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Reality Check: Turmoil for Jenner, Duggar TV Series; Lester in Limbo: No Anchor Decision at NBC News; Norman Lear Revolutionized Sitcoms; Will Women's Magazines Back Hillary?; Going Off the Record. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired June 7, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:10] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Good morning. I'm Brian Stelter and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES.

We have a whole lot to talk about today. It's been a tumultuous week for reality TV, with several shows hit by reality checks.

Pardon the pun here, but it's not been hard keeping up with the Kardashians thanks to the PR mastermind who orchestrated the rollout of Caitlyn Jenner's "Vanity Fair" coming out.

There's been a lot of behind the scenes PR work happening with the Duggars, too. The star of TLC series "19 Kids and Counting", which remains in a holding pattern while revelations about Josh Duggar's molestation remains national news. The Duggars went on the offensive via FOX News, partly by blaming the messengers. But a lot of people think the interview only made things worse for the family.

And, of course, there's the endless reality drama that's dominated NBC News. You could call it American anchor survivor, with both Brian Williams and his sub Lester Holt in limbo. More on that coming up.

But let's get to the Duggar story and the Jenner story. The Jenner story in particular because the reveal of her new face and new name was flawlessly executed. The "Vanity Fair" cover dominated newscasts and then the E! cable channel announced the name of her new reality show. These are all steps in Jenner's public transformation, all carefully thought through.

I want to give you a peek behind the scenes. You might have wondered, who helped Jenner pull this pr plan off? Well, let me tell you. Jenner's publicist is named Alan Nierob of the firm Rogers & Cowan. Now, he often declines to comment. It's no surprise he declined to comment for this segment.

But one person who worked with him says I've never seen it done better and called him a mastermind.

So, joining me now are two experts who know how all this works. Press representative Howard Bragman of 15 Minutes PR, who orchestrated the coming out of football player Michael Sam, and the transgender announcement by Chaz Bono, and "Hollywood Life" editor, Bonnie Fuller, former editor of "The Star" magazine. Good morning to both of you. Thanks for being here


STELTER: Howard, since you helped celebrities in situations like this when they want to make announcements to the world, how would you describe how it's gone with Caitlyn Jenner this week?

HOWARD BRAGMAN, ENTERTAINMENT PUBLICIST: You couldn't have asked for a better rollout. I'm very impressed and I've talked to Alan numerous times and I have told him I'm a little jealous. I would have liked to have handled this assignment but Alan did a masterful job. He's a grown-up. He's smart. And he did his research. And that's really important.

STELTER: Tell me what you mean. What kind of research?

BRAGMAN: There's a lot ever land mines you can step on when you're dealing with a topic like this. The community is very sensitive, and Allen really went and got together with the organizations, went on a big learning curve, and that's a big part of the reason that it was done so intelligently and so sensitively all at the same time.

What they were really trying for was to tell Bruce/Caitlyn's story, but they were also going for a teachable moment and I think they achieved that in a big, big way.

STELTER: Bonnie, sometimes people see this and they roll their eyes. They think it's too carefully orchestrated

FULLER: For the general public, no. They're not thinking about this being a beautifully executed plan. They're just thinking about, oh, my goodness, there's this gorgeous cover of Caitlyn Jenner introducing herself to the world and beautiful photographs and a long story that they can read, which is a very sensitive story and really explains the whole transition that has occurred, but also what Bruce Jenner experienced for 65 years and the secrecy he had to live with and how that hurt him and hurt his family.

And so, it turned it into a very empathetic situation. So, people who have never met a transgender person -- don't even know what a transgender person is -- suddenly, found themselves sympathizing and being very open to Caitlyn and to learning more.

STELTER: And there has been a lot of empathy but, Howard, there's also been some backlash. Quite a bit of backlash actually.

A great story in "The Washington Post" pointed out some conservatives, how some Republican Party commentators and talk radio host are purposely calling Caitlyn Bruce and rejecting this announcement of this transgender moment in history, really. Now, I do think it's a momentous occasion.

But are you struck by the backlash? Do you think it's something that Alan and the other PR people expected or is this something that's revealing about the state of our society? BRAGMAN: You know as well as I do, we live in a very contrarian

society. I tell clients you could cure cancer tomorrow and you're going to have a handful of people who are going to criticize you and say, great, now you put the pharmaceutical companies and the doctors and the nurses out of business.

It comes with the territory. It came with Chaz Bono. It came with taking Michael Sam out of the closet. You have to look at the big picture, and the overwhelming message was positive.

[11:05:05] STELTER: Let me play a sound bite from Anderson Cooper's show. He was interviewing Buzz Bissinger, the "Vanity Fair" writer who spent hundreds of hours, and he talked about all the secrecy involved in the article.


BUZZ BISSINGER, VANITY FAIR: Those pictures are incredible, and we didn't want them out --


BISSINGER: Before. And we want them -- and neither did Caitlyn. Caitlyn said I will not let a paparazzi make money off of me because that's a big deal. This is the picture heard around the world. I will not let a paparazzi make money off me. So, if I have to stay in my house for two months I will do it, and that's basically what she's done.


STELTER: I think that's a key point, Bonnie. One of the reasons this is all stage managed so that he back then, Bruce, now she, Caitlyn, was not being exploited by the paparazzi. She wanted to do it on her own terms.

FULLER: Well, I think it's absolutely her right to decide when she wanted to reveal herself as her true self because she wanted it to be a teachable moment and she wanted it to be a moment that was a freeing moment.

She said as of this moment when the "Vanity Fair" cover comes out, I am free. And so, it had both I guess pr impact but it also had a huge, a monumental emotional impact for her. So, I think it was entirely her right to be able to do it on her own terms.

STELTER: You think about everybody who has profited here. "Vanity Fair" profits by subscriptions of the magazine. ABC profits with a special. E! will profit with their reality show with Caitlyn. Well, Caitlyn is also going to profit, right, through the E! reality show, and she's trying to ensure the paparazzi won't profit as much.

Let's turn to the other big celebrity news and that is, of course, the Duggar family, because the interview with Megyn Kelly was not perceived to be flawless. A lot of people brought up questions about it. The interesting thing to me however is this was all organized, talking about PR people again, organized by Mike Huckabee's PR concern, Chad Gallagher. He's a senior adviser and also works for the Duggar family.

Would you have advised the family if you were representing them to go to FOX News?

BRAGMAN: Absolutely. You've got to go to your base, and I looked at the interview, and I actually give Megyn credit. She did ask some tough questions there. It wasn't all soft balls. The follow-up wasn't as aggressive as it possibly would have been on another network, but I think people who went in wanting to like the Duggars, probably left liking the Duggars and believing them and believing the concept of forgiveness.


STELTER: So, you think it made sense to go with FOX?

BRAGMAN: Absolutely.

STELTER: Bonnie, what did you think of Megyn's questioning?

FULLER: I don't think with Megyn and their interview and the questioning, that they turned around any of their critics and they have a lot of critics. And I think by not asking some of the tougher follow-up questions -- I mean, for example, Michelle Duggar had made comments about transgenders and relating them to child molesters. Now, Megyn asked the question but Michelle didn't answer it, and she didn't pressure her. That's just an example.

And I think that for people who might not support the Duggars, they could have been turned around depending what she said or if she had a mea culpa moment and said, you know what? That was a mistake. I shouldn't have said that.

And, you know, my views -- if she had something like that, I think it would have opened up her critics to being more sympathetic to the situation that they're in.

STELTER: But what I was struck by most was the way she framed some of her questions. Take a look.


MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: What the critics are going for is that you shouldn't have been preaching about moral values when you had a secret like this your own family. The main charge we've heard from your critics has been, they're hypocrites. They preached family values.

What I'm asking you is, can you understand the critics' reaction to the news?


STELTER: What she was saying was framing things as critics. Doesn't it frame the Duggars as the victims of a nasty media? FULLER: Well, absolutely. And, in fact, the Duggars kept criticizing

the tabloids, and saying the tabloids had jumped on this story and were attacking them when, in fact, she's then really calling "The Wall Street Journal," "The New York Times," every media outlet tabloids.

STELTER: Howard, where does this family go from here? What does this family do next? TLC isn't saying whether they're going to bring "19 Kids and Counting" back or not.

BRAGMAN: This family is on life support and I'm afraid the plug is going to be pulled for them. I'm not really afraid. I'm actually comforted by the fact I think the plug is going to be pulled.

But what happened is Hulu pulled them, TLC has put them on hiatus, advertisers were running for the hills. It's hard to see a scenario where they come back.

STELTER: Is it the fault of the media, the pile on we've seen that will end up taking this show away from the family?

BRAGMAN: No. It's the fault that the family was stupid enough to go on a reality show when they had these skeletons in their closet and you just don't do that.

[11:10:02] To think that this stuff isn't going to come out is naive way of looking at it.

And the second part is the hypocrisy of this family who is judging everyone else's life and I think there's a biblical verse about that which I won't try and reiterate here, but they clearly got what they got because of the position they put themselves in.

STELTER: Bonnie Fuller, Howard Bragman, thank you both for being here this morning.

Later in the show, the man who had more hit shows on the air in the '70s than most networks do now. Norman Lear on how he ripped stories from the headlines and changed American attitudes about social issues.

Also, the GOP worried that the highly influential women's magazines are going to be schilling for Hillary. I'll ask the editor of "Cosmo", Joanna Coles, if that is actually the case.

Much more right after this.


STELTER: Welcome back.

"Why prolong the agony?" That's what one TV executive asked me this week as we were talking about NBC's big and still secret decision about Brian Williams.

There's still no update about what's going to happen to Williams once his six-month suspension is over. But this morning, I want to move our attention to someone else, this man, Lester Holt, who has been filling in for Williams for more than four months now and still doesn't quite know what's going to happen to either of them.

Does Lester Holt get to keep the job or not?

Well, here is what my sources are now telling me. Holt is being kept completely out of the loop, and so is his staff. They don't know what's going to happen.

[11:15:00] But things have mostly gotten back to normal at the "NBC Nightly News." People aren't really talking about Williams anymore. It's looking increasingly likely Holt will, in fact, get the job permanently, while Brian Williams either leaves the network entirely or takes on a new role at NBC.

Now, this cannot be easy for either man or for those that work around them at the network. This is really the untold story of the Brian Williams' controversy, the Lester Holt story.

So, joining me now to explore where this is heading are two people who know a lot about. Here in New York, former MSNBC executive Mark Effron, now a media consultant and professor, and in L.A., Andrew Wallenstein, the co-editor in chief of "Variety".

Thank you both for being here.

Mark, you worked closely with Lester at MSNBC. You were there for a number of years, in the mid-2000s with him. Everybody I talked to at NBC about Lester Holt praises him, says they love him.

Why? What is it about Lester Holt that's so special?

MARK EFFRON, FORMER MSNBC EXECUTIVE: Because he's the consummate professional on the air and off the air. Over a lifetime, I've worked with great anchors who are not so great off the air and wonderful people off the air who are OK on the air and some combination thereof. It's very rare when the tumblers all click.

And with Lester it does. He's so easy to work with. Prepares but makes it look like he hasn't prepared, yet on the air, viewers trust him because they can tell he's done his homework and he knows what he's talking about.

STELTER: He's kind of done it all at MSNBC and NBC at this point. He was anchoring the Iraq war coverage for you when you were with him at MSNBC, right?

EFFRON: Right. I have never worked with anybody who you can literally sit him down, brief him for 30 seconds, and just leave him, and he can go for six hours, eight hours. And that looks easier said than done.

STELTER: Oh, for sure.

EFFRON: And especially when there aren't a lot of facts and you're -- you don't want to conjecture wildly, but you want to be informed. Lester could do that better than any other anchor I have ever worked with on the network level, on the local level, on radio, anywhere. STELTER: The banner here says, "Lester in limbo." You have stayed in

touch with him over the years. In fact, you let him know you were going to be on the show today, right, so he wouldn't be surprised.

EFFRON: I did.

STELTER: And this must be such a tough situation for him. Do you feel he's in limbo?

EFFRON: What I know from Lester is that he's making the best of a great situation in that he's anchoring five nights a week a national newscast, and anybody who has worked with Lester feels his leadership but not in an "I'm in charge here" kind of way. So knowing Lester the way I do and having worked with him very closely for a number of years, he's doing everything he can to make the people off the air, as well as the viewers, feel comfortable in this current situation.

STELTER: Andrew, you're out in L.A., where Lester's agent happens to work. Is there any sense that a new contract is under way or that there are talks going on about what's going to happen to Holt if Williams is not returning to "NBC Nightly News"?

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN, VARIETY: No evidence that I can speak of, but I find it interesting that if on the one hand, NBC is so keen on keeping him around, that they would, as you're reporting, also keep him in the dark. I would think if they saw a long-term future for this guy, they would be doing something to cultivate that relationship better. Then again, maybe we should just kind of check that off as NBC News not necessarily being great at managing talent. We've heard that rap before.

STELTER: Yes, we certainly have. I think it is often true in television the anchors are the last to know about changes.

Mark, is that fair to say as a former TV executive yourself?

EFFRON: Yes, it's clear. There are going to be times when you involve the anchor in the situation and there are times when you don't want to, not for any kind of devious reason, but you're trying to get all your ducks in a row because you know things leak.

STELTER: I remember when Ann curry was dispatched from the "Today" show in 2012, forcibly removed, Savannah Guthrie, her replacement, didn't have a new contract to figure it out until the same week, you know? So, the last thing they did was take care of Savannah Guthrie.

EFFRON: Yes, and I think in Lester's case, look, I know Lester's agent pretty well, the point is I think NBC probably knows that Lester is not going to go anywhere, so that when it is time and hopefully it would be time for them to offer something to Lester, they will work it out.

STELTER: You say he wouldn't leave, but if he's passed over for this job, if "Nightly News" goes to someone else or if Brian Williams comes back to the chair, even though that seems unlikely at this point, wouldn't he look to leave at some point? EFFRON: Again, I don't want to speak for Lester.

STELTER: Andrew, let me ask you about one of the most sensitive parts of this story, and that is Lester Holt, if he becomes a permanent anchor, would be the first permanent African-American "Nightly News" anchor in the United States. Does that add another layer of complication for NBC, thinking about keeping him in the job or not?

WALLENSTEIN: I don't know if I'd characterize that as a complication of any kind. I think it would be a great thing for both Lester, for both the network, but also I don't want to make too much of this. I mean, the sad fact of the matter is the evening news, 6:30 p.m., is not what it once was.

[11:20:01] So, you know, the honor here for anyone of any race unfortunately is diminished.

EFFRON: I think Lester represents a sizable portion of the audience, and I think he's earned his place at that table. But it would seem to me that if I were looking to -- for somebody who could lead a nightly newscast in this very fractionalized environment -- media environment we live in, I would pick Lester Holt for a lot of reasons, not just because of the color of his skin.

And I think the other thing we haven't talked about is, you know, Lester can also do the lighter stuff. Lester is a musician. Lester has played jazz on television. Lester has a lot of the skills beyond reading a prompter and doing interviews that it's necessary to have if one is going to be leading a nightly newscast in 2015.

STELTER: And before we go, Andrew, what's your spin on the ratings, because people look at the ratings and take away different things from them. Lester Holt's "Nightly News" is holding up pretty well, but it's not doing quite as well as Brian Williams' "Nightly News" did.

WALLENSTEIN: Yes. But, you know, as my "Variety" colleague Brian Steinberg recently pointed out, there's no promotion behind Lester, and I don't think that makes for a fair comparison.

It will be interesting to see what happens should he get the nod and take over for Brian Williams and get to some promotion behind him, he very well could be beating ABC day in and day out.

STELTER: Andrew, Mark, thanks both for being here.

When we come back here, the man who brought the sitcom to the modern era, Norman Lear, the father of "All in the Family" and so many other hits, will join me to talk about his TV legacy.


[11:26:07] STELTER: Hey, welcome back.

You know, this upcoming week is '70s week here on CNN because the channel is premiering the follow-up to "The Sixties" called "The Seventies". They got us speaking about the media's contribution to the decade's culture, all embodied by one man, because decades before Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox brought LGBT issues to our TV screens, before "Empire's" African-American cast, or the outspoken language allowed on cable TV nowadays, there was Norman Lear.

Lear got his start in TV in 1950 writing for Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin on the Colgate comedy hour. He would eventually revolutionize and redefine the American sitcom "All in the Family," "Good Times", "Sanford and Son", "The Jeffersons", "Maude", "One Day at a Time" and so on and so on.

The shows broke boundaries of subject matter and language, in race, gender politics, you name it, he went there.


STELTER: Thanks for joining me.

NORMAL LEAR, TELEVISION WRITER & PRODUCER: My pleasure. I'll take that back. We'll see.


STELTER: We will see.

LEAR: Yes, we'll see.

STELTER: People always say, even decades after your programs originally premiered, that you made people talk. You got people talking with your programs. Is that a failure on the part of other show creators that they didn't get people talking in the same way as you?

LEAR: I think the difference might be that what they talked about following "All in the Family" included the subject matter of the show, whether it was either menopause, or Mike's inability to make love because he was studying so hard, or Archie is out of work, or his feelings about Richard Nixon or whatever we were dealing with.

STELTER: Did it ever occur to you that television was just supposed to be disposable and mindless and entertaining and not make people think?

LEAR: When I was accused of -- if you want to send a message, Lear, there's Western Union. That was the general idea of you're not supposed to have a point of view in a show.

And for a long time, I didn't think we were expressing a point of view. I really thought we were just wishing to make people laugh, serious people, we were dealing with serious subjects because there's humor in everything.

Then, I realized, now, wait a second, I'm 52 years old or whatever the heck I was at the time. I have a point of view. I have children. I care about my country. I care about my family. I deal with real subjects, and find the humor where they were. Then, I realized preceding us were dozens of shows in which there were

no problems in the American family. They didn't deal with menopause. They had no -- abortion didn't exist in the world. Nobody was out of work.

Well, that carried a message, too, you know? Wall to wall, floor to ceiling it carried a message. There were no problems -- except the roast is ruined and the boss is coming to dinner and the family was really upset.

STELTER: So, how often were you called on the carpet, so to speak, for controversial or provocative subject matter?

LEAR: Well, weekly. Every time they saw a script, they had something to say. The American people were ready for 98 percent of everything we ever thought of doing, and it was these frightened people representing other people, who were representing other people, who were representing ultimately sponsors.

STELTER: I'm talking about some of the different storylines that you all approached.

LEAR: Right.

STELTER: Sexual assault, and race, transsexual character at one point.

LEAR: Yes, I wanted to do a story about Edith losing her faith in God, and we found a way to do that when we had this -- you mentioned a transsexual character -- we had a wonderful transsexual character on the show that she loved, and -- Beverly Lahave (ph).

[11:30:07] So, Archie was driving a cab. A woman had an attack in the back of the car. He gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. And when she came to thank him, Edith answered the door and found out she was transsexual, and the audience found out she was -- had been a male.

So, now we're faced with Archie is going to come downstairs in a moment and he's going to meet somebody he gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to who is there to thank him for that. And it's going to turn out to be a guy who is dressed -- in Archie's view -- who was dressed as a woman.

But the character was really wonderful. And we thought the only way that Edith might lose her faith is if this character was killed for being who the character was. And so we were able to do two parts. If you were to ask me which two shows, you know, on "All in the Family" I favored the most, it would be those two episodes.

STELTER: Let me ask you about language on your shows, because there was a memorable episode where you used the word "fag." I can't imagine hearing that on network television today. How did you get it by the censors?

LEAR: It was the language of the moment when it was used by people who would use it. Archie would use it, and we did. And that was a perfect example of,

it would be silly to take it out of Archie's mouth. It's so a part of him. I remember the dialogue. Mike has a -- had a friend over who wore -- was wearing glasses and carrying an umbrella. And Archie was calling him gay or queer. He was calling him queer.

And Mike said, just because he wears glasses, carries an umbrella, you call him queer. He said, you call him queer. He said, no, a guy who wears glasses is a four-eyes. A guy who is a fag is a queer.

It was so Archie. It wasn't misusing the language. And as I sit here and think about it now, you know, would America live with that? It wasn't one state that seceded from the Union.

STELTER: What are the chances we'd ever see a reboot or a recreation of "All in the Family"?

LEAR: I have been asked to consider it by -- what did you call them? They're not networks.

STELTER: Streamers. I think that was your word.

LEAR: Yes, by people who stream.

STELTER: Netflix, perhaps?

LEAR: Netflix, Amazon. And I'm thinking about it.

I'm also thinking about -- I think you know that they have come at me to do Latino version of "One Day at a Time." And I like that idea. So I'm thinking about it.

STELTER: So many people are able to connect with these shows decades later.

LEAR: Because we were dealing with human problems, they don't change. There's been so much forward movement since then, but there are a lot of people trapped in lives that are not aware of that forward movement.

But that certainly explains why people are watching today and still -- and think they're watching something that might have been made last week.

STELTER: I wonder if the same is true when it comes to race relations. It feels like one of the dominant narratives on television for the past year -- in news television -- has been race, with Ferguson and Baltimore and everywhere else.

LEAR: Yes. Race problems have not gone away.

And we have barely begun to deal with them, when you see the kinds of things that are happening in the cities you mentioned. Things are every bit as difficult race-wise as they were then. We may be better informed about the problems, but the -- whatever is behind it all, our human nature, has not changed. STELTER: If the '60s were a time of revolution, the '70s were what?

How would you describe it as a decade?

LEAR: It was a decade in which I was having one hell of a time. And I had five families on the air and one on Mooncrest Drive.

STELTER: If you could go back to the 1970s for one day, what would you do?

LEAR: I would work out.

STELTER: Thank you so much.

LEAR: My pleasure. My pleasure. Thank you, Brian.


STELTER: Norman Lear really is one of a kind. And he's a big part of this week's premiere of the CNN's original series "The Seventies." It's on Thursday, June 11, 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. And the episode on Thursday is all about television.

Now, coming up here, a return to politics. Are hugely influential women's magazines going to be shilling for Hillary?


The editor of "Cosmo," Joanna Coles, answers that question right after this.



Check this out. Campaign reporters sure did not appreciate this, because there will be no opportunities to interview Hillary Clinton. Her speech will be her interview. That's the blunt wording handed out to Clinton reporters who were attending her voting rights speech at Texas Southern University this week.

Now, the university regretted the wording. It became kind of a kerfuffle. But it was another reminder that Clinton hasn't really opened up to the press the way other presidential candidates have. She has answered questions a couple times, but she hasn't granted any formal interviews.

That prompted CNN's own Wolf Blitzer to vent his frustration a little bit in a futile request to the campaign's adviser.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Joel Benenson is a senior adviser, a major strategist in the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Joel, we will stay in close touch with you. Thanks very much for joining us. JOEL BENENSON, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And please tell the secretary we're looking forward to a full-scale interview with her ASAP as well. Thanks very much.



STELTER: I thought that silence spoke volumes, you know?

Now, when Clinton does start giving interviews, might she seek out friendly forums, like maybe women's magazines? This recent piece in Politico asserted the Republicans are worried these magazines, with their millions and millions of readers, are -- quote -- "in the tank for Clinton."

Let's go right to the source on this one.

Joining me here on set is Joanna Coles, the acclaimed editor of "Cosmopolitan" magazine.

Joanna, take me inside the editorial meetings at your magazine, one the most important, powerful women's magazines in the whole country. Are you all taking more of an interest in the election this cycle, this time around than in the past because of Hillary Clinton?

JOANNA COLES, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "COSMOPOLITAN": Well, first of all, I think anybody would find the editorial meetings at "Cosmopolitan," where we discuss endless sex positions, extremely interesting, and may I say it might change things.


COLES: We are very interested in the issues around politics and how they impact our readers, which is to say that we have many -- millions of millennial readers, and they're interested in how they pay off their student debts. They're interested in, are they going to get a job in this difficult economy?


STELTER: But also in the personalities, right?

COLES: Well, and they're also interested in, are they going to get great health care and do they have access to contraception and, God forbid, should they need it, can they have access to an abortion?

I think they're watching candidates that they feel will reflect their interests, as everybody does. But what's important about this election in particular is, there will be a lot of millennial voters, because there are so many of them, and a lot of them will be voting for the first time. And our first priority is to get people to the polls.

There is such lethargy around that. And we really want to animate readers, go in and vote. You don't have the right to complain about D.C., if you're not exercising your right to vote.

STELTER: You have a rooted interest in making sure they get to the polls.

COLES: We really do. I think we all do.

STELTER: Do you have a rooted interest in having them vote for Hillary Clinton?

COLES: We have a rooted interest in them being part of the political process.

We leave it to them if they want to vote for Hillary. Would we like to see more female candidates running? Of course we would. I think the political system would be better off. It's really early in the campaign to say whether or not they would be better off with Hillary because we don't know all the candidates, and we haven't seen what Hillary stands for yet.


This issue of whether women's magazines are tilted in favor of Hillary Clinton came up recently in Politico. Let me read a quote from the article by Hadas Gold. She said she reviewed several months of coverage and said, "Looks like readers will be getting a heavy dose of liberal cheerleading this campaign season, along with their skin care and makeup and fashion tips."

Liberal cheerleading, is that a fair phrase for some of the coverage from "Cosmo" and the other magazines in the category?

COLES: Liberal cheerleading probably is, because for the most part, young women's interests are better supported by liberal/Democrat candidates, but not all.

And I do think it's too early in the process to say which candidate is best going to represent them. We just did in the magazine a piece on all the female senators, so we interviewed 16 of the 20. And so, across party, and, actually, it was the most optimistic piece I had read about D.C. for a long time.

STELTER: Oh, really?

COLES: Because these were senators actually working across the House with each other. And it suddenly made you think, goodness, Washington is rather a functional place after all.

And also what happens is, because voters don't like it when women politicians brag about their achievements, they don't brag as much as the men. So, they don't always say I got this big passed or I got this done, but they are actually furtively getting on with it.

STELTER: Let me show you one of the conservative comments about this issue of the women's magazines. This was from "FOX & Friends" last week.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary Clinton, as she moves into 2016, Laura, we're noting one of her new secret weapons, and it may just be the women's magazines.

Just you look at some of the past covers here and the coverage of the Clinton family in general, it kind of suggests that readers are going to be getting a heavy dose of liberal cheerleading, to say the least.

Their reach is 53 million, when you cull these publications together. "Glamour" has got 23 -- 28 million for "Glamour" alone. "Cosmo" has a reach of 53 million, "Elle" 21 million.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're talking -- that reach is strong.


STELTER: So you can hear "FOX & Friends" kind of riffing off that Politico article.

COLES: Was that them reporting and them deciding?


COLES: I think it have might have been. I think it have might have been.

STELTER: Maybe it was. "FOX & Friends" very good at that sometimes.

COLES: They are indeed.

STELTER: But I wonder if some conservative commentators should be concerned about these women's magazines? Are they right to be talking about them?

COLES: Well, you heard them say the reach of "Cosmo" is 53 million. Women's magazines have enormous reach. And I think young women are very anxious about what's happening to the political process in Washington. And they do want to get involved.

STELTER: It's an example of candidates or politicians in general being able to go around what we would call the traditional media and reach people in different ways.

We talked a lot about going directly through the media, going to social media, having candidates speak on Twitter and Facebook. But they could also go to alternative media, so to speak. Maybe women's magazines are an example of that.


COLES: Well, I don't think of women's magazines with 53 million readers as being alternative.

I think it might be as big, if not slightly bigger, than the footprint of RELIABLE SOURCES, Brian.


COLES: But I do think what you're hinting at and what was reflected on "FOX & Friends" is that this is a really big audience that has been underserved by what I think is the mainstream media, i.e., news programs in the evening, which actually people are stopping watching.

STELTER: If there were a Republican female candidate leading the pack, so to speak, it sounds like you're saying "Cosmopolitan" would be on that beat, would be covering them quite a bit.

COLES: Yes, we absolutely would.

We're very interested in women in leadership roles. We cover a lot of women in business leadership roles. And we would love to be able to cover more women in politics. But, you know, there's less than 20 percent in Congress. There's only 20 out of 100 in the Senate, so we have a ways to go.

STELTER: Joanna, thanks for being here. Great talking with you.

COLES: It's my pleasure.

STELTER: Thanks.


STELTER: And up next on the program, one of the thorniest issues for the news media. It seems like every politician and every source these days is demanding to be off the record, to be unnamed. We are going to meet one reporter who is trying to fight this trend right after this.



STELTER: Welcome back.

On the record, it's a phrase every journalist knows and uses. But at home, you might not know exactly what we mean. And nowadays it seems like everyone from political campaign operatives to even other journalists always say things are off the record. They preempt their comments by saying off the record.

I want to explore exactly what this means and why this is one of the biggest battles in journalism right now with Spencer Ackerman, a national security reporter for "The Guardian," because he has had enough of this practice. This week, he was tweeting a new addition to his e-mail signature. Let me show it to you before I bring him in.

"All e-mails are presumed to be on the record unless and until a mutually accepted negotiation of ground rules has successfully concluded. Any unilateral declaration by recipient of this e-mail that a conversation is on background or off the record will not be honored."

Very serious language there.

So, joining me now to have an on the record conversation is Spencer.

Thanks for being here.

SPENCER ACKERMAN, "THE GUARDIAN": No problem. This is on background.

STELTER: This is on back -- OK. So, let's explain this to the viewers at home. What is the problem? When you say something's off the record or on background, what do you mean?

ACKERMAN: So this is a weird kind of "Argo" that journalists and sources have developed over the years that basically means lots of different things to lots of different people.

So, it's good to define these terms. Off the record means there's information that someone's going to give you, but you can't cite it, you definitely can't name that person, but it should inform what you're going to write going forward.

On background is the sort of thing you have sort of seen ubiquitously, increasingly, especially in the media over the years, in which someone can't be named, but they're called an official or someone familiar with this person's thinking, that kind of thing.

STELTER: The White House will say a senior administration official, when in fact, who are they talking about?

ACKERMAN: Pretty much always a spokesperson.

We have just sort of gotten into the habit of referring to everyone we're not quoting by name as senior because it makes us sound more important.

STELTER: This is really a plague in journalism. It really is, because so much information is being shared on background. Sources are more and more reluctant to go on the record, meaning we can attach their name to something, say who it came from.

So what are you trying to do to stop this?

ACKERMAN: So I'm an anonymity pragmatist. Right? I'm not a politics reporter. I'm a national security reporter. So that means very often I'm going to speak with people who really do have very good reasons for not having their name attached to something, particularly on really sensitive matters.

STELTER: Right. So you're not saying all anonymity is bad or is a problem. What you're highlighting is this problem of people e-mailing you and automatically saying it's off the record without you even talking to them about it.

ACKERMAN: Exactly. So this happens by degree. The way these things are supposed to work

between journalists and sources is, you have a conversation about it. There should be some kind of reason given up front, I think, for the granting of anonymity.

It shouldn't be an automatic or reflexive thing, and definitely shouldn't be the sort of thing that sort of acts as a kind of up-front toll or a tax on information.

STELTER: A tax on information. That's a really interesting phrase.

ACKERMAN: Yes. So, like, think about it like this. If I need to know something and I need to know something because my readers need to know something, I go to a source for that information, and the source starts out by saying, before I tell you this, you have to agree to not cite me or to not cite the organization I work for in some cases, you know, and so on and so forth down the line.

And we have gotten so used to it for a variety of reasons, some of which are professionally advantageous to us. We're afraid that if we don't grant this, the next reporter will and then we will miss out, and then we will get scooped on something, that kind of thing.

STELTER: Right. Right.

ACKERMAN: And we have just kind of grown too accustomed often in our business to just grant the anonymity.

So I don't want to say I'm never going to do it. I wrote a story this week after I put it in my signature file in which I gave someone anonymity, but I made them argue for it.

STELTER: Ron Fournier, who was here last week, often says on Twitter journalists should ban together and fight against unnecessary use of anonymous sources.

Do you agree?

ACKERMAN: I think there's definitely a collective action problem we have for precisely the reason that a lot of us will grant anonymity. We're afraid that the other guy, our competitors, you know, if I don't do it, she will. She will give them the ground rules that the source needs in order to make sure -- or maybe not even needs, but wants -- in order to make sure that her readers are served with this information.

STELTER: I use anonymous sources all the time, like you do. Even people in media often insist on being anonymous.

But I worry that viewers at home don't trust you, readers don't trust us as much as we want them to. We need to be pretty transparent about why we do these things.

Spencer, thanks for being here. I really appreciate it.

ACKERMAN: Thank, Brian. STELTER: Great to see you.

And we will have more RELIABLE SOURCES in just a moment.



STELTER: Before we go this morning, on a show called RELIABLE SOURCES, we definitely want to let you know when we have made a mistake.

And last week, when Glenn Greenwald was here talking about Edward Snowden's role in reshaping the debate about mass surveillance, he was bemoaning actually exactly what Spencer Ackerman was just talking about, the overuse of anonymous sources.

But Greenwald called it -- quote -- "the kind of reporting that got Judy Miller fired from 'The New York Times.'"

Miller reached out to me. And I'm glad she did. She was actually not fired from "The Times." Back in 2005, she agreed to leave after weeks of negotiations with the paper.

Now, I should have caught that when Glenn said it, and I'm sorry I didn't.

As always, we want to hear from you about the show. So send me a tweet. I'm @BrianStelter on Twitter, or look up my name on Facebook.

We're out of time here on TV, but I'll see you on Twitter and Facebook. And I encourage you to check out the rest of the media news at the newly relaunched