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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Debating the Debate Moderator; Press Fascinated by 'Binders'; Interview with Tina Brown
Aired October 21, 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 used to be that presidential debates were mainly about the candidates themselves. But in this age of intense media criticism, they increasingly seem to be about the moderators -- Jim Lehrer, Martha Raddatz, and now, Candy Crowley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, DEBATE MODERATOR: Mr. President, let me just see if I can move you to the gist of this question, which is, are we looking at the new normal?
We're sort of way off topic here, Governor Romney.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're a little off topic here. Come on, I thought we were talking about immigration.
CROWLEY: Quickly, Mr. President, if I could have you sit down. Governor Romney, thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Is the criticism of her role in this week's debate fair or is it partisan?
We will examine that media's coverage of that contentious face- off between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Are journalists still far more fixated on the theatrics of debates and on funny little moments like this one?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN: It's phrase that won't die. You cannot escape it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Binders full of women.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Binders full of women.
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Binders full of women is something they'd find in a serial killer's basement at the end of a "Law & Order: SVU", right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Binders full of women.
Plus, "Newsweek" is ending its 80-year run as a print magazine, a subject of great personal interest to me. Tina Brown on moving into the digital world.
I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
KURTZ: Moderating a presidential debate as we have seen this fall means putting yourself in the crossfire. And that's precisely where CNN's Candy Crowley found herself during the second face-off this past week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Governor Romney, there'll be plenty of chances here to go on, but I want to we have all these folks --
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: That Detroit answer and the answer way off the mark.
CROWLEY: OK. Well, you certainly will have lots of time here coming up, because I want to move you on.
ROMNEY: I just want to make sure. I think I was supposed to get that last answer but I want to point out that I don't believe --
OBAMA: I don't think so, Candy. I want to make sure our timekeepers are working here.
CROWLEY: The timekeepers were all working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: But even before the debate ended in Hofstra University, the Republican spinners I talked to there starting dumping on the moderator. This became a major theme for some conservative moderators while others defended the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS: President Obama got a little help from debate moderator Candy Crowley.
BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Ms. Crowley, with all due respect because I like her, totally blew it, 100 percent blew it.
All right. Candy Crowley helped the president, all right?
DAN RATHER, FORMER CBS ANCHOR: Candy Crowley, she brought honor to the whole business of moderating. She honored the profession of journalism. She did her job.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Joining us to talk about the debate coverage, as we head into the third and final showdown tomorrow in Boca Raton, Florida, and there is Nia-Malika Henderson, national political reporter for "The Washington Post." Here in Washington, Roger Simon, chief political columnist for "Politico", and Jackie Kucinich, who writes about politics for "USA Today".
Roger Simon, let's start with Candy Crowley. Did she insert herself too much as a moderator?
ROGER SIMON, CHIEF POLITICAL COLUMNIST, POLITICO: Not at all. She did exactly what she was supposed to do. I mean, why do they have journalists be moderators? Why don't they have a timekeeper there?
They want to have a gloss of journalism so it doesn't look like reality TV, but they don't want journalists to really be journalists.
KURTZ: "They" means the campaigns.
SIMON: The campaigns and the commission. They just want them to play journalists on TV.
Candy Crowley was a journalist. She called out truth when truth needed to be called out. She added perspective. She did what she was supposed to do.
You could tell which campaign thinks it lost by who attacks the moderator most.
KURTZ: I have observed that.
And, Nia-Malika Henderson, should a moderator attempt to correct the record in real time if he or she believes the candidate has said something wrong or misleading?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think absolutely. And you saw Candy do that on both camps. She was the referee and called it for Obama, but also called it for Mitt Romney.
But I think Roger is absolutely right -- whoever's complaining about the referee, complaining about the moderator at the end of the debate probably lost. You saw that in the first debate when Democrats pounding Jim Lehrer for his performance.
But I think Candy did her job. She kept it lively. She kept it moving along. I think some people might have done that too much. And in many ways, I think the town hall folks there maybe didn't get as much participation as she had thought they would, going in.
But all in all, I thought she did a superb job.
KURTZ: And Jackie Kucinich, on this point about whether or not the side that thinks it lost is more critical of the moderator. And we did see that in the first debate, as Roger says. FOX News practically devoted a day to rip on Candy Crowley, after Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney didn't have a bad night but President Obama seemed to be the winner of that debate.
JACKIE KUCINICH, USA TODAY: Well, this started even before she said before that debate started. They were talking about what Candy Crowley might do and there was a controversy before, and anything was even said.
So this was set up. There was a little bit of infrastructure built already going into the debate that she was -- they was going to get some heavy criticism, particularly from the right. You heard that a lot.
KURTZ: There was a memo of understanding between the campaign about how active the moderator could be in following on audience's questions, Crowley and CNN were not part of that group, but we didn't know about it.
We'll come back to this later in the program. But let me look at that reaction to the debate itself. The tone of the reaction you'll not be shocked to hear was somewhat different on MSNBC and on FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: President Obama won last night. He had good lines, good line of attack, and he finished strong, hitting a homer in the ninth.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: And now everybody knows exactly where the president was tonight. He was beating Mitt Romney in this debate handily.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Obviously, we saw a more aggressive, a more assertive President Obama tonight. He was much more on his game.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: This president is not used to being questioned. This president has had a fawning media, and I don't think they've served him well, because he has a hard time. He did not like it. He was visibly angry, fighting for time.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Roger Simon, as a member of the fawning media, all you geniuses said that President Obama had to be more energetic in the second debate certainly than the first one. He was, he won, narrowly, but he won, according to the polls. And that was the story line for 12 hours and then it disappeared. Why?
SIMON: I mean, does it occur to anyone we're evaluating exactly what is immaterial to actually being the president of the United States? You go back 20 years. Debate stories were not theatrical reviews. Now, they're nothing but theatrical reviews.
KURTZ: And why is that? SIMON: It's because the media is treating everything, including debates as entertainment. We're evaluating it as feeder. Was he energetic? Did he muffle word? Did say binders? Was that bad?
Does that really matter when you're president of the United States? And in fact, it's the whole shebang, instant answers, two- minute responses, is that how a president acts in the White House?
KURTZ: Well, I would make the point there were actually some very substantive exchanges in both debates, also on Long Island on Tuesday, on tax cuts, on immigration. I want to thing of that.
But, Nia, what do you think of Roger's point we're too much in the theater business, not enough in the substance business?
HENDERSON: I think that's about right. I mean, I think we live in the Twitter age where everything is sort of chewed over very quickly, instantly on Twitter. And you see it on Jon Stewart and then you see it on "Saturday Night Live."
I also think that journalists are looking for something new. We're looking for some breakthrough moment. And in that way, I think these debates do become television moments.
So, we want to have these sound bite instances of we then sort of spin to say, will this mean something about how they would govern? Oftentimes, I don't think it matters but it certainly feeds cable news for days and days and days after. And I think, this time, these debates have come back and back and back and they have been the entire story of this campaign over the last couple of weeks.
KURTZ: Speaking of moments, I'm going to play you five seconds from the debate. I was in Hofstra University. And I had my head down. I was typing away on a story in real time, and I didn't realize the significance of this until I saw it exploded on Twitter.
Let's roll it, Mitt Romney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I went to a number of women's groups and said, can you help us find folks? And they brought us whole binders full of women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Why did this go so viral?
KUCINICH: I think it's because of the -- you had this narrative already about Mitt Romney and they're really trying to appeal to women. So, in this -- it's a silly moment. You know, the fact that they wanted --
KURTZ: It's a funny and awkward turn of events.
KUCINICH: Right. But I think the effort to make it in some larger narrative I think kind of got -- there's a little bit of carried away to make it part of the larger campaign. Oh, my gosh, what's this mean for Mitt Romney and women, you know?
KURTZ: Romney was trying to make -- the question was about pay equity, by the way. And Romney was trying to make the point when he was governor of Massachusetts, he was looking for qualified women to put in his cabinet. But it kind of feeds, as what you were just saying a moment ago, Roger, and that is that we in this business -- this is not true of everyone and there have been serious reports and there have been fact checks in the major news organizations and on CNN, but we get carried away by the Big Bird moment, in this case by --
SIMON: Well, this has been a campaign of big issues and sort of snarky coverage. We like in the word of binders, Romnesia, optimal -- I'm trying to balance this -- you didn't build that.
SIMON: (INAUDIBLE) the whole campaign around one parse phrase, that the president didn't really mean to say, he didn't say it.
So what this is driving is, as Nia was getting at, technology is changing what we cover in every newsroom. We can see what's getting hits on our Web site.
KURTZ: What's trending? What's hot?
SIMON: Trending. Exactly.
KURTZ: Yes, exactly.
SIMON: So it's not only write about binders, but write a story about how everyone is writing stories about binders.
KURTZ: It becomes very meta.
And, Nia-Malika Henderson, as I mentioned a moment ago, you know, President Obama really went after Mitt Romney on his tax cut plan, saying it doesn't add up. Romney went after the president on the last four years, on energy. There were exchanges on immigration. Obama again brought up self-deportation, a phrase that Romney used in the primaries.
And yet while it was mentioned, it didn't have legs to use in newspaper terms. I'm really surprised there hasn't been more focus on the very real differences between these two candidates.
HENDERSON: That's right. I think that's right. If you look at just the transcripts of all three of these debates, very substantive discussions, but as you said -- I mean, once it get processed in the sort of sound bite way, the only thing that people remember is Biden smiling and laughing a lot or the binders full of women comment.
I, too, I mean, when I heard the binders full of women comment, wow, this is Mitt Romney making most robust case for affirmative action I ever heard of from a Republican candidate, but yet when it comes from Twitter, you have all of these snarky comments and I'm sure we'll see lots of Halloween costumes around that comment as well.
But I think it's in some ways these candidates seize on these moments, whether it's Big Bird, or you didn't build that, because they need a way to try to break through what is this clutter from all the media, from all the chatter. I'm not sure it works. I'm not sure it sways undecided voters.
I had a colleague who was at the bar watching the debate in Ohio, and the women who heard that didn't really remember of the binders full of women comment, didn't think it was a big a deal. So, we'll see.
KURTZ: And that's the thing, Jackie, is that you now have to win the debate and then you have the post-debate.
KURTZ: The post-debate is about these moments, circling each other, who said what, who interrupted, who took on Candy Crowley. This whole phase two whipped up, of course, by media trying to turn this into a continuing melodrama.
KUCINICH: Well, yes. And also, I mean, particularly the vice- presidential debate. That was a very, very substantive debate, but especially in a world where we're looking at 30-second ads, too, and produce the next day and slap it on television, that's another incentive for the campaigns to really kind of shorten these things to.
KURTZ: Roger, lead story in "The New York Times" this morning, U.S. officials say Iran has agreed to nuclear talks, one-on-one negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, according to Obama administration official.
Now, a White House spokesman came out and said it wasn't quite right, there is no firm agreement.
What do you make of this story being leaked or confirmed by the administration one day before the foreign policy debate in Boca Raton?
SIMON: Well, we have our October surprise. I mean, we obviously have an automatic big issue is not the first question for a foreign policy debate. The timing may not have been accidental, since it shows success by the Obama administration.
KURTZ: Well, potential success.
SIMON: Potential success -- well, getting Iran to the table if it happens.
KURTZ: If it happens. The timing is just fascinating.
Since the debate tomorrow night is going to be moderated by CBS's Bob Schieffer, I had a chance to talk to him the other day for "The Daily Beast" about why the moderators in general have gotten so much criticism. He said part of it was the 24/7 news cycle and then he said this. (BEGIN VIDEOI CLIP)
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS: I think it also has to do with how partisan things have become now.
KURTZ: Right because if you're aligned with a candidate who you perceive as not doing, one thing you can do is say, well, it's the moderator's fault.
SCHIEFFER: Yes. It's like, you know, I never heard anybody at a baseball game that their team won who criticized the umpires.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Good baseball analogy by Bob Schieffer.
When we come back, Barack Obama plays the Jon Stewart card. Has "The Daily Show" become more important than "Meet the Press"?
KURTZ: The campaign got a little funnier this week. President Obama stopped by "The Daily Show" on the same day that both candidates did routines at the Al Smith Dinner in New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ROMNEY: When suddenly I pulled ahead in some of the major poll, what was the headline? Polls show President Obama leading from behind.
OBAMA: I particularly want to apologize to Chris Matthews. Four years ago, I gave him a thrill up his leg. This time around I gave him a stroke.
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": How many time as week does Biden show up in a bathing suit to a meeting?
STEWART: Just the ballpark figure.
OBAMA: I had to put out a presidential directive about that. We have to stop that.
STEWART: You've got to put towels down.
OBAMA: I've got to say, though, he looks pretty good.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Now, to be fair, Jackie Kucinich, Jon Stewart asked Obama a bunch of serious questions as well.
KUCINICH: Right, right.
KUCINICH: -- news that came out of that.
KURTZ: The president isn't exactly going on the Sunday shows. How important now is it going on "The Daily Show"?
KUCINICH: For a certain demographic -- you go on "The Daily Show" if when you want to reach a certain demographic of people. And Obama needs the youth vote to come out. I think -- I mean, for that purpose, it is important.
But, you know, for our purposes, I don't think they're catering to us at this point.
KURTZ: Well, we're not getting --
KUCINICH: If you want, if you need youth to come out, you're going to go on "The Daily Show" and they need that.
KURTZ: Nia-Malika Henderson, Romney, of course, has not been on "The Daily Show." And this week, he canceled on "The View." He said he was going to go on, instead he sent Ann.
How can he possibly be elected president if he can't do these shows?
HENDERSON: Well, I actually think this is a bad move on Mitt Romney's part. I think people get their news in different ways. "The View," "Saturday Night Live" -- if you remember in 2008, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Sarah Palin, and Barack Obama all went on "Saturday Night Live" because they know that those venues fuel the dialogue and fuel the sort of water cooler chitchat that goes on all around the office.
So I actually think it's a real misreading of the intersection of pop culture and politics which I think Barack Obama has read very well and why you see him on shows like "The View," and also picking up on this Big Bird meme.
KURTZ: Obviously, they want to show a lighter side of their personalities, Roger, but two and a half weeks before the election, why would both of them go to the Al Smith Dinner? Does the press scoff at candidates who can't do comedy?
SIMON: Well, who can't deliver read lines written by comedy writers.
KURTZ: I was setting you up.
SIMON: Well, the Al Smith Dinner is a tradition. It's sponsored by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Catholic voters are extremely swing voters in America. You're not going tick off the archdiocese.
KURTZ: Don't diss the dinner.
SIMON: So you put on your white tie, you show up, and both ended on very nice notes of humility, whether sincere or not, about liking each other, and how important --
KURTZ: So while journalists, to wrap this up, while journalists might prefer that these guys constantly come on CNN, the other cable networks and do network interviews and all of that, it seems like the center of gravity of the media have moved to "The View," and "The Daily Show"" and Leno and Letterman.
SIMON: Oh, sure. We're a celebrity-driven culture. We're personality-driven. We want to see -- we want to see them be human beings, be away from that lectern and away from that stump speech that we're all sick of.
And I think personally -- my own personal analysis, Romney's declining to do it is a sign of falling on the ball. He thinks he has this election won. He's not going to do risky things like going on "The View" or going on Jon Stewart.
KURTZ: Funny that that's now risky.
Roger Simon and Jackie Kucinich, Nia-Malika Henderson down in Boca Raton, braving the elements -- thanks for joining us this morning.
Ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES, Tina Brown on taking "Newsweek" all digital.
But up next, breaking news on Twitter. My 2 cents on why Roger Ailes is sticking with the FOX empire he helped create.
KURTZ: I was driving my car and on my cell phone on Friday, with my headset on, of course, when I learned that Roger Ailes had just signed a four-year deal to stay on as chairman of FOX News. Now, this is a big deal in the media world. So, I pulled over, open my iPad, and tweeted it. Twitter is the new "A.P.", I like to say. And, boy, was that true in this case?
But in minutes, my message was retweeted to dozens and dozens of people and news outlets, turning those 140 characters breaking news well before I was able to write the actual story.
So why is Ailes at the age of 72 stay on? FOX is his baby and running the network keeps him politically engaged. Mitt Romney and a number of other Republican presidential candidates made sure to sit down with Ailes during the primaries.
There's no heir apparent at FOX waiting in the wings. And News Corp. paid him $21 million last year. Who would walk away from that? As a journalist, I'd like being able to craft actual sentences and paragraphs. But for sheer velocity, as long as you can write tight, nothing beats Twitter.
Ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES, for all the coverage and the carping of the debates, why is the press pinning down the candidates on their shifting stances or maddening vagueness?
KURTZ: Let's turn our critical lens now on the part of this week's debate that has gotten the most attention, the exchange between Mitt Romney and President Obama on the fatal attack on American diplomats in Libya and the way that Candy Crowley intervened. Roll the tape.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think it's interesting the president just said something, which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said this was an act of terror.
OBAMA: That's what I said.
ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror.
OBAMA: Please proceed.
ROMNEY: It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
CROWLEY: He did in fact, sir. So let me call --
OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?
CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror. It did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there about this tape coming out. You're right about that.
ROMNEY: The administration indicated that this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction. It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group.
KURTZ: Joining us now in Boca Raton, Florida, the site of tomorrow night's debate, David Shuster, correspondent for Current TV and here in D.C., Jennifer Rubin who writes for "The Washington Post." David Shuster, is the criticism of Candy Crowley over that exchange we just saw a fair or unfair?
DAVID SHUSTER, CORRESPONDENT, CURRENT TV: It's unfair. I mean, the fact of the matter is, Candy Crowley is a veteran journalist. She did a terrific job at this debate.
Look, the problem here is not with Candy Crowley. I suppose in my regret is that she didn't actually read the transcript. But even if she had, I mean, the problem is that Mitt Romney made the initial mistake.
Mitt Romney was the one who suggested something about what the president said in the Rose Garden and Mitt Romney got it wrong. And for conservatives and Republicans to harp on Candy Crowley, I think is ridiculous and underscores just how badly Mitt Romney handled this whole topic.
KURT: Jennifer Rubin, you and some other conservative commentators say that Crowley was wrong.
JENNIFER RUBIN, PUBLISHED IN NY POST, NATIONAL REVIEW, WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, listen, I'm a fan of Candy Crowley. I've written that before. I like her "State of the Union" show. I think she's a good interviewer.
But I think she blew it here. She blew it on the substance and she blew it on her role as moderator. On the substance, the question was not whether he said act of terror or acts of terror, but whether he specifically identified this attack as terrorism. He did not.
KURTZ: Let Jennifer finish. I'll come back to you.
RUBIN: He described the film at the beginning of his speech. He spoke very movingly about the victims and then in the last two graphs he reviewed all of the acts of terrorism that we've gone through and at the end, he said --
KURTZ: No acts of terror will ever shake the result of this great nation.
RUBIN: Right. Not in the same paragraph with Benghazi. Never said it was a Benghazi is a terrorist attack. And for her to take sides -- my interpretation may be wrong, I'll grant you that. But for her to take sides and intervene I think went well beyond, and it was in the context of a debate in which she gave Mitt Romney's opponent four minutes, in which she repeatedly interrupted Mitt Romney. The appearance was that she was not an honest broker.
KURTZ: Romney speaks faster. He got as many words in. David, on this point, I mean, what's been lost in all the chatter is that while Candy Crowley did say the transcript reflected what Obama said, Jennifer disagrees on that first day after the attack. She then did a not to Mitt Romney and said, it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea about there being a riot related to the tape to come out. In other words referencing the administration's shifting explanations about Benghazi, your thoughts?
SHUSTER: Yes, I mean, she was trying to help Mitt Romney. She was trying to help move the debate along. Mitt Romney started digging a hole that he couldn't get out of, and Mitt Romney was throwing him a lifeline.
By the way, Jennifer, let's just go back and take a look. That -- that statement was entitled "remarks by the president on the deaths of U.S. embassy staff in Libya."
And he says, he talks about last night we learned the news of this attack in Benghazi, and then two sentences later, two sentences later, he says no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve --
RUBIN: No, it wasn't that.
RUBIN: You have the transcript. I'm going to play the role here. You can read the transcripts. Acts of terror were not in the introductory paragraph, were not specifically directed to Benghazi. By the way, I don't think this hurt Mitt Romney whatsoever. His campaign doesn't think it hurt Mitt Romney whatsoever. They are delighted to have this issue front and center.
SHUSTER: Jennifer, why would he have a statement, why would he refer to acts of terror the day after the Benghazi attack? I mean, the fact of the matter is for you of all people to criticize Candy Crowley because she didn't put the word "it is." Because she didn't -- got the exact, precise language when everybody knew what the president was talking about. Anybody who covered the Rose Garden, I mean, it wasn't a mistake like suggesting that the Norway attack was (inaudible) a specific jihadist connection.
RUBIN: My interpretation is one held by Jay Carney. On the 20th of September, Jay Carney said we have never called it an act of terrorism.
SHUSTER: But Mitt Romney didn't talk about Jay Carney. Mitt Romney was focusing on the Rose Garden. That's fine.
KURTZ: David, stop.
RUBIN: He's the Joe Biden of RELIABLE SOURCES.
KURTZ: OK, I'm going to play the Candy Crowley role and move you along, but first I want to let Candy speak for herself. She was on CNN's "STARTING POINT." Let's hear her explanation. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION": And then we got hung up about this. Yes, he said, no I didn't. I said terror, you didn't say terror, and there was this point where they both kind of looked at me. You know, Romney looked at me, the president was looking at me.
What I wanted to do was move this along, could we get back to this -- so I said -- he did call it an act of terror, but Governor Romney, you were perfectly right that it took weeks for them to get past the tape.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, HOST, CNN'S STARTING POINT": Act of terror, people on one side applaud and then you said, yes, it took two weeks people on the other side applauded. Not a backtrack?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: All right, in our remaining moments, I want to ask you this question starting with David Shuster. We have seen in these debates in the last couple of weeks, Mitt Romney moderating his stance or at least his emphasis in tone, on tax cuts, on immigration, and even on Pell Grant, which he wanted to make available for needier students. Why has this not been more of a theme for the press, the substance of where this campaign is headed?
SHUSTER: Because the conservative media, the conservative press like Jennifer Rubin have done a very effective job of trying to move everybody's attention away from Mitt Romney's flip flops or for the fact that he lost the debate on issues like the economy and China and trade.
And they're trying to put it on these sort of issues like whether Candy Crowley somehow didn't state exactly what President Obama stated in the Rose Garden --
KURTZ: All right, Jennifer.
RUBIN: Yes, I'd like to think I'm that powerful, but I'm really not. My editor -
RUBIN: Listen, first of all, he didn't lose the debate. All of the focus group showed that in fact, he did well. His trajectory in the race has continued. The Romney camp doesn't consider him to have lost the debate.
KURTZ: If the press is biased against Romney, why are we not seeing more prominent stories front page, top of the newscast, "Washington Post" did (ph) have one, about his apparent shift in tone? What Bill Clinton calls moderate Mitt?
RUBIN: Well, there's lots of that. I think it's a misnomer, however, that he has changed in substance. He has certainly changed in tone, and that's evident for a candidate who's ahead at the end of the race, who wants to reach out to pure moderates. That's what his approach is.
The president right now is in a hole, so he's still reaching out with extreme statements on abortion, flogging this story on the binders, going to college campuses. He has a problem with his base. Romney has moved beyond that, and he's now directing towards independent voters.
HURTZ: I have got half a minute for you to comment on the press coverage, David Shuster.
SHUSTER: Well, first of all, I mean, Jennifer, you yourself said President Obama needs a game-changer. He doesn't need a game changer, and I think for the Republican conservative media to be handicapping this race is a bit absurd. First of all, you're not exactly an independent arbiter.
RUBIN: Nor are you, David.
SHUSTER: -- all the debate numbers that I've -- all of the debate numbers have suggested President Obama who's gotten a bounce. He is now leading --
RUBIN: No, he hasn't.
KURTZ: On that point of disagreement, we are out of time. Jennifer Rubin and David Shuster, thanks for a lively discussion.
After the break, the end of an era at "Newsweek." Tina Brown, my boss, why the 80-year-old magazine is moving from print to digital.
KURTZ: "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast" where I worked for the last two years as Washington Bureau chief made a big announcement the other day. "Newsweek" is going all digital and ending its run as a print publication that began in 1933.
"Newsweek" has chronicled history over the years from the Beatles to John Lennon to Watergate going on to Steve Jobs, Monica Lewinsky, and Sarah Palin.
Now, some critics have questioned whether the merger could work when Tina Brown who founded "The Beast" agreed to become "Newsweek's" first female editor in chief manager, and playing the increasingly tough economics of the print business for the decision to stop publishing "Newsweek" and "Newsweek International" at the end of the year. I spoke to the editor earlier from New York.
KURTZ: Tina Brown, welcome.
TINA BROWN: Hi, Howie.
KURTZ: You inherited the ailing magazine nearly two years ago. This was shortly after I joined the "Daily Beast," and now it's ending its print run. You obviously wanted to save "Newsweek. Could this be regarded as a failure?
BROWN: You know, Howie, it can't, because, frankly, we really have just responded to the inexorable forces of the zeitgeist in deciding we're going to go all digital at this point.
When we took over "Newsweek" 20 months ago, there were 13 million tablets in the United States. There are going to 70 million tablets by the end of this year, and you know, iPad Mini's coming out with 10 million orders.
It's really a different world, and it happened very fast, actually, very, very fast indeed. I mean, clearly if "Newsweek" had been in a stronger position when we took it over, we would have been able to have some years to kind of reverse the decline without there also being the winds of change against us, it might have been a different outcome, but it really has always been for the last year simply a question of when, not if.
KURTZ: You grew up in print. I grew up in print. Isn't it sad even though despite the business environment that you just described that this iconic brand will vanish from the newsstands, the print newsstands at least, after 80 years?
BROWN: Well, you know, to be honest, I mean, in the last 12 months, I've had to adjust in myself, in terms of feeling, I have always been a great print junky. You know, I'm like the ultimate magazine junky, always have been, edited magazines all my life, read them all my life.
But my own habits have changed so dramatically, I don't actually go to newsstands anymore. You know, even on stations now and at airports, I find myself deciding that I'm going to opt for what's on my Kindle, you know, on the plane.
And I walked through those planes and I see everybody reading screens. So it's one of those things where yes, I'm sorry because I feel a certain romance still for print and I always will. I still love books more than I love reading screens actually.
But at the same time, I know everything has changed, and I also want to go where our readers are. In the end, you know, you want to rise to your audience, not sort of decide you're going to just continue like some kind of a blind person who forgets it's now no longer the silent movie era and now we're now in the talkies. KURTZ: Well, in terms of making "Newsweek" into an all-digital publication, will people pay for an all-digital magazine in the time when there's so much free stuff available on the web including at "The Daily Beast?"
BROWN: Well, you know, it's interesting. "Newsweek's" tablet has grown very robustly in the last -- since we revamped it in January. We had a 233 percent increase from when we launched it, and it's grown very briskly.
It's now 44,000, and we're going to be able to transfer a great many subs over to the digital "Newsweek," so we begin with a very good, healthy and robust number of circulation to begin with, and we can build on that. Clearly, you know, it's going to be something that evolves with time.
We're going to have to experiment with print, with pricing. We're going to have to do a lot of iteration and innovation on that. But at the same time it is the only way to go. I mean, we don't feel we would gain anything by trying to hang on to the high costs and all the headaches of the legacy past, which is really what we don't want to do.
KURTZ: Some of the critics out there, Tina, said that in an effort to gain attention for "Newsweek," you did some covers that were controversial. Some would say they were stunts.
BROWN: You know, I think the covers have to be a real marketplace for it. I always felt that covers should be talking points, I always felt that they were places to start debate, and the covers of "Newsweek" have been no different in that sense from the covers that I've always done, whether at the "New Yorker" or at "Vanity Fair."
I think the cover has to be a place that stops you, which incites conversation, which actually launches something into the world. And that would be true as well with the digital "Newsweek." I mean, the whole thing about tablets is that covers will still very much be a part of it. And we will continue to do covers that people talk about.
KURTZ: Now, will this process that you'll be presiding over as editor-in-chief of the combined company be painful? Obviously if you don't have to put out a paper magazine and print it and distribute it, you won't need as many people. You said there will be staff reductions.
BROWN: There will be staff reductions, inevitably, yes, because there will be less of a need for the amount of people that we have now. That, of course, is painful, that is the painful part of this whole thing. It's a something a lot of companies are going through right now. I mean, all of this digital disruption is causing a great deal of restructuring in companies.
Obviously I love the people that I work with here, and they are talented, they're gifted, and they work so hard. It's been a tough two years in this company. First of all, there was a magazine that was for sale for nearly a year, with all of the lack of morale that happened with that.
Then there was a new owner and there was no editor for many, many months, an interim editor. Then one of the owners then died. This has been a lot of tumult then in one company. And then, of course, there was the merger with "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast," all of that happened in the last two years.
So this is a staff that has been through a lot. But one of the things that I'm very proud of them about is that through all of this disruption, they've continued to do incredibly good work. I mean, we've been putting out an extremely good magazine. It has only been getting better and better in terms of what we've published, and they've done that under really quite challenging circumstances at times.
KURTZ: You've edited two magazines that are still quite successful, "Vanity Fair" and the "New Yorker." And one that was not, "Talk" magazine. What kinds of magazines have a future in print given this digital -- this move toward digital that you have just described?
BROWN: Well, I think every one of the magazines out there right now is analyzing, you know, where it goes with all of this. Some magazines will stay obviously with print much longer than others. The ones that have gone in strong to begin with and really have developed a robust platform that has been secure for some time, also has a big parent company with many other titles, which can keep it aloft, but there are going to be quite a lot of others I think that will go to the wall (ph).
I do think fashion magazines probably have one of the longer shelf lives because there's something very tactile, very shiny about the object of a fashion magazine, and it really is something of a love object as well as something of a -- you know, of a magazine. But I think the magazines of service (ph) and so on, I really do think that those things are all going to go digital.
KURTZ: All right, well, a lot of things going digital these days, and "Newsweek" has joined that list. Tina Brown, thanks very much for joining us.
BROWN: Thank you, Howie.
KURTZ: And joining us now from New York is Jeff Jarvis, former magazine editor who runs the entrepreneurial journalism program at the City University in New York and blogs at buzzmachine.com. All right, Mr. BuzzMachine, you've heard Tina Brown. Could any editor have saved "Newsweek" as a print magazine?
JEFF JARVIS, BUZZMACHINE.COM: Howie, I ran into Tina at an event at CUNY, in my university, in this long process when it appeared she would not get "Newsweek," and I congratulated her for that.
Once she got it, I should have given her condolences. You could see exactly what was going to happen here. There was no future for this. General interest is doomed. Print is in trouble, and the whole idea of this magazine just doesn't work anymore. I think at the end of its life, it got plain desperate. The Muslim rage cover, the heaven is real cover, were self-parodies of the form.
KING: Well, you say that there is no need, no market anymore for general interest magazines, perhaps "Newsweek" in particular. But "Time" magazine, which is owned by CNN's parent company and is part of a stable which includes "People," "Sports Illustrated," "Fortune," still doing pretty well.
JARVIS: Pretty well is fine, and stable is fine. Listen, I love print. I used to be a magazine junkie. To hear the princess of print, Tina Brown, admit that she no longer goes to newsstands, is amazing. Neither do I. I started a magazine called "Entertainment Weekly." I love magazines, but I'm online now. And yes, there's still life in print, but clearly the future is digital.
KURTZ: You don't go to newsstands, even to pick up the "New York Post" on your way to work?
JARVIS: No, I don't. And the other thing is, Howie, newsstands in New York are now as hard to find as mailboxes.
KURTZ: Kind of like pay telephone booths. With "Newsweek Global," as it will be called, going online, will people pay for a digital magazine online? Arianna Huffington tried it and ended up after just a few months having to give away the long form "Huffington Post" the magazine for free.
JARVIS: I don't think so. Listen, I'm not opposed to pay walls and charging for content. I will happily sell you my two books in one Kindle single. But there is so much competition, so much abundance of content out there, as you said, from the "Daily Beast" itself. I don't really think there is going to be a market for this online.
Tina said something that I realized that made sense to me finally about the business model here. She said they are transferring subscriptions over to the tablet. What they have in Barry Diller's company, the owner of this, is a big liability in future subscription obligations, and so I finally get it. They are going to try to transfer some of those over to the tablet. I'm not saying what about the future of "Newsweek" in any form.
KURTZ: Right. Magazines in their heyday -- and you edited one and I have worked for one -- they present a vision and a tone, they are a collection of writers and sensibilities. The web seems to be all about searching for particular topics or stories or things that people are interested in, in effect making people the editors of their own magazines. So can a magazine work online, or is it an attempt to transfer an old-fashioned concept to a digital frontier where it may not fit?
JARVIS: I was part of a panel at the Museum of Modern Art, crowd I used to hang around with last week, about curation, and the idea that we talk maybe perhaps too much in journalism about curators. And museum curators, (inaudible) curators, and now we have journalism curators. Tina Brown herself is a curator and a darn good one. So but however, we now all have this opportunity to be curators, to find stuff. It's not just search, Howie, it's also social. My friends on Twitter are curators finding me a lot of good stuff.
KURTZ: Do we have time to do all of that curating rather than letting professional journalists do it for us? I've got 20 seconds.
JARVIS: Yes, I think we do it. I think we have lots of friends who do it for us. I think we also see that Tina helped us along, because she was someone who discovered that brands don't just rub off on writers, writers rub off on brands. So she hired top writers and now top writers can have their own brands online.
KURTZ: Fascinating. Jeff Jarvis, thanks for joining the conversation this morning.
Still to come, Chris Wallace cuts through the spin using the web site Pinterest to fight crime, and a New York magazine writer tweets his way into trouble. The Media Monitor is coming up next.
KURTZ: Time for the Media Monitor. Our look at the hits and errors in the business, journalists often turn to professors as experts on politics. But an investigation by the "Helm" newspaper found a half dozen professors who have contributed to Barack Obama, something that wasn't noted in the articles.
Allen of Emory University for instance twice kicked in $50 to the Obama 2008 campaign. Garrison Nelson of University of Vermont who gave Obama $250 this year saying big deal saying readers should tell by his comments that he is a Democrat.
Readers shouldn't have to ask, they should ask and disclose whether a professor or any other expert has made political donations, a tip of the hat to Chris Wallace for challenging the political spin.
When Ed Gillespie was on Fox News Sunday, he asked how the Republican nominee could cut taxes 20 percent without increasing the deficit or providing details?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED GILLESPIE, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: What we have said is we will pay for them by eliminating loopholes. Six different studies have said --
CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Those are questionable. Some are blogs. Some of them are from the AEI, which is an independent group.
GILLESPIE: These are credible sources.
WALLACE: One is from a guy who is a blog from a guy who with was a top adviser to George w. Bush, hardly nonpartisan studies. (END VIDEO LCIP)
KURTZ: Some print folks had noted he's not been independent studies, but Wallace didn't let it go by without challenge. Here's one about crime fighting in the digital age. The Pottstown Mercury has set up a board on Pinterest, the popular social media bulletin board was updated mug shots of suspects wanted by police.
Local authorities report a 58 percent jump in arrests a few months after the site went up. Readers can post comments that may provide the police with valuable tips.
Finally, the "New York Times" magazine has suspended contributing writer, Andrew Goldman, for a month for something he wrote on Twitter. In a "Times" interview, Goldman had to ask an actress if she thought of having sex with an director to advance her career. When she tweeted the questions seemed to be sexist.
She said she would have liked the opportunity to sleep her way to the top and used an obscenity in response to another critic. W e have gotten a lesson how tweeting with first and thinking later can be dangerous.
That's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. If you miss a program go to iTunes every Monday and you can get the free audio pod cast or buy the video version. Join us Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern for another critical look at the media. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.