and monitor his e-mail account indefinitely if we find evidence of further crimes.
So, that's the line that they crossed. They suggested that potentially you could indict a member of the media for doing routine reporting.
Obama is going to be gone in 3 1/2 years and this precedent in this search warrant will be sitting out there for the next president or Justice Department to use.
KURTZ: Again, it was News Corp. That was notified. FOX News said it did not know about this.
Let me read for those of you following this, a statement -- actually a memo to FOX News staff by the chief executive of the network, Roger Ailes. He says the following, "The administration's attempt to intimidate FOX News and its employees will not succeed and their excuses will stand neither the test of law, the test of decency, nor test of time. We will not allow a climate of press intimidation unseen since the McCarthy era to frighten any of us away from the truth."
CARNEY: It's certainly an attempt to frighten would-be leakers. That's one of the things they want to do.
Say, if you talk to reporters, we will come after you, and because even if you're using personal e-mails, even if you're meeting privately, what the Rosen case shows, is they're going to track you and keep up with you.
So, I see the attempt to -- I don't think they were actually trying to prosecute James Rosen. They had to name him as a possible co- conspirator in order to get around privacy laws in order to get around privacy laws in order to get his e-mail.
LIZZA: Wait a second, wait a second. You don't just -- you don't just go to a judge and say, oh, we don't really think this give is a criminal but we're going to say so in a search warrant because we want to look at his e-mails. You have to look at the search warrant -- language in the search warrant and assume that the FBI agent who wrote it meant what he wrote. He said we believe he's a co-conspirator here.
KURTZ: Keli, I know you want to jump in. Let me briefly, and I will turn the microphone over to you. Let me play something that President Obama said in his speech this week where he touched on the controversy because the administration obviously has been getting hammered, including by those of us in the press, for its approach to these leak investigations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOFF: Look, you know it's a bad week in terms of press coverage when the president would rather give a speech drawing attention to one of his biggest campaign promises he never fulfilled, which is closing Gitmo, because that's a better news story than the other stories he has to contend with this week, which are all bad.
I think the only upside Jay Carney actually had this week is when he declared his favorite band, which is Guided by Voices, in a profile with "The Washington Post." I mean, that was up moment the administration had.
KURTZ: Let me jump in here in saying that we should consider the -- the administration should consider a media shield law for journalists, which the administration had not supported in the past.
Is the president retreating a bit? And more importantly he says journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs but doesn't the actions of his own Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder approved the subpoena in the FOX case, doesn't the actions of his own Justice Department suggest otherwise?
GOFF: In a word, yes. It does. And I think it's a problem. I mean, I think the media shield law idea is great, who doesn't? But you're right. There's a contradiction here.
I mean, I'm going to be honest though, I think the administration in some ways is counting on a couple things, Howard. Number one, Rasmussen has a poll that shows that 6 percent of Americans trust journalism, trust journalists. I think Gallup had a poll said 60 percent don't trust us very much.
So, I think they're kind of counting on the fact that most Americans probably aren't going to be as outraged as we are. I don't think that's a particular surprise.
The other thing that they're probably counting on is that Pew poll shows that in terms of covering these scandals, those who are actually following the scandal closely, there is a huge partisan divide with Republicans following them more closely than others and not many following this media one at all. I think they are not anticipating it's going to have a real impact. I'm just being candid. KURTZ: Let me make sure everyone gets a last word. This week, IRS official Lois Lerner took the Fifth before a congressional committee, now on administrative leave -- and that scandal. But you're -- are journalists more interested, or at least --
LIZZA: That's not my scandal.
KURTZ: That's not your scandal. The American people care more about the IRS than the workings of press versus Justice Department although, as you say, fundamental freedoms are at stake not just for reporters, trying to do their ferret out any information that an administration might not like to be made public.
LIZZA: Look, there's a lot of news, a lot of investigations going on. It's hard for the average person at home to make track of it all.
I would make the case that in the long term, what the Justice Department did in the search warrant could have more profound effects on not to be, you know, overblown here, on our democracy than some low-level employees in Cincinnati who were doing something really stupid at the IRS.
CARNEY: Well -- but the idea that outside groups, people who don't have the -- you know, who are not media organizations, should be really worried about what they're saying about politicians. That's what the IRS thing is about. These were nonprofit groups and the worry was that they were getting too political.
That's also a threat to sort of democracy and it's people who don't have a giant microphone like we do.
LIZZA: I agree.
KURTZ: Both of these scandals will get a fair amount of coverage because the Washington media are very geared up here.
We are out of time.
Keli Goff in New York, Ryan Lizza, Tim Carney, thanks for stopping by this Sunday morning.
When we come back -- with President Obama heading to Oklahoma today, we'll talk to a local journalist about the human impact of covering those devastating tornadoes.
KURTZ: The moments before that terrifying tornado struck the town of Moore, Oklahoma, local television played a key role in broadcasting the warnings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DANIELLE DOZIER, METEOROLOGIST, KOCO: We've got significant debris. I just got hit upside the head by at least some quarter-sized hail that's been pinging around. Arcadia, Luther, you're in the path of this tornado.
DAVE FREEMAN, CHIEF METEOROLOGIST: J.D., in 20 years, I have never said that but I think it's time to go. We're leaving the radar image up but it appears that is it's time for all of us to get to shelter.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: After the tornado struck, anchors and reporters descended on Oklahoma not just to assess the damage but for the difficult task of talking to those who survived the storm that killed 24 people in a matter of minutes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Teachers do an incredible job every day of the year all around this country, but what happened here yesterday -- the heroism shown by so many teachers.
WAYNEL MAYES, 1ST GRADE TEACHER, BRIARWOOD ELEMENTARY SCHOOOL: I told them to get underneath the desk and I put them two by two and I said, OK, we're going to play our musical instruments and play worms and play as loud as we can. So, I didn't want them to hear the roar.
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: And Jordan, how long did that tornado seem to last for you?
JORDAN COBB, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Forever. It seemed like it was like an hour, like it was crazy. I mean, I can't even believe we survived that.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: President Obama is headed to Oklahoma this morning and with the media in full pursuit, he will take on the role that's being a signature responsibility of the modern presidency, that of consoler in chief when tragedy strikes.
I spoke earlier with Berry Tramel, a columnist for "The Oklahoman" newspaper who has been covering the tornado's impact.
KURTZ: Berry Tramel, welcome.
BERRY TRAMEL, THE OKLAHOMAN: Harry, how are you doing?
KURTZ: Very well.
You wrote about a picture taken by one of your photographers, a 47- year-old man nicknamed "Big Dog" embracing a 6-year-old boy. It was titled "the hug that triumphs over tragedy."
Why was that image so powerful on your view?
TRAMEL: I mean, when you see it -- you know, a white man and a little black boy, you wonder what's going on here and you find out it's two neighbors just happy to be reunited and, you know, the joy on -- the relief on the face of Jim Routon really told the story of thankfulness and togetherness.
You know, tragedies like this are just horrific and devastating, but they also bring people together, and Oklahomans know that all too well.
KURTZ: Unfortunately, that is the case.
Now, you're a sports columnist by trade. This is not the first time you have been pulled off the sports beat to cover the devastation and the aftermath of a tornado, correct?
TRAMEL: That's right. 1999, I spent about ten days in the aftermath of the tornado. Also 1995, the bombing, I left sports for a couple weeks to cover the Murrah Building bombings. So, in fact, I remember, in '99, covering the tornado, we had several slips of the tongue. People referred to it as the bombing because there were so many similarities to the feeling and the despair compared to the Murrah Building bombing.
KURTZ: Right, and that sense of tragedy can be so sudden. Now, one of the things that struck me in reading what you've done this week -- it is the old-fashioned door knocking that you have engaged in. You talked to a woman named Dorice Biddy (ph) who survived a twister as you called them there in 1973 and she's from the town of Moore which was, of course, badly devastated by this latest tornado and she told you if you kick somebody from Moore, we kick back.
Is that typical of the spirit of the people you have been talking to?
TRAMEL: It seems to really be because for whatever reason, this is a place sitting here between Norman and Oklahoma City. For whatever reason, this attracts tornadoes, and, you know, this is the second massive one to come through in 14 years, an F-5 or better.
So for people to continue to come back and rebuild I think is a testament to their spirit. You know, often times when we talk about neighborhoods, we ask people, you know, why would you come back and what we really mean is why would you come back to this hood, and the answer is: we want to come back to these neighbors.
So this is a place that hasn't an incredible spirit. I actually grew up 10 miles south of here down in Norman, but my wife is from Moore. Her family still lives here. Most every Oklahoman has a connection with Moore, and it's a place that is showing remarkable resiliency.
KURTZ: Since you did grow up in that area, I have to ask you, how hard is it personally, emotionally, to report on this kind of tragedy, children killed, the death and destruction in your own community, in your own backyard?
TRAMEL: Well, it's very difficult. Even, you know, even if it's somebody you just met, you feel an instant connection with them. You know, you talked about, you know, the people I knocked on their door, walked up to their rubble, and, you know, most of them are very accommodating, wanting to share their story. And you feel an instant connection with them and they feel a connection with you.
And, you know, for all of the horrific things that happened when a tragedy like this strikes, it does create a sense of community and it does bring people together, and we get a sense that we're all in this together, and, you know, good things do come out of it -- talking about Jim Routon and Hezekiah, the man and the little boy in hood.
TRAMEL: All kinds of good things come out of this. It's awful that we have to go through it, and it's very difficult for all concerned, not just journalists, for the responders, for the medical people, for the law enforcement -- everybody goes through very difficult times, but the sense that we're all in this together really lifts people through it.
KURTZ: And I think the media have done a good job of spotlighting the hope and humanity in that situation. But you talked to two couples who are not pleased with the national media in Oklahoma. One had a beef about being on "Good Morning America."
What is the essence of their complaint?
TRAMEL: Well, they seem to think -- some of it was a New York thing. They thought the New Yorkers were a little pushy.
Frankly, you know, down in Oklahoma, we've got a different kind of personality. If you're not used to that, it can be off-putting. I don't think -- I assume the New York media was not trying to be that way. It's just sort of the nature of their personality.
They also thought there was a little bit of exploitation on the "Good Morning America" with Hezekiah and Jim did a spot for "Good Morning America" and sat out and did an early morning shoot and the father of the 6-year-old boy didn't want his son exposed to a lot of the despair, a lot of the damage, tried -- wanted him to be as far away as possible. Instead, they put him right in the front of a destroyed house and they were pretty upset about that.
So you can understand that kind of thing. I also understand that, you know, shows and television productions need good scenes and, you know, the rubble that we -- that is all around us is a remarkable story- telling mechanism itself.
TRAMEL: So I can see both sides and what we're dealing with, people that don't typically deal with the media and, you know, those people just really don't know what they're getting into. They don't know how it works. They don't know what to look for. They don't know what to ask.
Soon enough, they learn. It's just -- it's one of the unfortunate by- products of a tragedy like this.
KURTZ: Right. That is a dilemma journalists have a job to do, television (INAUDIBLE), but at the same time as a dad, we do want to protect our children from seeing the worst images, and I can certainly understand.
Berry Tramel, thanks very much for joining us from Oklahoma.
TRAMEL: You bet, Howard.
KURTZ: The president, as I said, lands in Oklahoma this afternoon.
Ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES, Yahoo's Marissa Mayer tries to chase younger readers by buying the hip blogging site Tumblr. Will her billion dollar bet pay off?
And later, a first person demonstration of Google Glass.
KURTZ: It was huge news in the tech world. Yahoo, the Internet giant whose star has dimmed in recent years, spending more than a billion dollars to buy Tumblr, the hip multimedia platform for bloggers launched by 26-year-old David Karp, a major league gamble for Yahoo CEO's Marissa Mayer.
But can Yahoo make this work without spoiling the free wheeling spirit that's made Tumblr so popular?
I spoke earlier with Mario Armstrong, digital lifestyle expert for HLN and Katie Linendoll, tech analyst for ESPN and Spike TV.
KURTZ: Katie Linendoll, how would you describe the connection of Yahoo, and new kid on the block, Tumblr?
KATIE LINDENDOLL, SPIKE TV: Well, it is probably not the most appropriate analogy, but I like to say this is like the super hot supermodel paired with the old creepy guy, and you're like this just doesn't kind of work, what's going on here? Oh, the old creepy guy has a billion dollars. That's why there's a mismatch.
LINENDOLL: That's how I like to think of Yahoo Tumblr.
KURTZ: The old creepy guy is headed by a woman. The young CEO, Marissa Mayer, and in the official press release announcing the billion dollar acquisition of Tumblr, she vowed not to screw it up. Why did she say that?
MARIO ARMSTRONG, TECHNOLOGY CONTRIBUTOR, NPR AND NBC'S "TODAY": Because she better not. I mean, this is -- look, Yahoo! is in a state of emergency right now. Everyone can act like they are OK, but really they're not. This could be seen as a desperate move, but I think it's a very smart move. KURTZ: But explain, you know, Yahoo! has a history of acquiring other companies like Flickr and perhaps not doing well by them. Yet, you say Yahoo! is desperate. For people who don't follow the Internet closely, what do you say Yahoo! is desperate or in need of a (inaudible) of strength?
ARMSTRONG: Because, look, this is a major search destination, but they have to grow beyond that. They have to get into areas where they have seen Google and Apple, and other places grow into. They haven't moved at that rate. You mentioned Flickr. Flickr has become really, really - was a great photo sharing app site. Now it's become garbage, but they revamped it so it really looks awesome now. So that also shows they're moving quick. She's trying to steer the Titanic with a quick right turn, and I think she's making some really fast moves to do so.
KURTZ: Now people love the independence of Tumblr. You start your own blog. You can post a video. You can post pictures. You can use text, more than 100 million blogs on Tumblr, but it makes very little money. Isn't that a problem for Yahoo!?
LINENDOLL: That is a problem. I mean, at the end of the day they're going to figure out a way to monetize, but they didn't buy this strictly for the revenue that they are going to be pulling in here. They bought it for the team community. Yahoo! as Mario is alluding to, it's not cool. It has never been synonymous with cutting edge or awesome or hip.
KURTZ: It's not cool with you tech experts, but it has a lot of traffic.
LINENDOLL: It's not cool too with the younger audience, and that's what they are acquiring, that community.
ARMSTRONG: Where are they going to grow? What's the emerging audience? How are they are going to reach them? They're great if you start looking at the numbers of 35 or 40 and up. They're pretty solid there, but how are they going to get the new market.
KURTZ: Well, speaking of age, David Karp, the high school dropout who created Tumblr, in his official statement he signed off with the "f" word, a little bit of a culture clash there. Is it important that Yahoo! said David Karp will stay on and continue to run Tumblr and have a lot of autonomy?
ARMSTRONG: They would have had a mass exodus of users leaving Tumblr had that statement not been there. So the bottom line is, she is saying we're going to keep them independent. They just opened up a New York office for 500 employees. That's not going to be where Tumblr will be. They will stay in their office and still maintain that independence. So this is like Google buying YouTube and YouTube stays separate. This could be tremendously successful.
KURTZ: Tumblr also has a lot of porn. It's part of its popularity and there was some question about whether Yahoo! would change that. Yahoo! has kind of signaled that it's not going to mess with the "x" rated content.
LINENDOLL: Let's be honest here. Porn has driven quite the tech community over the years. The evolution of porn has really driven everything. I think we're all on the same page there. It will be interesting to see how things transpire strictly speaking on the porn side.
KURTZ: So both of you seem to think this is a gamble for Yahoo!, obviously spending a lot of money, but one that could pay off for a company that needs to appeal for younger folks who are fickle, by the way, and maybe (inaudible) Facebook right now as they used to be?
LINENDOLL: I think it's a smart acquisition. I think at the end of the day I like many bloggers out there went eww, as soon as I heard it was going down.
KURTZ: That was your official reaction?
LINENDOLL: It was eww, what?
KURTZ: A lot of grumbling on Tumblr, but people who enjoyed the freedom of blogging there. They think that Yahoo! might screw it up.
ARMSTRONG: A lot of grumbling went down when Facebook bought Instagram and you see what's happened after that. They kept it separate. So I think this is all about what is going to happen down the line. Will it remain independent? They've said so. Look, I think this is a smart move. They have $4 billion to spend, Yahoo! does. So this really is pennies when you look at that bucket of money that they actually have to spend.
KURTZ: Spare change.
ARMSTRONG: She's been making a lot of other acquisitions that I think are smart and strategic as well. The bottom line is journalists love Tumblr, too. So they don't want to see it get all messed up with advertising and everything else.
KURTZ: All right, we'll keep an eye on it. We'll see you guys online. Mario Armstrong, Katie Linendoll, thanks very much for joining us.
Several news outlets now reporting that Yahoo! is also making a bid for the TV streaming web site Hulu. Next, we finally get our hands on the hottest gadget around, Google glass. Is this how we'll all be getting our news?
KURTZ: We've been hearing about Google Glass for more than a year, but now the company is letting selected tech writers try out these wearable computers. So while you still can't buy these glasses, we're getting the first journalistic evaluations of how well they work and whether the media hype is warranted. In the interest of firsthand research, I had Katie Linendoll lend me her pair.
LINENDOLL: We really need to do a proper fitting. This is first time you have ever tried it, right?
LINENDOLL: Two ways to activate it. You can double click on the side.
KURTZ: I have to get used to fact while I can see you and I can see all around this room, there's a computer here that I can see out of my right eye.
LINENDOLL: There is.
KURTZ: And it tells what you time it is and it says OK glass.
LINENDOLL: Now you have activated it by that command.
KURTZ: So I can talk to this thing?
LINENDOLL: Now you have commands right in front of your face.
KURTZ: So clearly when I start to walk down the street and I'm saying OK glass, people are going to think that I'm crazy.
LINENDOLL: Yes, and/or taking photos and video of them.
KURTZ: Now it vanished. What happened? It doesn't like it.
LINENDOLL: You have to activate two ways. You can double click or you can tilt your head up. I have it set to a 20 degree angle. The screen will come right back on, right.
KURTZ: This is feeling socially inappropriate. OK, it came back on. How do I get it to do something?
LINENDOLL: Now there's a command on the screen.
LINENDOLL: You have to say that command.
KURTZ: OK glass.
LINENDOLL: Now follow any of those other commands.
KURTZ: Send a message to -- no network connectivity. This is the problem I have with my laptop.
LINENDOLL: So here's the thing. So you have to be connected to Wi- Fi, which is a little annoying, a little frustrating. KURTZ: OK glass, record a video. I am looking into the cameraman, Oliver, also looking at Katie. Here is looking around the room. There is the staff looking very -- rapt attention to what we are doing as they should be.
LINENDOLL: Now here's the deal. Automatically takes a 10 second video.
KURTZ: You didn't tell me about the time limit.
LINENDOLL: I'm teaching you as we go. So you can extend it. There's a shutter button like a camera right here.
KURTZ: OK, glass. Record a video and let's take a little walk.
LINENDOLL: Now, to extend it hit that button again for as long as you have.
KURTZ: I only have 5 seconds to go, walking down the hall into the makeup room. And this is where everybody gets beautified for CNN. It worked. Thanks, Katie.
LINENDOLL: So there you go.
KURTZ: When I finished fumbling around with the glasses, we sat down with our tech experts, Katie Linendoll and Mario Armstrong, to get their take.
KURTZ: Katie, we love our gadgets, but tell me why on earth I need Google Glass?
LINENDOLL: Well, 2013 is all about wearable technology and I know I see you looking at me and you're thinking you look like a total tool, right?
KURTZ: That's not the first phrase that would have come to mind.
LINENDOLL: I see what you're going with here. You know, a lot of people have said this isn't really an appealing wearable technology piece, but it is amazing. We were talking about this earlier, Mario and I, when we were saying how fascinating it is to have a computer right on your face and to have this capability to text and e-mail and take pick Tuesday and video just like that.
KURTZ: Let's leave aside the fact I look a little strange to people walking down the street, it's very distracting. I'm going to be talking to you and at the same time, this thing says OK glass and I can tap it. It's kind of distancing.
ARMSTRONG: Well, maybe to you it feels that way, but the idea is -- I think this is more distancing than that. If I'm sitting here having a conversation and I'm texting away on my phone, you are totally ignoring me --
KURTZ: Put that thing down.
ARMSTRONG: Exactly. At least I feel like I have some eye to eye contact. Maybe I'm not listening to you and I'm watching a video, but at least you feel like I'm listening to you.
KURTZ: Is it potentially, wearing these Google Glass, more than distracting, could it be dangerous? You're walking across the street and there's traffic. I got to check this e-mail. I got to take a picture.
LINENDOLL: You know, the biggest take away that I've had so far in testing them for a few weeks is the privacy concern. It's awesome to be wearing them. It's not awesome to be on the other side of it.
KURTZ: Why is that?
LINENDOLL: People's authenticity changes when they knew they're being recorded. Nothing new here, they don't like it.
KURTZ: With a little bit of a tap or a spoken command, you can turn on a video recorder or take pictures and somebody -- you guys don't know I'm taking a picture of you, maybe you're not in a position that you want to be photographed and then I can, what, put it on Twitter, put it on Facebook?
ARMSTRONG: It makes me aware that it could be even doing that and so that's what Katie is alluding to here. The authenticity of what you would be acting like in that natural state without that being in front of you --
KURTZ: I have a technical term for what we just described, it's creepy. It's creepy to think we could become a kind of surveillance society, and people could be walking down the street secretly videotaping each other and then posting on the Internet. The shreds of privacy that we still have could be obliterated by this thing.
LINENDOLL: Could I play devil's advocate though? Because I think where it becomes cool is to pop somebody into your point of view. Point of view camera is nothing new. We have seen them in sunglasses. I mean, you can mount a (inaudible) chest mount on you. Nothing new in terms of point of view cameras, but to actually have that capability -- you think about these journalism moments and Facebook revolutions in Egypt, the capability to instantly take photo and video at really great quality - it's high-def video.
KURTZ: You're saying it could change the nature of citizen journalism because somebody is out where there's a tornado or hurricane or a sinkhole and boom, you capture it here.
ARMSTRONG: Absolutely. You're already seeing a lot of journalists wanting Google glass in that specific way. How can --
KURTZ: Well, you can't be seeing that many because it's hard to get a hold of these right now.
ARMSTRONG: Well, that this is true. You can tell by what they've been doing online. There's a whole Google Plus social network for journalists specifically about Google Glass. So this discussion is happening, but I do believe this is probably the largest hurdle for Google Glass to get over, and that is the privacy concern. I think a lot of people already have a negative sentiment about it before even trying them on because of what people think it can and will do.
LINENDOLL: I think that's a big challenge too is you have to try them on to really experience it. I mean, you just tried them on for the first time. You can't explain them without seeing right through the lens. Like it's a whole other world once you put them on. I think the other challenge they're facing is making these things look cool. I myself have a first nerd problem as I call it trying to get them over my glasses. I need them for prescription.
ARMSTRONG: And those are cool glasses. You don't want to mess those up. You've already spent money on that.
KURTZ: Leaving aside the coolness factor -- and your glasses even without Google look very cool -- "The New York Times" and CNN are among those developing apps for Google Glass. How important could this potentially be to journalism and how important will that be to Google if a lot of news organizations sign on to be in this little square that I can see out of my right eye?
ARMSTRONG: I mean, it's going to be huge. I mean, you see that with every technology that comes out. You see news organizations start to figure out how either they can adopt the technology or how they can actually develop for the technology. I think you're going to see both uses right now with Google Glass. You're going to start seeing news stories that would normally be radio now being able to be shown in video. So NPR, I would imagine, would really latch on.
KURTZ: But it's only going to be huge if lots and lots of people buy them. We're now accustomed to everybody having the iPad, the iPhone, and the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5. These could be pretty expensive and some may decide it's not worth it. What are these going to cost?
LINENDOLL: I got to tell you, so I spoke to Google about when they're going to be unveiling them to consumers. They're hoping for Q4. In other words, that means holiday, right. I paid $1,500 for those -- with taxes it comes to about $1,633, insane amount of money. I have my security team right over there. The point being --
KURTZ: The average consumer is not going to do that.
LINENDOLL: Absolutely. I use them for my job. It was -- obviously. So, OK, for a consumer perspective though, I think it will hit about $500. Google has not given a price point. I think to really make them catch on, $250, not going to happen.
KURTZ: Well, we'll see how popular they become and how distracting they are. Katie Linendoll, Mario Armstrong, thanks very much for joining us.
KURTZ: Google says it's a work in progress. Next, Michael Smerconish on his move to satellite radio.
KURTZ: He's been a mainstay of the Philadelphia talk radio scene, but now Michael Smerconish is taking a different path. The radio veteran and MSNBC contributor has just taken his show to Sirius XM, where it airs on the Potus Channel, and he's trying to move beyond the usual left/right partisanship. I spoke to him earlier here in the studio.
KURTZ: Michael Smerconish, welcome.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, SIRIUS XM P.O.T.U.S.: Howard, thank you.
KURTZ: Talk radio, as you know, dominated by conservatives with a niche for liberals, and you are neither. How does that work?
SMERCONISH: I'm an independent, and I think I'm a throwback in so far as talk radio when I cut my teeth was based upon who had personality and who could conduct a conversation. There were no litmus tests. There was not a demand for ideological purity, and that's what it's become.
KURTZ: This is a change for you. For 30 years you identified yourself as a Republican until 2010.
KURTZ: What happened?
SMERCONISH: Well, I think that I matured. I think my politics changed. I think that happens when people grow older in life. But I also became disenchanted with what the industry became because when I started in the business, this isn't the way it was. The business has gone polar and it's taken the country with it. I draw a correct causal connection between what happens in Washington and what has happened in the world ever the polarized media and I think the nation suffers.
KURTZ: Is this related to your decision to give up your Philadelphia radio show and go on satellite radio?
SMERCONISH: Well, this is all connected. I was on 80 affiliates across the country and I didn't like, Howard, being branded by the company that I kept, because that didn't represent what my program has come to offer in the last couple of years --
KURTZ: A top CBS radio official told "The Washington Post" was that your home station wanted to remain conservative and you had become left of center. Were you eased out of that job?
SMERCONISH: I was not eased out of that job. I told the station I was leaving. It was one of 80 affiliates that I was carried on in the country, and they were flabbergasted when I broke that news.
KURTZ: But you fell in on MSNBC, which is obviously a liberal network, so it sounds like you have moved toward the left.
SMERCONISH: I think I'm a centrist. I think that I have always been a centrist. I've never self-branded as a conservative. It's true I have been a Republican for much of my adult life. I'm registered as an independent. Sixty percent of the country is now identifying as being independent and yet independents aren't represented in the media world in which we live.
KURTZ: You wrote for "The Huffington Post" the following, the national GOP is a party of exclusion and litmus tests, dominated on social issues by the religious right, with zero discernible outreach by national party to anyone who doesn't fit neatly within the parameters." That does not sound un-ideological. That sounds like you don't like the modern Republican Party.
SMERCONISH: Well, I don't. I think that the modern Republican Party like the world of talk radio is too old, too white, too male, and too angry, and that's not what I represent -- at least not the anger part.
KURTZ: Let's talk a little bit about where you are, because it seems to me that this partisanship that you have grown tired of, you say, you think it's gotten stale and polarizing, is also what attracts audiences. Look at the biggest names in the business, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, they have clearly identified political philosophies. They're not in the middle, as you say you are.
SMERCONISH: What it attracts is passion. I don't think it attracts raw numbers. I don't think that it's representative of where the country is. I think that those who are most passionate are a small but loyal listening group, but that is not reflective of where this nation is. Let me explain it to you this way.
When I'm leading my real life, if I'm at a back to school night, if I'm grocery shopping, if I'm pumping gas and people should recognize me and engage me in political conversation, they look and sound nothing like those on cable television news or in the world of talk radio. For most Americans, the issues are a mixed bag. They are conservative on some things, independent on others, liberal on others, and that's where I am.
KURTZ: I think you touched on something important here. So what explains in your view the increasing polarization in all forms of media, websites, blogs, cable television, as well. If that is disconnected from what you say is the real America or the average Americans in the grocery line, why has it become so ideological for those of us in this business?
SMERCONISH: It is one of the great ironies is that we have never had the level of choice that we have today, and yet people are gravitating to be associated only with the like-minded. I know people who woke up on Wednesday morning after the 2012 election, and it was like a truck had hit them because they did not see the Romney loss coming.
KURTZ: Let's face it. This is a business, and the organizations that are doing this and the pundits that are doing it are doing it to attract an audience, to attract ratings, to attract clicks, and you come along and say I'm not going to play that game, but it is going to be hard for you to compete.
SMERCONISH: I'm willing to roll the dice and make that effort, because I believe -- I sleep well at night and I believe that I represent most of the country. I think there's something to be said for embracing independents. Candidly, I think CNN should embrace independents, because I think that's the brand that is most authentic and where most of the country is.
KURTZ: Glad to hear you are sleeping well at night. Michael Smerconish, thank you very much for stopping by.
KURTZ: Back in a moment. The "Media Monitor" is straight ahead.
KURTZ: Time now for the "Media Monitor," our weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business. Here's what I like, the "New Yorker's" Jane Mayor examined a controversy surrounding 740 Park Avenue, a documentary that was to air on New York's public television station WNET. The show focused on one of the building's residents, conservative billionaire, David Koch, who happens to have donated large sums of money to WNET.
The station to its credit broadcast the program, but not before WNET President Neil Shapiro called Koch to warn him and aired a statement from him after the show. Koch later resigned from WNET's Board of Directors.
Now sometimes the best advice for journalists is read my lips. Dozens of news organizations reporting on President Obama giving a commencement speech last weekend quoted him as saying the following, "be the best husband to your wife or boyfriend to your partner or father to your children that you can be." What the president actually said at Moorehouse College was this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Be the best husband to your wife or your boyfriend or your partner.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KURTZ: How did they get it wrong? As Slate's William Saletan noted, most journalists wrote from the prepared text released by the White House -- nothing wrong with that, but what they missed is the gay- friendly adlib of Obama's actual remarks about being the best husband to your boyfriend.
That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. Hope you are enjoying the Memorial Day weekend. If you miss our program, check us out on iTunes every Monday, just search for RELIABLE SOURCES in the iTunes store. RELIABLE SOURCES back here next Sunday morning 11:00 a.m. Eastern for another critical look at the media. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.