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Anthony Weiner Media Circus; Royal Baby Media Frenzy

Aired July 28, 2013 - 11:00   ET


FRANK SESNO, HOST: A new sexting scandal surfaces at the height of Anthony Weiner's bid to become New York City's next mayor. His wife comes to his defense.


HUMA ABEDIN, WIFE OF ANTHONY WEINER: I love him. I have forgiven him. I believe in him. And as we have said from the beginning, we are moving forward.


SESNO: Was the media spoon-fed? The story of redemption that now outrages even the Big Apple.

An heir to the British throne is born, breaking news on both sides of the Atlantic. William, Kate and the newest royal meet the media crush and the king of irony.

Are White House press briefings a waste of time? We'll hear a case for ending them.

Al Jazeera America is coming soon to a channel near you. A fresh new voice or an outlier on the dial?

And, "House of Cards" scores big as Netflix basks in more than a dozen Emmy nominations. How Netflix is transforming television.

I'm Frank Sesno and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.


SESNO: Well, call it deja vu all over again. For the second time in two years, Anthony Weiner is at the center of a sex scandal, admitting this week he continued sexting after he resigned from Congress, where his behavior first surfaced. A gossip Web site,, you probably read that every day, well, they posted some lewd chats and pictures.

The New York mayoral candidate faced the media on Tuesday.


REPORTER: When you said there was more out there, you didn't say there was more out there from the point after you resigned in June of 2011. How do you explain that?

REPORTER: When was the last text --

ANTHONY WEINER (D), NYC MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I can't -- I can't say exactly.

REPORTER: What do you say about those people who want you to drop out of the --

REPORTER: You said some things were true online, some things weren't true. Tell us what was not true.

REPORTER: Why should we trust your judgment?


SESNO: For the New York media and the rest of us, it couldn't get any weirder than this, the tabloids ran wild, with double entendres. The media focused on his sinking fortunes, his wife Huma Abedin's decision to stand by her man.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN: Huma's trouble. New revelations this morning that Anthony Weiner's wife almost left him. So, why did she stay?

NORMA O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS: I think one of the questions people have is how does she stand by, why does she stand by him with something like this?

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: It seems like what Huma is saying, is, voters, you can trust him because I have forgiven him.


SESNO: And a new wrinkle just today. Anthony Weiner's campaign manager has quit.

So, joining us now -- two people who have written about this unsavory story.

Lois Romano, senior political reporter for "Politico" and Errol Louis, host of "Road to City Hall" on New York 1, and a CNN contributor.

Errol, let me start with you, since you have been covering this story. It's weird. It's unsavory. But what's been the toughest part of just reporting?

ERROL LOUIS, NEW YORK 1: Well, the toughest part of just reporting is that you have to parse every word apparently that Anthony Weiner says. I mean, he has come to the press and lied repeatedly, that happened back in 2011 and as part of his redemption process and trying to get back on the campaign trail, he has said, well, look, that's behind me and I'm starting a new chapter and I want to have a different kind of a conversation. But then it turns out that he continued and he continued to mislead. There's something called, you know, sort of lying by omission and it's arguable that something like that has just happened.

SESNO: Lying by omission and lying by commission.

Lois, were the media just romanced by this guy? I mean, this sort of narrative of sin, apology, of redemption, that seemed to be carrying the day until that news conference.

LOIS ROMANO, POLITICO: Well, everybody wants redemption, but I don't think for a second, anybody was romanced by him. I mean, what he did --

SESNO: Pretty gaudy piece in magazines not long ago and --

ROMANO: Exactly. But readers wanted to know the inside story. I mean, you know, let's not eliminate the voyeurism here. So, yes, they were talking about redemption, but it was the first time we heard him speak, so it was a very interesting story.

Do I think the media was totally duped? I don't. I think there was a little skepticism. But what do you do if you don't know? You don't have the text.

SESNO: But do you have the subtext.

ROMANO: Yes, you have the subtext, right.

SESNO: So, there have been all kinds of double entendre headlines. "The New Yorker" had a field day with a cover story that kind of makes you smile, but also makes you cringe. There you go -- you can read into what you want.

Errol, how do you grade the media for coverage?

LOUIS: I think the media gets a B and I think what we've had is something akin to what happens on the road during rush hour where every individual driver is doing what he or she was supposed to do. But when they all do it together, you've got a traffic jam and nobody goes anyplace.

So I think every individual news organization was probably doing what they were supposed to do. What it has resulted in, however, is these gigantic scrums where the candidate is out trying to talk to individual voters and there might be literally 20 or 30 reporters, whole bunch of cameras all over them, it changes the story, it distracts from what serious campaign coverage is supposed to look like, and no individual person is doing the wrong thing, but collectively, we've got a real problem.

SESNO: And there was an element here, or a moment here where he might actually be a serious candidate, where he was bumping up in the polls until that news conference.

LOUIS: No, no, look, he is a serious candidate. SESNO: Even now? You don't think he's a serious candidate today, though.

LOUIS: Even now, he is polling second. Even now, there are people who defend him. Even now, he's got upwards of $4 million to spend on paid advertising. Even now, he's making media and community appearances until today, Sunday.

So, and his name will appear on the ballot no matter what he does, because he is legally entitled to that in six weeks from now. So, he is a candidate, there are other candidates in the race who would love to have his polling numbers by the way. And so, it's way to soon to count him out.

SESNO: Lois Romano, there has been a parade of editorials calling for him to get out. Here's what "The New York Times" wrote, "The seriously evasive Mr. Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from the cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City."

"The New York Post", "In another day, Weiner would be a punch line instead of a leading candidate for mayor, which is revealing of New York politics, as it is of Anthony Weiner."

And "The New York Daily News," "He's not fit to lead America's premier city."

Are these editorial opinions having any impact? Do the editorial pages anymore lead, reflect public opinion or are they utterly irrelevant?

ROMANO: Oh, I don't think they're relevant. I think the polls are showing that.

I mean, look, the guy was running -- is running for mayor of the most important financial center in the world. The coverage to this point was merited.

And I think that Weiner himself made it a spectacle. But if you look between Friday and today, it actually has toned down a little bit and I think that's because his polls are plummeting. We're caring less.

SESNO: Errol, what's the impact of these editorials in New York City.

LOUIS: They appear to have had quite serious impact, the one you showed from "The New York Daily News." I mean, it was a front page editorial. There was indeed the very next day, a poll taken and his support seem to have been cut in half.

So, it's definitely playing a role. But you have to keep in mind, Frank, we have a runoff system in New York City. So, he doesn't have to place first. He doesn't have to a majority.

All he has to do is play second in a situation where nobody else gets 40 percent. He's still poised to be able to do that if he gets a couple of strokes of luck. So, again --

SESNO: Lois, Anthony Weiner is not the only one in the media crosshairs, his wife, Huma Abedin is as well. "The New Post" had a cover, "What's wrong with you?" it asked.

You wrote about this, you said, "Abedin is no longer a victim. She's been down this road before with her husband, made an informed choice to hang in there. She's a smart, skilled, and discreet operative who has worked for Hillary Clinton for two decades."

Two questions, is it fair to zero in on her in all of this? Is this her story? And how much does the Hillary Clinton connection bump her to a whole new level of coverage?

ROMANO: Well, first of all, it is 100 percent, because she has put herself in the middle of this story.

SESNO: She's not the candidate.

ROMANO: But she's made herself a prop in the redemption. I mean, she did all the magazine pieces, and when she chose to speak -- remember, she did not speak in 2011. She said, "I love him, I trust him, so you should trust him."

The Clinton thing plays a big part of this because she is very close to Hillary Clinton. And, you know, this is not good for the Clintons. This is not good for every story to compare this tawdry situation to what happened to Bill Clinton and Hillary.

SESNO: Errol, last word to you, where does this story go from here? And what does it say about New York City and the New York media?

LOUIS: Well, I think where it goes from here is anybody's guess. I think what it says about the media, though, is that -- you know, we're like anybody else. I mean, you have to cover the candidates, you have to take them at their word until you know, otherwise. You have to dig and go behind their statements, try and present the truth to your audience.

I think we collectively have all tried to do that even under these very strange circumstances. And then when the editorial boards kick in, and they try to sort of make a judgment about how people should interpret all of this information, they're doing their job, too.

SESNO: Well, thanks for doing your job, Errol Louis and Lois Romano.

And for those of you who want a serious take on the New York City race, "Smile," it says. "One of you is going to be the next mayor of New York." It's "The New York Times" magazine section this week and it has a good, deep dive on the personalities and the substance of the New York mayoral race.

The duchess of Cambridge gives birth to the next generation of royalty. It touches off a media frenzy. Was coverage of the royal baby over the top?


SESNO: Weeks before the newest British royal made his debut, the media jockeyed for prime position outside the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital. It was hurry up and wait.


O'DONNELL: A lot of buzz and a lot of waiting when it comes to the royal birth.

AMY ROBACH, ABC NEWS: Any day now, any hour now.

MAX FOSTER, CNN: I know what it feels like to be a sort of statue or some sort of monument, because we have become like a tourist attraction.

KATE SNOW, NBC NEWS: Someone says or sees or hears something, and we all jump.


SESNO: One BBC reporter positioned outside of the hospital admitted -- well, the truth.


SIMON MCCOY, BBC NEWS: Well, plenty more to come from here, of course, none of it news because that will come from Buckingham Palace. But that won't stop us.


SESNO: None of it news?

Joining us now to discuss the coverage of the royal birth, from "London Times" Europe editor, Catherine Mayer, and Tim Ewart of ITN News. And in New York, Joe Concha of Mediaite.

So, welcome to all of you. Thank you very much.

Tim, I'd like to start with you. You wrote a piece entitled "Royal baby sparks media circle outside hospital."

And here's what you wrote, "There are a few crumbs to be thankful for: it hasn't rained. Mickey's place behind the Lindo does good fish and chips, and the hospital allows to use its loos. That's it."

Why so much focus on a royal baby?

TIM EWART, ITN NEWS: It was -- it was madness, what can you say? The only point I would make is that it's very easy to create a media circus. I started to go there about two weeks before Kate went into hospital because I had to be there for each of our news shows. And once you start going, you can't stop. And everybody was in the same position and it was a crazy thing. There was so much rumor, so much speculation, when would she go in and so on. But, you know, you have to be in it to win it.

I was not the first, by the any means to be there. There were some U.S. networks that had been down there more than two weeks by the time it happened. But, you know, it's very easy to make yourself look very stupid --

SESNO: How are the ratings? How are the things? Are people really interested in this?

EWART: Well, our ratings were very, very high for the day that it happened. I mean, we got a 37 percent share which is enormous. And however cynical you want to be about the royal family and I have only been covering them for four years and I am fairly cynical, I'll be honest with you.

The reality is that people love it. They love it in the States, and they love it here.


SESNO: All right. Catherine Mayer, let me come to you. "TIME" magazine, you're covering this thing as well. I want to put up a private eye cover story, or magazine cover. This is big, really big. "Woman Has Baby."


SESNO: Why are we so fascinated by the royal family?

MAYER: Well, you see, there are good reasons to be fascinated by the royal family. You name me any other institution in this day and ages that can regularly bring hundreds and thousands of people on to the street, not in protest, but in celebration.

This is an extraordinary institution. It's one of the great role models for change management. It is peculiar, anachronistic, exciting, bizarre, weird, one of the great exemplars of social power.

But the problem with the way in which the royal baby coverage was handled was that as Tim says, and he's been to modest to say that his station actually won the ratings war in this country. But for many people, it went from bump, not just Kate's bump, but expected ratings bump, to slump.

And actually, as I'm sure you know in America, the ratings were not good. They were not good in Australia. But there was --


SESNO: Joe Concha, let me jump in here. I'm going to pick up on what Catherine is talking about and tell us why do you think the ratings weren't so great in America? JOE CONCHA, MEDIAITE: Well, Frank, it depends on where we're talking about. So, FOX and NBC got a first trimester bump. Just a small one, barely noticeable. But CNN seemed to put more resources towards the story. They're doing more human interest stories now, particularly in a nonelection. And as a result, they preempted, for instance, their 10:00 p.m. show, and they doubled the ratings in that slot for a show called "Will and Kate Plus One".

But I think the bottom line is in America, you know, it was embraced, I think -- Americans love reality TV, they yearn for Camelot, the Kennedys are an afterthought, so what royal family do we have left? The Bushes.

SESNO: But we kicked these people out of here a couple of 100 years ago.

CONCHA: We did, we did, but we still yearn for the class of maybe the Brits. Because we had, the royal family or the Brits, I'm sorry, the Bushes, the Clintons and, of course, you know, the Kardashians starring special guests Kanye West and Northwest. So, I think we have to go across the pond to get that class and dignity that Americans don't see with the Kennedys being an after thought and the Bushes and Clintons --

SESNO: Let me come back across the pond as you suggest, to Tim again for just a minute.

Tim, you know, there's a real irony here as William brought his new baby out and his wife to meet the media, the same media he blames in many ways for the death of his mother. But now he is and his family is in the focus and in the glare, and they will never climb out of it because they've got this child and obviously there's so much more.

What do you make of all of that and how does this coverage accommodate his concerns and sensitivities?

EWART: Well, I think William is becoming far more friendly with us than perhaps he was. And I think you kind of need to bear two things in mind. There are those of us who cover the royal family on a regular basis. There's a small courtier of us. Think for example of the White House press corps, the regulars.

Our critics would call us sycophants. I think that's possibly a little unfair. But we're the regulars. Floating around the edge are paparazzi who make a lot of money out of photographs of the type, for example, that we saw of Kate, in the south of France, besides the swimming pool, topless, the couple on the honeymoon -- we don't do that.

And I think that William and Kate have recognized, particularly William -- I mean, she has no reason to be upset with us, but he clearly does.

SESNO: Well, let me ask you this. Let me ask you this. Here in the United States, the president of the United States, Barack Obama and his wife and presidents before them recently have asked the media to stay out of their children's private lives, out of their lives and they pretty well obeyed or adhered to that. How is it going to go with the royals?

Are the paparazzi going to dial it back, do you think?

EWART: Yes, it's going to go -- we will almost entirely, we will do as we are asked. You know, we will not hang out around parks to see if Kate's walking the baby or if she's going shopping with him or anything like that. We will restrict ourselves to officially sanctioned events.


SESNO: Let me bring in here Catherine, I quick thought.

MAYER: Can I -- can I also say that there was a game changer here in the hacking scandal. You know, you mustn't forget that the hacking scandal in this country started because the phones of Prince William and Prince Harry and members of their household.

And that has caused also a re-evaluation from the tabloid side of how the royals are going to be covered. It may not last.

SESNO: Joe, last question to you on this one.


SESNO: Do you think that this new generation, this next generation of royal, gives a new generation of coverage to this fascinated American audience you talk about?

CONCHA: I think so, because Kate and Will --

SESNO: You think we'll see more specials on cable television?

CONCHA: Oh, I think absolutely, because these two people and eventually the baby are so likable. They're like the opposite of the Weiners. So, therefore I don't think the press are going after them as hard because Kate has such sympathy. She's such a likable person that people is so likable that I think coverage is for the most part going to be good.

And, oh, by the way, you have those Australian DJs that did that prank call and eventually forced that nurse to commit suicide. Remember that a while ago, I think the media is very careful about hey, let's not screw with these guys, because again they are so likable that we don't want to have any negative coverage as being seen as harassing.

SESNO: Well, I'm going to thank all of you for coming, and, Joe, good luck with your royal baby on the way. I understand that's well in progress. So, good luck with all of that.

I will close --

CONCHA: Thank you, Frank.

SESNO: You bet.

I'll close with this one point, a letter to the editor in "The Washington Post" from Harry Foxwell, Fairfax, Virginia. He writes this is about the royal baby. "Please relegate all future reporting of America's small minded fascination with British royalty, with the endless nitpicking on how to address the new offspring to the inner pages of the style section where it belongs, reserve the front pages," he writes, "for important news."

When we come back, will Al Jazeera become important news and become a reliable source? Fifty million American homes are about to find out as Al Jazeera America gets ready to launch.


SESNO: Al Jazeera is set to launch its American news channel next month, the old Current TV. The network has used big promises and big bucks to lure some prominent personalities, who used to work for places like CNN, ABC, CBS.

Will al Jazeera America veer from the mother ship's editorial brand in order to gain a foothold and maybe even curry favor in the U.S.?

Joining me from Albuquerque, New Mexico, is David Marash, a former ABC News correspondent, former anchor of al Jazeera English.

And, Dave, it's a real pleasure to see you again. How are you doing?

DAVID MARASH, FORMER ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I'm doing pretty well, Frank. Thanks. It's great to be with you.

SESNO: Well, it's great to have you here. Let me ask you just flat out, what do you expect from al Jazeera America?

MARASH: I expect them to put on the air a product that is much more traditional television news than any of their competitors, which is that it's going to be filled with reports from the scenes from news is happening, and a lot of these reports are going to be video packages rather than as we call them in the business live two-ways.

So, I think that they're going to try to compete for an American audience by giving them more traditional news per hour than any of the other news channels, including CNN.

SESNO: Now, they are pumping millions, hundreds of millions of dollar into this enterprise. I have a map here of some of the places they're going to open bureaus up in the United States. They range from Seattle and San Francisco to New Orleans and Miami and Nashville, Tennessee and even Detroit which just declared bankruptcy.

What are they doing?

MARASH: What they're doing is they're trying to flood the country with bureaus and reporters who will be able to get to any scene and will be rooted in a lot of American communities because, as I say, the hallmark of their brand is we are on the scene with real reportage. The American news channels have tended to substitute studio discussion or live reports from the scene in which the reporter literally has his back to the story because his face is, as mine is now, towards the camera.

So I think al Jazeera is going to try and out-report its competition and hope that that strikes a cord with American viewers.


SESNO: You left al Jazeera in 2008, under a cloud. You said this is not the network I joined, you were not approving of the kind of journalism they were reporting. And in fact, al Jazeera America is going to confront a huge problem in this country is that a lot of people who don't know it think that it's the enemy, for lack of a better term.

Is that a problem? Is that an issue?

MARASH: Well, the image issue is real. I have to say that the criticisms that I made which were pointed and limited, which said that at time, they not have a lot of authentic American reporting and that sometimes they tended to substitute attitude for reporting.

After I left -- and by the way, I have been making these criticisms in-house for a considerable period before I left, but after I left, that seemed to act as a kind of the face. And many of the things that I questioned, they have responded to and the quality of reporting on al Jazeera English from the United States has greatly improved.

And in the rest of the world, quite frankly I think they out- report all of the other news channels, including CNN International and BBC, simply because they've got have got more reporters on the scene doing more video packaged reports than their reports --


SESNO: You know, it's funny you mentioned, David, because I stepped out of my house yesterday, across the fence from my neighbor who was there having an iced tea or something with a friend who said, oh, yes, I was just watching al Jazeera, because they're doing such a great job out of Egypt and Tahrir Square. They seem to already have made something of a mark, when going with the old current TV and getting into 50 million house holds. I wonder what they're going to become a real presence on the news dial.

MARASH: It's a tough question, Frank, because remember, Current TV may have had access to 50 million homes, but it was generally from a far outside position on channel dial, they would be channel 544, whereas CNN might be 24. SESNO: Yes, that's not exactly--

MARASH: -- might be 32.

SESNO: -- not exactly routine viewing.

MARASH: There's also going to be a standard deaf channel. Frank and a lot of the competition, including CNN, is now telecasting in hi- def. And viewers will notice a visual difference.

SESNO: There's another side of this debate --

MARASH: -- for serious reporting, there's going to be a place to go.

SESNO: There's another side of this debate, though, that's fascinating and that's the side of the debate that's coming out of Qatar, the home of the network of Al Jazeera global and some of them folks who know it very well, which is that Al Jazeera might actually be toning down its distinct voice, backing away from its distinct point of view to come into America and curry favor here.

Is that a danger?

MARASH: I don't know that danger is the right word. But will they play to their market? Of course they will. Al Jazeera Arabic has a slightly different editorial stance from Al Jazeera English, which has a slightly different editorial stance from Al Jazeera Balkans. And Al Jazeera America will have its own slightly unique editorial stance. In fact, one of the things that I'm curious about is, once America no longer watches Al Jazeera English, once their market is the whole English speaking world minus the U.S., is that going to be reflected in editorial judgments? But I think that the American channel is going to be mostly run by Americans specifically for an American audience, and you'll see that reflected in their editorial content.

SESNO: They've brought in Kate O'Brian from ABC to be the president of the channel. They've brought in David Frost, used to be at CNN, all before that, ABC, to be the editorial skipper of the ship. They brought in some prominent names, Joie Chen, Ali Velshi and others, who watchers of -- viewers of this program will all know very, very well. What's that tell you about their prospects on the dial? Final thought.

MARASH: Well, that they want to address an American audience with familiar faces and familiar voices in an authentically American way, and I think that they're going to do that.

SESNO: Dave Marash, thanks very much. Great to see you, and we'll watch together and then compare notes.

MARASH: (Inaudible), Frank. Look forward to it.

SESNO: All right. Thanks again.




QUESTION: Every single detail, but it's beyond --

CARNEY: I think you're parsing my words. You can editorialize all you want and I have no doubt that you will, but that is a ridiculous statement.


SESNO: My next guest says the White House and the press are bitter enemies. He has a prescription. He may have a point.



SESNO: For most reporters, the White House press briefing is a daily ritual, also a sparring match. Most everyone leaves feeling frustrated.

My next guest offers a suggestion. Writing in "The New Republic," "The daily briefing has become a worthless chore for reporters, an embarrassing nuisance to administration staff and a source of added friction between the two camps.

"It's time to do the humane, obvious thing and get rid of it all together."

Joining me is Reid Cherlin. He was President Obama's assistant press secretary from 2008 through March of 2011. He's now a freelance journalist.

Why kill it?

REID CHERLIN, FORMER OBAMA ASSISTANT PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I just think it's a waste of time.

SESNO: Oh, come on, this is where taxpayer dollars are put to work to some degree. It may be a circus at times, but there's some degree of daily accountability there.

CHERLIN: Well, you know, I think when you real start looking at it, there really isn't that much of a degree of daily accountability. I would definitely agree that the White House needs to answer questions, should answer questions and it does answer questions.

But the way that it does it is, hours throughout the briefing, throughout the day, starting when morning reporters on this network get up in the 5 o'clock hour and start emailing people, hey, what's your position on Egypt today. They know the answer. By the time it gets to the briefing, which is an old institution that predates the Internet by decades, everyone kind of knows what -- SESNO: I will agree with that, and I will day in full disclosure that, for this network and for the Associated Press, when I covered the White House -- I did a little calculation yesterday -- I think I have attended nearly 3,000 White House press briefings. And it's torture and there's a Stockholm syndrome and all of that.

But nonetheless, there's some degree of discipline imposed on the White House. You're going to show up there every day and, reporters, you're going to show up there every day and spar away but have something to talk about and take something to the American people.

If you eliminate that, then you're just White House tweets, White House blogs and dotgov. It's the White House propaganda machine.

CHERLIN: Well, I don't think that's entirely true because I think, again, we talk about the way that the briefing is supposed to be. And I think a lot of us think about it the way that we remember it, frankly, from "The West Wing," the snow, not the way that --


SESNO: Was never the way it was.

CHERLIN: No, no, right. But if you look at how it actually goes day to day, it has its moments; basically in the first couple of minutes, the White House establishes its positions of the day. After that, there's no accountability happening.

SESNO: I have a few moments here.


SESNO: From the sublime to the ridiculous, the best and worst of Jay Carney.


CARNEY: The United States remains deeply concerned by the increasing violence across Egypt. We are committed to trying to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: And about the congressional picnic that has been postponed, what was behind that --

CARNEY: The president did not communicate with Jay-Z over this trip.


SESNO: So we have Jay-Z and presidential picnics, but we also have Iran and Egypt and things happen so fast and happen every day, if you didn't have this, what would we have, in your world?

CHERLIN: Well, I think you would have the same thing you have now, which is if you watch, and I think Jay does quite a good job actually for what he's supposed to be doing. But if you watch, what he's doing is largely reading statements, particularly on foreign policy, out of the briefing book. Now on foreign policy, that's important; those statements are carefully crafted and each word carries a lot of weight.

But the fact is, they get e-mailed hours before that; they're going to be e-mailed all day. I just think that this -- in this day and age, information is kind of like water, it's just going to find its way downhill. And it's -- the way things are going now, it just gets out earlier; it gets out faster and more efficiently and better. And then I think what that does is it hollows out the briefing, so that everyone kind of knows what's going on, and there's just a lot of rancor in there.


SESNO: Well, maybe we should require the briefing to be more substantive then. Maybe Jay Carney should come prepared not to just read from the briefing book but to take people inside of a process.

Mike McCurry (ph), a former White House press secretary, says the biggest mistake he ever made was allowing the camera to turn on in that briefing.

CHERLIN: Well, and this is a point, I think, I tried to make in the piece, in limited space, which is Mike (ph) told me the same thing.

Once you turn the cameras on -- and particularly you have the cameras facing backward and they're shooting the correspondents all asking the same question, because they include that in their package for the nightly news; here's me, the heroic reporter, challenging the press secretary on this, even though the other five other correspondents have just done it. It creates an air of theatricality that gets everyone's eyes rolling --

SESNO: Well, there are daily briefings at the State Department. There are daily briefings at the Pentagon -- or near daily briefings at those places -- and they have a totally different tenor and tone.


SESNO: Largely because the White House is such a center of politics. And the president is trying to set the agenda. The president -- you -- are trying to set the agenda. And what reporters are doing is pushing back and saying, wait a minute, you shouldn't set the agenda; we should set the agenda or the news should set the agenda.

CHERLIN: Sure. I guess I would just say does the briefing ever really drive the agenda? The briefing is almost every day a reflection of kind of what the top news is. And that's totally fair. And to a certain extent, there's value in that. But we all sort of know what the story of the day is. We have an hour set aside, where everyone kind of fights about it and really no new information comes out. And then at the end of that hour and a half, or hour and 15 minutes, everyone's kind of where they started; we can feel good about the fact that we have an open society where, in theory, the White House is being challenged. I just think that if we did some of these things, like turned off the cameras, had more of the gaggle type format, where it's the reporters asking the press secretary tough questions, but it's off the camera -- or off-camera, rather -- that tends to be much more (inaudible).


SESNO: How about more access to the President of the United States, you know? President Obama, your boss, did fewer news conferences and formal gatherings with the informed press corps, who follows him on a daily basis, than anybody since Ronald Reagan in (inaudible).

CHERLIN: And I think he should do more. And you know, I never asked --

SESNO: So we can do that? We can say his former press secretary is calling on Barack Obama to hold more news conferences?

CHERLIN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

SESNO: How many more?

CHERLIN: Absolutely.

SESNO: How about a daily news conference?

CHERLIN: I -- look, I would be for that in --

SESNO: A daily briefing from the President of the United States?

CHERLIN: Well, look, daily from the President of the United States, you might get into something that's tossed around a lot, about watering down his forcefulness.

But I think if you look at it, every time he speaks to an issue, he's giving the right (inaudible) definitive answer.

SESNO: So we'll come back to him for news and Q&A and we'll see where it goes. Thanks very much.

CHERLIN: Thank you.

SESNO: Coming up, why Francis Underwood is changing the way you'll watch television.


KEVIN SPACEY, ACTOR, "FRANK UNDERWOOD": As for me, I'm just a lowly House majority whip. I keep things moving in a Congress choked by pettiness and lassitude. My job is to clear the pipes and keep the sludge moving. (END VIDEO CLIP, "HOUSE OF CARDS")


SESNO: Netflix began mailing DVDs in those red envelopes back in 1997. Today it brags about being the world's leading Internet television network.

I discussed this TV revolution with Peter Rubin, senior editor for "Wired" magazine and HLN digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong.


FRANK SESNO, CNN SVP AND WASH. BUREAU CHIEF: Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's do the numbers here, because they're really incredible.

Netflix shows were nominated for 14 primetime Emmys. They spent $100 million on "House of Cards;" they're spending $300 million on primetime programming over the next three years. At least that's what they say they're going to be doing.

The stock price is up over 300 percent in the last year.

Why didn't I buy that one?

Let me ask you, is this just blowing up television in front of our eyes here?

PETER RUBIN, "WIRED" MAGAZINE: Well, certainly. I mean, this is the first time, you know, with the Emmy nominations that Netflix has pulled up a seat to the grownups' table.

There was a time, if you can remember, where cable networks weren't eligible for Emmys and as soon as they were, HBO pulled up a seat and said, let's go.

I think Netflix, this is their first real push in this direction. They had kind of an abortive start with a series called "Lillyhammer," that didn't really connect with viewers.

But through this new initiative, they're really -- the development pipeline is fantastic and as we've seen, spending $100 million up front for two seasons of a show with a pedigree like "House of Cards" has paid off already.


SESNO: Mario, who's watching this Netflix?

MARIO ARMSTRONG, DIGITAL LIFESTYLE EXPERT: I mean, it's really like who's not watching. You know, it's gotten to the point now where, look, Netflix hasn't shared how many people watch. This is a problem with investors, with the metrics of what Netflix decides to share. What Netflix does share is the amount of subscriptions that people are connecting to this -- to this service.

So a lot of people from a wide variety of demographics apparently are tuning in. I know my mom is well aware of and can use Netflix. So it has this ease of use and simplicity, but it also has fresh content that also appeals to a younger generation.

And as Peter just mentioned, as well, with this Emmy now, these Emmy awards, that will also raise the bar now. Talent will now start paying attention to online programming as something that's real. Executives and producers as well are now saying this is a real deal opportunity for distribution of real content.

SESNO: So if they offer you a contract, you're taking it?

ARMSTRONG: Absolutely.


ARMSTRONG: What are you waiting for?

SESNO: Peter, they had 630,000 new subscribers in the second quarter; they're projecting for the third quarter something between 690,000 and maybe a million and a half. This is one of the most watched companies in all of media right now.

RUBIN: It really is. I mean, there -- while their numbers for the actual mail order DVD service continue to go down, obviously streaming has supplanted that as the preferred mode of delivery for so many people and so the digital subscriptions have only gone up. They're hovering somewhere around 30 million.

And if you look at this compounding over the next few quarters, you're looking at a network that has a viewership of 40 million to 50 million people which dwarfs HBO's, which for so long, obviously, has kind of been the name in premium television.

SESNO: All right. So let me ask you both this question: if the model is changing and audience behavior is changing and the production model is changing, how will that change the content that we're getting?

Are we going to get better content, more content?

ARMSTRONG: Oh, I think you're absolutely going to see a lot more content. I mean, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You're going to start seeing things that are more documentaries that are originally produced, comedy specials that are produced.

I also think that the fact that we do what's called binge viewing -- for those that don't know, that's the, you know, ability to just watch a whole season over a weekend, if you will, that is changing how producers actually think and how directors think.


SESNO: And I know people who do that, by the way. And they'll sit there and they'll watch eight episodes, 10 episodes. That's like 8-10 hours of television.


SESNO: Go ahead, Peter.

RUBIN: Not only is Netflix a -- not only is Netflix supporting this, but in many ways they're actually encouraging it. I mean, the practice has been to, when they release a season or a new show, they do it all at once. All of "House of Cards" was released on February 1st. All of "Arrested Development" came out on the first day.

And now with the most recent series, all of "Orange is the New Black," the new series from "Weeds" creator Jenji Kohan, all the episodes are available at once. They're really begging people to jump in.


SESNO: What does this mean for traditional television, the CBSs, the ABCs, even the HBOs of the world?

RUBIN: Well, barring HBO, I mean, the broadcast networks and most cable networks are operating with an ad-driven platform. HBO and Netflix are not. And I think that's why you're seeing Netflix adopt a model that's maybe most akin to HBO's creator-driven model, which is you go and you attract the best creators.

You give them complete creative control and the talent, the acting talent comes to that. That's what we saw with "House of Cards;" that's what we saw with "Orange is the New Black," and that's what we're going to keep going.

SESNO: Mario, jump in. I'm not sure.

ARMSTRONG: The idea that you could create your own content and distribute it is something that's just huge, especially when you have the ability to send that information out globally.

So you don't have the same restrictions; you don't have the same limitations. And you don't have the same cost model structure that you have in traditional media.

And that does have TV executives paying attention, worrying about whether or not that ad-driven model, which is traditional television, will be able to really go up against something like Netflix.

SESNO: Peter, what about Netflix news? Any chance of seeing anything like that?

RUBIN: I like that, though. Netflix news.

It sounds great at first blush, but I think Reed Hastings knows which side his bread is buttered on. I think they are an entertainment company. And I think establishing an infrastructure for, you know, a full coverage news network --


SESNO: My last question, Mario, is to you, because this is really just the tip of the iceberg. We can talk about Netflix all we want, but it's lots of stuff going on there.

And one of the new ones -- and you've written about this -- is this Google Chromecast. Talk about that for a second. It's the same genre.

ARMSTRONG: This is TV. This is the idea of Google creating a little USB stick that essentially plugs into the HDMI port of your television set, connects to your Internet connection and it enables you to be able to stream content from your phone or your tablet right to your television.

So no middlemen, no bunch of wires, no complicated technology. You have competitors like Apple TV boxes, Roku boxes, all of these set-top boxes, trying to make it easy for us to see Internet programming on our big screen TVs.

Once that can be done simple and easy like Chromecast is doing with Google, I think we'll see a lot larger audiences that normally don't look at online programming now start to do so, because it can happen on (inaudible) --


SESNO: OK, Peter, last question to you really quickly, how -- Google Chromecast, Netflix, HBO on Demand, Apple, Amazon, all of it, how fast is this change in television going to happen, change in viewing going to happen?

RUBIN: Well, it's already begun. I mean, we're seeing shows that are nothing but water cooler talk with a fraction of the viewers that even a cult classic 10 years ago would have had.

You know, the broadcast marketplace has fragmented so much and more people are watching more shows that quality has risen to the top, despite the fact that they have smaller and smaller viewerships.

SESNO: All right. Peter Rubin, Mario Armstrong, thanks very much.

And we'll be right back.


SESNO: Finally, a wink and a nod today to some media that matters.

First, a tragic story, a searing piece of video and some remarkable journalism as a train derails horribly in Spain, killing at least 78 people. The Associated Press took the video and went to work. A video producer advanced it frame by frame. The AP estimated distances between pylons, counted railway ties and used a time stamp on the video to calculate the train's speed.

One estimate: 89 to 119 miles an hour; using a different technique, 96 to 112. The posted speed limit, 50 miles an hour. In less than two hours, the AP went from video to story, providing vital information.

For instincts, initiative and transparency in reporting, the AP proved itself a reliable source.

But another story gets a thumbs down on coverage: Iraq. The place looks like it's imploding. Sectarian violence has been escalating with near daily bombings and killings. Syria's civil war may be making things worse. An assault on Abu Ghraib prison sprung more than 200 convicts connected to Al Qaeda in Iraq. But where is the American news media? Most have gone home. The last American news bureau there, CNN's, closed in May. There are still producers, stringers and reporters, and they're doing their best, but the big presence and the sustained coverage is a fraction of what it was.

The reason? U.S. troops have gone home and the exorbitant cost. But this story about Iraqi stability, regional security and America's legacy and, yes, oil, still matters. It's won't be easy. Americans are war weary. The coverage needs to be about more than bombs and bullets.

But the news media need to make the time, space and commitment to stay with this story because it's not going away. And it's America's story, too.

Thanks for watching RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Frank Sesno in Washington. If you miss a program, you can now go to iTunes on Mondays and check out our podcast. Just search for "Reliable Sources" in the iTunes store.

Join us again next Sunday morning at 11:00 am Eastern for another critical look at the media. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.