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Source: Flight 370 Skirted Indonesian Radar; Ships Detect 3 Sounds in Plane Search; TV Rocked Around the Clock

Aired April 6, 2014 - 11:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, live from the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

"RELIABLE SOURCES" will begin in a few moments. But first, our top story at this hour. The latest on the search for Flight 370. We're following two major new developments in the search for the missing plane.

First, we have brand new details about the potential flight path of the plane after it dropped off Malaysian military radar. A senior Malaysian government source tells CNN it appears the plane went north and then around Indonesian airspace. The source says that move may have been intentional to avoid radar detection.

And in a search in the Indian Ocean, the focus is on the area where a Chinese ship says it detected two pulse signals. Authorities say the signals heard Friday and Saturday were a little more than a mile apart. And right now, a British ship with advanced equipment is heading there to check it all out. An Australian ship also picked up an acoustic noise, but in a different area to the north. But officials can't verify that any of it is connected to the missing plane.

I want to go straight to CNN's Joe Johns in Kuala Lumpur.

The new route looks like the plane may have deliberately tried to avoid radar detection. At least that's what's being reported. What does this mean for the investigation?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. The key words are radar avoidance, I think, Fred. We've had suspicions, we've had some indications, but this is the first time anyone has explicitly said this. It creates an inference for investigators that can still be overcome that someone in the cockpit with command and control and skill intentionally took the plane in a direction that skirted Indonesian airspace.

And so, the next question is whether it was done, plain and simple, to avoid detection of Indonesian radar.

So, this is a piece of information that tells us why the authorities continue to look closely at the flight crew on board Flight 370. This also points away from the theories that the plane was somehow flying itself on autopilot and it gives them reason to ask whether someone who was at the controls of the plane was attempting to conceal it from Indonesian radar, definitely a criminal investigation, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And so, Joe, this also gives authorities to continue on their route of this criminal investigation, it sort of adds some credence to it, if you will?

JOHNS: I think it does add some credence to the investigation. You know, there are a variety of theories. Looking into the psychological factors, whether there were stress factors involved with the crew members, the flight crew on board Flight 370.

So, this does lead and give us a little bit more information about why they are calling this a criminal investigation.

WHITFIELD: And is there a feeling that Malaysian and Indonesian officials knew this earlier and it's just that they are choosing now to release this publicly? Or is this a new discovery?

JOHNS: No, I don't think it's so much a new discovery, Fred, because quite simply, we have Inmarsat indications of the very same thing and we talked about them on the air. But this is the first time someone has explicitly stated this and suggested that radar avoidance of detection might have been part of the whole scenario.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Extraordinary.

All right. Thank you so much, Joe Johns from Kuala Lumpur.

So, the head of the Australian agency coordinating the search calls the detection of the signals, quote, "an important and encouraging lead", but he urged caution saying there is much work to do in confirming it. He also talked about the difficulties of tracking down the source of the underwater sounds.


ANGUS HOUSTON, CHIEF COORDINATOR, JOINT AGENCY COORDINATION CENTER: We go through a similar process when we go underwater. Underwater, the environment is quite difficult. There are -- there are lots of occasions when noises will be transmitted over long distances depending on the temperature layers in the water and so on. So there's a complexity about working underwater that makes the task quite complex.


WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about the conditions now in the Indian Ocean there. As the search crews try to determine further whether these pings, these pulses are indeed that of the wreckage, the missing plane.

CNN's Jennifer Gray. So, Jennifer, what kind much weather conditions are there as they continue to take to the high seas to do these underwater searches?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. Well, it's not terrible. But now that they're dragging these things on the ocean surface, you need to have really calm conditions, because you don't want a lot of wobble with those ships. Definitely have waves out there, but not going to see those nasty high seas like we saw when the search area was a little bit farther to the south.

We're also watching a tropical cyclone. It's a weak one. It was packing winds at 40 to 50 miles per hour. It's sliding down to the south and east.

Waves right around the center about 16 feet. So, that's pretty high. But once you get into where the search area actually is, the seas definitely die down a bit.

Also watching that rain pull to the south, we'll have some cloud cover on top of the area over the next 24 hours or so before things start to clear out just a bit.

But the good news, Fred, is it looks like the winds are going to be down just a bit as well. We're going to see winds anywhere from 10 to 20 miles per hour. Maybe gusting up to 30 on the south end as that tropical cyclone passes. But right within that search area, winds are going to be pretty decent at 10 to 20 miles per hour over the next two or three days. Good news there.

WHITFIELD: All right. Fairly good conditions. Appreciate that. Thanks so much, Jennifer.

All right. Thirteen ships and a dozen planes are trolling the search zone with some headed to the area where that Chinese ship detected pulse signals. Joining us now from Perth, Australia, Will Ripley.

So, Will, when do we expect the assets to be in place?


Well, we know that the British ship, the HMS Echo is less than three hours away from this newly refined search area. They will be joining the Chinese ship, the Haixun 01. This is the ship that on Friday and Saturday possibly detected those pings underwater.

The Echo is there with much more sonar technology and they're going to work immediately. You don't need daylight for sonar to work. And so, presumably, these crews are going to get right in this area, start listening and see if necessity can also locate the sounds that this Chinese ship located.

But Australian authorities still have a lot of questions about the technology that the Chinese crew use. How reliable is it? What exactly was heard? Those are questions that can really only be answered once this ship arrives in the area.

At the same time, Fred, there's also the Ocean Shield, which is some 350 miles away, currently investigating another sound. Authorities here keeping more tight-lipped about that. So, we don't know specifically what they heard or what they're looking for.

But the fact that they're keeping the shield in that location to listen shows that they're taking all of these leads equally seriously as they try to move this investigation forward. But still, no answers. We don't know yet what was found.

WHITFIELD: And, Will, you mean this ocean shield is investigating a different acoustic noise separate from what the Chinese ship detected. Is this a noise that the Ocean Shield detected and they're looking into it further, or another ship detected this?

RIPLEY: This is a noise that the Ocean Shield and that towed pinger locator being dragged almost at the surface, at the bottom of the ocean, this is a noise that this piece of equipment detected. And so, they've decided to keep the Ocean Shield in place for now to investigate what that noise is.

But unlike the news report where from the Chinese state news agency where it was basically announced to the world, this information involving the Ocean Shield, we're not getting a lot of information about that. I think there's a deliberate reason for that. I think the authorities here at the command center in Australia want to be careful not to give false hope, not to put out a false lead before we know what the information is. I think, you know, we all can agree that we owe it to those 239 people and their families.

WHITFIELD: All right. Will Ripley, thanks so much in Perth, Australia.

All right. Let's get to CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest in New York. First, Richard, you know, we'll talk about the pulse detection in a moment and how complicated that's getting.

But, first, let's talk about these reports that flight may have intentionally avoided radar detection there. Does this further cement the criminal investigation? Does it also kind of rule out that there may have been mechanical failure?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: No, it doesn't rule it out. It would be a foolish person that decides to sort of runoff to the horses because of it.

It is further evidence of deliberate flying. But we don't know the reasons why. I think it's important that we don't add one and one and come up with half a dozen. We've had this -- we've had this map for some weeks, so we've known that it did go via Indonesia, around the tip of Banda Aceh.

What we don't know, what's new today, Fred, is that the Malaysians are saying that this is part of the investigation into why they believe it was criminal or nefarious. But for the moment, wise counsel suggests, we just take the fact and we leave it there.

WHITFIELD: Is it your feeling that Malaysian authorities knew this for some time and just needed to further investigate or that this is indeed a new discovery?

QUEST: No, no, no. They've known this for weeks. We've known it for weeks. From the very first Inmarsat, from the first Inmarsat diagram, a map that we got on the 25th of March, it had the turn out to the west and down to the south. So, we've -- in fact, on this network many of us have commented that it was an interesting aspect that the plane was skirting the northern coast of Indonesia and questioning whether that was for radar avoidance purposes.

But this is the first time somebody from Malaysia has been prepared to say, yes, that is one of the factors that's leading them to lead towards criminal behavior.

WHITFIELD: And how might one know, a pilot know, or is it common knowledge about creating a flight plan to skirt radar detection?

QUEST: Well, they know where radar is. Any pilot who has flown these areas will know exactly the limit of the radar because they get handed from one radar zone to the next. Anybody certainly would know the limits.

I must say, if you look at the map and if we run the animation again, I think it's a long shot that it would have skirted radar simply because this is highly sensitive area. It's the northern part of Indonesia. It's near the coast with Thailand. There are countries there.

You know, he'd have had to -- what flight level would he have flown that Indonesia would not have seen -- they would have seen him here, as it turns. We don't know the details, but I think it's a stretch to say that it would have been successful to have skirted and avoided radar.

WHITFIELD: OK. And really quickly, in about ten seconds or less, the pulse detection. Are you encouraged by what's taking place likely today?

QUEST: I remain skeptically optimistic.

WHITFIELD: All right. Richard Quest, thanks so much.

"RELIABLE SOURCES" begins right after this.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Brian Stelter. And it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.

We have a great show ahead for you today. We just heard the latest on Malaysia Flight 370, and in a few minutes, I've got an angle on this still missing plane that no one has talked much about. I'll be taking a close look at how one of the biggest stories of the week was spun, spun, spun by commentators that just didn't want to believe it.

But up first, I feel like I've spent all week writing about the revolving door of television. On Thursday, I and all the media reporters like me were caught off guard by David Letterman who told his equally surprised studio audience that he's going to retire sometime next year.


DAVID LETTERMAN, TV HOST/COMEDIAN: Sometime in the not too distant future, 2015 for the love of God, in fact, Paul and I will be wrapping things up and taking a hike.



STELTER: Right at that moment, speculation began about who is going to be his late night successor.

There was also lots of talk this week about the future of morning TV. When ABC's top-rated "Good Morning America" started on Monday morning, one cast member had vanished. You probably heard what happened. A new before, Josh Elliott quit to join archrival NBC.

But why wasn't he back on the show at all? Well, as one source said, he's crossing enemy lines. This source called NBC the sworn enemy of ABC.

And it's true, "GMA" and NBC's "Today" show have been battling for first place status for decades. Elliott's move is a big deal. I wrote a book about morning TV last year and I can't come up with any other example of a co-host of one of those shows immediately moving to the other network.

Now, technically, Elliott's only joining NBC Sports, not the "Today" show. But every source I have and every person in the industry that follows this stuff thinks he's in line for Matt Lauer's chair on "Today."

People love these morning shows and late night shows too. They almost feel like the hosts are members of their own families. So, I wanted to talk to someone with an anchor's eye view on all of this.

So, I invited Deborah Norville who once hosted the "Today" show and is now the host of "Inside Edition". She joins me from New York.

Welcome, Deborah.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, INSIDE EDITION: Thanks, Brian, how are you?

STELTER: I'm well. How are you?

NORVILLE: I'm great. This has been an interesting week. But you know what's kind of funny, is it was a big blip on Monday and, of course, people are still talking about it.

But how much is it going to impact the ratings at "Good Morning America"? I'll be interested to see what this past week's numbers are when they come out later this week.

STELTER: In the last two years or so, "GMA" has held up remarkably well no matter what happens. Robin Roberts went away because of her illness. She was away for six months and the show held up. She came back, the show held up.

It's been doing well no matter what happens in the war between these two shows.

NORVILLE: Yes. And I think one of the things that I haven't seen anybody comment about in all the reportage that's been going on this past week and that is we now have three network morning shows that are peopled, the majority of the cast are women and arguably at one of those shows at "Good Morning America," I think you could say that the strongest player on the broadcast is, in fact, a woman.

Robin was elevated tremendously through the grace with which she handled her medical challenges. ABC was incredibly sensitive to it. And a lot of people believe the reason for the strength of that program is the way people have seen their challenges played out in a certain way and the way that Robin and now recently Amy Robach has done with her breast cancer.

STELTER: And Amy Robach was promoted and replaced Josh Elliott as the news anchor on GMA.

What do you make of the fact that they're so female-centered, female-led right now?

NORVILLE: I know you're recently married. My guess is because of what you do, you get to control the clicker. In most houses in America, that's not how it works.

Mom is in charge, particularly in the morning. And the morning programs are almost like the clock by which people's days are set.

STELTER: Do you think that's changing in an age where people are waking up with their phones maybe before they wake up with the TV set?

NORVILLE: Yes, they do. Yes, I think it is. I think that's one. Reasons maybe it's not as big a story as it might have been five years ago or when Ann Curry left the "Today" show.

There was a lot more agita, a lot more angst, there were certainly a lot more tears shed when Ann left. And it appeared in that instance that Matt Lauer, rightly or wrongly, a lot of people thought Matt had something to do with it.

In the case of ABC, it appears that Josh thought he was worth more money than ABC was prepared to pay. ABC said this is our best offer and we feel very confident that it's a great offer for you. Josh and his team felt otherwise. And he left of his own accord.

So, it's not a situation where people can say, this guy was being pushed out.


NORVILLE: He made a business decision, NBC made a business decision in bringing him in. Let me ask you a question. Do you think it's a "Today" show decision?

STELTER: Well, you know, you're putting me on the spot mere. I don't think Josh Elliott's just going to NBC for NBC Sports. I think initially the negotiations were about news and sports, then they just talked about sports for a while because the "Today" show has got to appear not to be forcing somebody out. They had that terrible mistake with Ann Curry. J

Whether they did the right thing or not, they did it the wrong way. So, they can't do that again.

I think it makes sense to have Josh Elliott come over initially for NBC Sports. Now that he's in the company, he could look at a "Today" show job in six months, a year, two years from now. That would make the most sense.

NORVILLE: I think one of the things that's also interesting, you look at ABC and NBC, and they both have a large number of individuals on their show. When I was a part of morning television, there was the host, the co-host, the weather person and the news reader. That was it.

Now you've got six, eight, depending how you want to tally up the various hours.


NORVILLE: People on these broadcasts, as opposed to CBS, which has had tremendous ratings growth with three players. They don't even have a weather person. They depend on their local affiliates to provide the weather, because, frankly, who cares what it's doing in California if you live in New Hampshire.

STELTER: Since you've actually been in one of these chairs, you're on the "Today" show for a year and you were unceremoniously dispatched when the young Katie Couric took over. What's it feel like to be in that situation when the changes are taking place? What's it like behind the scenes?


NORVILLE: You have to write another book on that one, darling.

One of the things I did, Brian, I felt wounded when I left NBC. I've used the analogy that you're standing on the edge of a cliff and there are 10,000 people with bayonets coming your way. You look over the cliff and it's a river filled with ravenous crocodiles. You have a choice -- do you wait for the bayonet guys or jump to the crocodiles. In my case, I jumped to the crocodiles and miraculously managed to live.

I've never really spoken about what was going on behind the scenes in any detail because, you know what, at the end of the day, I have been blessed to have a very long career. This was 23 years ago. I'm still on television. The program I do is the number one syndicated news magazine in America. I've been able to have this career because I've been judicious about what I've said.

So, I will never speak ill of the people who have been my colleagues in the past and may well be my colleagues in the future.

STELTER: The other big news this week, David Letterman announcing his retirement. How did you react when you heard the news on Thursday?

NORVILLE: Well, I was happy for Dave. I mean, my gosh, what an amazing career he's had. I was a huge fan of his back when he had that very short live show during the daytime at NBC. I was working nights. I used to watch that show before I went to my very first TV reporting job way back when.

I think you look at David Letterman, you look at his career, he is truly one of the innovators in television today. A lot of guys, I think Jimmy Fallon is doing a fantastic show. And perhaps it's the strength of his show now that he's launched that's encouraged Dave to say, you know what, the end of this contract cycle, let's let the next generation have it.

STELTER: Who should be the next host of "The Late Show"?

NORVILLE: Well, you know, a lot of the names are coming from the other incubator of innovation on television today, and that's cable TV. Comedy Central has got both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who have been bandied about. I've seen other names out there, as you have as well.

You know what, this is when it's fun for people like you. You get to speculate, you get to talk to the folks you know behind the scenes and throw little things out there. And also, people who cover the media like you can be very influential in teeing up some of those individuals.

So, who would you want to tee up, Mr. Stelter?

STELTER: Well, Chelsea Handler's name came to mind because of her contract is up at E! at end of this year. That would be a risky choice given how controversial she's been and how many fights she got into with E!

Then again, David letterman got into feuds with CBS. So, maybe that would make it fun.

NORVILLE: I'd hate to think the decision is being made just on gender. I say that as a woman.

The decision being made should be made, I think, on who is going to be the person who is right for the kind of show you want. If they think comedy sells at that time of night, I don't think they're wrong, they need to find the funniest, most innovative, most watchable, most gee whiz, wow, did you see that, let me check it out on you-tube person they can find, because that component as we've seen with Fallon and with the Jimmys has been very, very big now in television.

STELTER: Deborah Norville, thank you so much for joining me.

NORVILLE: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

STELTER: So, what if you took two partisan talkers and tried to get them to drop the rhetoric and explain why the partisan news networks go crazy over Obamacare. I will give it a shot in a new segment called red news/blue news right after this.

Don't go away.


STELTER: Welcome back.

Let's turn to a regular feature I call "Red News Blue News". I wore purple today for the occasion.

Let me explain what I want to do with it. There are very important issues, ones that face all of us that get turned into ugly slugfest by partisan networks and Web sites. Right-leaning or left- leaning talking heads put their own spins on stories until it's almost impossible to figure out what's true.

And they end up creating bitter divisions in our country. The most dramatic example of "red news/blue news" that I can think of is Obamacare. Nothing else even comes close. This week the White House announced that it had reached a goal many had thought was way out of reach. More than 7 million people signed up for Obamacare by the March 31st deadline.

To a lot of people, this sounded like very good news, but not at Fox News. There were anchors and commentators who said it was all a lie. Watch how Jesse Waters does it in this clip. He calls President Obama a liar but never actually invokes his name. Instead he does it by calling out "the White House" repeatedly.


JESSE WATERS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I actually think the White House is straight-up lying about these numbers. They're saying 7 million people signed up on the website that was broken for the last nine months? They really want us to believe that this website is working enough where they can give us a legitimate number?

The White House has lied about so many things. Why wouldn't they lie about this?



BILL O'REILLY, HOST, "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": The whole thing is a ruse. I think they don't really care how many people signed up, they being the Obama administration. It's just basically a stop on the way station to full government control of the medical industry.


STELTER: What do you think is worse, that or the celebrating that they seem to be doing over at MSNBC? Check this out.


(UNKNOWN): Fox News has to be feeling about this tall tonight. Actually, they are so far away from the American people and what the needs and the desires are of our society, they're in their little bubble and they're about this tall when it comes to their knowledge on health care, and they have less belief in the American people. It is amazing. This is a huge night for this man right here.



RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": That 7.1 million, that 7 million number, that is not just something that critics of health reform and critics of the president said would never be met. It wasn't just Republicans saying that 7 million number. It became a 6 million revised number would never be met. It's not just something Republicans said would never happen. It is something that the Beltway press said would never happen.


STELTER: Now, I've said a bunch of times on this program that I'm glad Fox News and MSNBC both exist as point-of-view news channels. But I think these segments about Obamacare cry out for more reporting, less presuming. You know, CNN is sometimes guilty of this, too, of taking a hot-button issue and turning it into a Punch-and-Judy show, where you put a liberal on one side and you put a conservative on the other and let's go at it.

And that's exactly what I'm going to do right now, but with a twist. Let's bring in, on the left, in New York, Marc Lamont Hill, a CNN political analyst and host of "Huffington Post Live"; and on the right, in Dallas, Ben Ferguson, a radio host and CNN commentator. Both join me now, but I'm going to ask you two to forget your political leanings for a moment and address this issue like regular people. Welcome to both of you.


HILL: Good to be here. Good to be here.

STELTER: A lot of people don't follow this issue as closely as the three of us do. So, Ben, let me start with you. What is it about this policy issue that so deeply divides people?

FERGUSON: Well, it's divisive because there's a lot of people that thought this was going to be simple and easy and it turned out not to be. We know that just from the number of delays. We know that from the problems with the website. We know that with people that weren't able to keep their doctor or even their hospital in their neighborhood that they used to go to. People don't like change. They really don't like it when it comes to their personal health insurance or getting a cancellation notice or being forced to sign up for something.

Marc, do you agree that's the reason why this issue is so divisive?

HILL: To a large extent, yes. Ben said people don't like change. I think that's true. But they do like the benefits of change. So you see people -- and poll numbers bear this out for the last few years -- who don't like Obamacare but they like every benefit that Obamacare offers, from covering preexisting conditions to allowing their children to stay on their health care plans longer.

And so there's this huge divide because the public is saying to themselves, we think we're not supposed to like this, but we, kind of, do. And as Ben said, it's been a messy rollout, which complicates things even further.

STELTER: What do you like about it, Ben? Name one thing for me that you like about it?

FERGUSON: Well, I like the pre-existing condition aspect of it. I certainly think that's something that's very important and a lot of conservatives were in favor of.

STELTER: And, Marc, I'm sure there's something you don't like about the giant law known as Obamacare?

HILL: Not at all. I think it's flawless.


No, I think -- I mean, obviously, as a practical matter, the rollout was just disastrous and it was totally foreseeable. But in terms of the actual policy, I've been a single-payer person from the beginning. And I think what we are getting is essentially universal health insurance, not universal health care, which I think could make things more bloated and it puts money in the coffers of these big corporations, which I find troublesome.

FERGUSON: My big question is this, and the White House still, as of today, has not answered this question. How many of the people they're claiming have signed up have actually paid for their first month of insurance?

Because if you don't pay -- if you went onto the system and you filled out a form but you don't pay for the service, you're not insured.

HILL: That's a different argument, Ben. The argument -- the dominant right-wing narrative has been that, given the dysfunctional website, given the lack of young people who want to enter this health care plan, there actually isn't a number of people that we can verify who actually signed up.

What you're saying is people may have signed up but we don't know if it's going to stick. That's a different argument than saying the White House is actually making up people; they were actually just producing false numbers. That's...

FERGUSON: Well, I'll put it this way. This is like when I take a test back in the good old days of school and your parents say, "How'd you do" and I said, "Oh, I did fine. I aced it."

Well, guess what, the real number, when it comes in, is what you actually did. And that's the number that you get judged on. And we as Americans should be looking at the White House saying, OK, you can give us this exciting number. How many paid? That's the only number that should actually matter. And did people really sign up by pay?

STELTER: Journalistically, that is the long-term story here, the one that we won't know answers to for a long time. And maybe that's one of the challenges when it comes to media coverage, whether it's partisan or whether it tries to be objective, of this story. It's that we won't really know the outcomes for a long, long time.

HILL: That's true. But the problem is, in this news cycle, people are eager to get an answer within minutes. And so, immediately after the rollout, people were saying, well, the rollout is a success and everything is working fine, despite the fact that the website was dysfunctional.

And on the other side, people were saying, oh, the website is a disaster; there's no way the left -- or, excuse me -- the Obama administration can get the adequate number of people signed up.

We jump to a quick story when in fact we need to let this thing play out. And as it's played out, we see that 7 million was in fact attainable.

The next question that Ben raises is will these numbers stick? Will people pay that bill? Will these numbers increase? And will, as the CBO projects -- will we get down to a lower number of maybe less than 50 percent of people uninsured by 2017? It's doable.

FERGUSON: I think it also comes back to an issue of trust. I remember the day when Kathleen Sebelius was in front of Congress and she's saying the White House and this website is working smoothly at the exact moment the website is down.

And even the president made fun of himself on how bad of a debacle it's been. And until they start to have consistency and truth in numbers, truth in the website working, Americans are still going to be very skeptical of Obamacare.

HILL: I'm just -- if, by Americans, you mean Fox News; if, by Americans, you mean conservative media outlets.

FERGUSON: I'm not Fox News. I'm CNN.

HILL: I know -- no, I know you're not Fox News.


But what I'm saying is the dominant narrative that we hear is that people don't trust it. I haven't heard people say that. I hear news outlets say that. I'm not convinced that they're one and the same.

STELTER: Marc, what does it say about the liberal media or about the objective media that the conservative media's narrative has stuck so well about this program?

HILL: I think it says everything about -- about liberal media's inability to produce a strong counter-narrative. I think...

STELTER: And by that, you mean channels like MSNBC? You mean...

HILL: Yes, that's exactly what I mean. I think MSNBC hasn't produced a strong counter-narrative. And I think the right has always been much more organized in their messaging. For the last 12 months, you've heard nothing but Obamacare can't work; young people won't sign up; and it's still possibly going to be repealed, when none of those things were actually true.

I haven't heard the same -- I haven't seen MSNBC come in equal force to Fox News.


HILL: Now, the truth is I don't want either narrative. What I want is a CNN narrative, a straight narrative of objective analysis. But if we're going to be partisan, at least let it be on equal footing.

FERGUSON: It's not the media, per se, spinning it. It's that the American people are experiencing the cancellation and they're saying that their doctor, they can't keep them. That is real life for Americans. That has nothing to do with the media.

STELTER: Let me read from E.J. Dionne's column in The Washington Post a couple of days ago and then have you all react.

He wrote this, "From now on, will there be more healthy skepticism about conservative claims against the ACA? Given how many times the law's enemies have said the sky was falling when it wasn't, will there be tougher interrogation of their next round of apocalyptic predictions?"

Marc, given what you know about the media, do you think there will be more skepticism next time?

HILL: The conservative media has argued that the sky is falling for nine to 12 months. They've told us that the policy won't work. They told us that people won't sign up. They told us that it's likely to be repealed. None of those things turned out to be true. Yet we bought into them. Even places like the AP were pushing this as something that will require someone to nearly walk on water for a 6 million sign-up to happen. It just wasn't true. we need to be more skeptical.

STELTER: Ben, I'm guessing that you do think the sky did somewhat fall even if these numbers turn out to be right?

FERGUSON: Well, I mean, skepticism is always a good thing. But there are also facts that are indisputable here. And that is that the president said, if you like your doctor, you can keep it. That's not true. The president said, if you like your plan, you can keep it. That also is not true. And the president has come out and said the website was working when, in fact, it wasn't working, including Kathleen Sebelius. And then they don't know why it wasn't working.

STELTER: I think that's where we leave it. Marc Lamont Hill, Ben Ferguson, thank you both for being here.

HILL: My pleasure.

FERGUSON: Thanks for having us.

STELTER: I get to take a break here, but coming up, something that reporters dread having to do, that is, call grieving families and ask them to talk. Is it ethical or is it exploitation? CNN's Carol Costello is here to answer, next.


STELTER: Welcome back. Any time tragedy strikes, whether it's a missing plane full of hundreds of people, or the shooting we saw at Fort Hood this week, there are victims. And there are family members and friends of the victims. And there are the reporters who are assigned to go and tell their stories.

And any reporter who has had to do that will tell you, it's an awful thing to have to call or to knock on the door of a mother or a sister or a son who has just lost someone they love. Those calls are sometimes met with rage.

But here's the thing, more often we're met with open arms by families who want to talk about their loved ones, who want the world to see a human face behind the terrible headlines.

CNN's Carol Costello has been in that position many times in her career and this week she wrote an op-ed about it for She joins me now from Chicago.

Carol, thanks for joining me.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Any time, Brian. Thanks.

STELTER: You mentioned to me off-camera that you were nervous to write about this. Why is that? And what do you want viewers at home to know about how the media treats victims and families of victims? COSTELLO: Well, I was nervous to write this op-ed, because it's a difficult topic. And I don't think that people really understand it unless they're in it. At face value it seems so insensitive. How could anyone approach someone, you know, in their most psychic pain and ask them, quote, "how they feel."

But journalists do that all the time. It's actually part of our jobs. When I saw the families of those aboard that Malaysia Airlines jetliner, and they were collapsing and screaming out their psychic pain, and doctors were taking them away on stretchers, those images, actually, they made me sick to my stomach. I found them intrusive as a journalist.

But other images portrayed during that time of the victims' families marching on the Malaysian embassy in China demanding answers for their loved ones aboard that plane, those images made me proud, because that's really our job, to give voice to the voiceless. Power to the powerless.

We could take these families' demand. We could put them on a global stage. And we could force the Malaysian government to act, which it did.

STELTER: But I wonder if you can't have one without the other. If you can't have the wonderful images of them going to protest without those intrusive images from the press conference.

COSTELLO: Well, I don't think there's any right or wrong answer to that. Because emotion is so powerful and honestly you don't really know whether victims want to talk.

Now, I will say at the time this was breaking and it was live. And sometimes you make bad decisions when there's live breaking news. But later when you're able to step back, you should, as a responsible journalist, say, how much is too much? And should we show these images again and again and again?

And in my personal opinion, and I guess my professional opinion as a journalist, we should be very stingy in those kinds of images that are portrayed on television.

STELTER: Your op-ed got so many reactions this week. The most favorited comment was this one. "It's about ratings and profit," this person wrote. And then I can't read it all. There was a curse word edited out.

But they said: "News organizations don't care about the grieving family members whose faces they're shoving their cameras into. It's about ratings and profit." But what do you say to that commenter?

COSTELLO: I think part of that is fair. But I will say, viewers watch. They watch in droves. So I would say to that gentleman who wrote that comment to my op-ed, viewers are in part to blame, because they want to hear too.

And it's not just because they're being exploitive themselves. It's because when we hear victims' stories, it helps us make sense of the world. In other words, when we hear victims' stories and we hear how that victim reacted to what happened to them, it helps us make sense of the world.

It helps us see that there is hope -- that there is such a thing as survival and there is such a thing as going on.

STELTER: Yes. Another commenter on the op-ed wrote this: "When my brother killed himself, a journalism student from the University of Iowa actually lied to the hospital and told them she was his sister just to try to get the story."

And he says: "Thankfully, the hospital did not go along with it." But that makes me think that this is so much about ethics. There are some clear rights and wrongs here, although there's a lot of blurriness in the middle.

And that's a clear wrong. Lying to get the story is something that would not pass muster.

COSTELLO: Look, Brian, in every business there are bad apples. There are bad journalists in the world. There are a lot of bad journalists, just like there are a lot of bad bankers in the world. Every business has its -- has people who shouldn't be working in that business, and journalism is no exception.

Most of my colleagues, most of the people that I've known for my 30 years in broadcasting are very sensitive, they are. And they loathe picking up that phone and calling someone in the midst of like personal pain. They don't want to do that. But it is part of their job.

But I will add this caveat. There had better be a good journalistic reason for us to call. We just can't simply call to ask how you feel. There has got to be a reason for that. And that's where the journalist exhibits responsible behavior.

STELTER: Carol Costello, thank you for joining me and then sharing your op-ed with us.

COSTELLO: Any time, Brian.

STELTER: We have to take a break here. But stick around. I'll tell you how an American reporter with an iPhone and a Twitter account opened the eyes of many people in Saudi Arabia. The most captivating photos of the week right after this.


STELTER: Welcome back. Now to something we call "Show Me a Story," because pictures are sometimes the most reliable sources. The best ones tell a story better than any writer can.

Let's look at some that did just that this week, starting with one from Venezuela where violent protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro have been going on for months. Here a demonstrator turns a hurled tear gas canister into a game of baseball, attempting to swat at the canister with his makeshift bat, a powerful photograph and such a striking contrast with what was going on here in this country on the very same day: Americans enjoying the annual rite of spring, opening day of baseball season.

And another kind of story came with a photograph of the 17-year- old Grammy-winning singer Lorde. Take a closer look at it. She spotted this picture of herself, and immediately tweeted out another one, of what she really looks like without the help of Photoshop.

Still beautiful, but her skin and her makeup, not perfect. The message she sent out with that second shot was, remember, it's OK to have flaws.

And there's no better example of the power of pictures this week than this. Politico White House correspondent Carrie Budoff Brown was with President Obama when he traveled to Saudi Arabia this week. And during a brief photo-op, she snapped these pictures with her iPhone.

Twitter in the country caught fire. Many Saudis had never seen the inside of the king's palace. And that's what she was showing them. Brown gained lots of followers on Twitter as she posted these pictures. In country where freedom of expression is a very relative term, this was big news.

And look at this picture, King Abdullah talking to President Obama. For many people this was the first time they realized their king needed oxygen. That is the power of a picture.

And finally this picture. It's Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus. On Friday we learned that she had been killed while on assignment in Afghanistan. She was there working for one of the world's largest news organizations, the Associated Press. She was covering an upcoming presidential election when an Afghan police officer opened fire.

She was killed instantly. Her colleague, reporter Kathy Gannon, was wounded.

Let me close today's program with the words of Gary Pruitt, the chief executive of the AP. "As conflict spreads throughout regions of the world, journalism has become more dangerous," he told his staff on Friday, "where once reporters and photographers seen as the impartial eyes and ears of crucial information, today they're often targets."

He concluded his note to staff by saying this. "This is a profession of the brave and the passionate, those committed to the mission of bringing to the world information that is fair, accurate, and important. Anja met that definition in every way. We will miss her terribly."

I hope to see you back here next Sunday. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley starts now.