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Reliable Sources

Barbara Walters Stepping Down; "Today" Calls Anderson Cooper; Media Trumpet Same-Sex Marriage

Aired March 31, 2013 - 11:00   ET


HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: The Supreme Court heard a pair of same-sex marriage cases this week as more Democratic politicians rushed to offer their support for such unions. Is there any real question where most of the media come down on this one?


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Most Americans now say they have a gay friend or family member. Some of the change is generational and then there's our media culture.


KURTZ: Are news organizations being fair to opponents of same- sex marriage? And is public opinion being swayed by more gay journalists coming out?

Barbara Walters retiring next year after an incredible career as a TV trailblazer, from "The Today" show to ABC's evening news, to the talk show she launched with only women.


BARBARA WALTERS, ABC: This is a show that I am now going into our 17th year next year that I have --


I'm blamed for the bad, as well as the good. And sometimes I have nothing to do with it. Sometimes, it's the network.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are the face of the network.

WALTERS: But I'm the face.


KURTZ: We'll look at her legacy and whether "The View" can survive without her. Carole Simpson joins our discussion.

I'm Howard Kurtz and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.

(MUSIC) KURTZ: We are standing by for news conference in Kaufman, Texas, that is expected to start any minute about the shooting death of local prosecutor Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, in their home yesterday. That's just two months after McLelland's his deputy was also fatally shot. We'll bring that press conference to you when it happens.

Right now, we'll begin our program and probably come back on the other side.

It is hard to imagine television without Barbara Walters. She was the first female star on "Today" show, the first woman to co- anchor a network newscast on NBC for the then princely sum of $1 million.


HARRY REASONER, HOST, ABC EVENING NEWS: Good evening. I'm Harry Reasoner of ABC election headquarters. With me are Barbara Walters and Howard K. Smith, and we'll be here for how long it takes to determine exactly what happened tonight.


KURTZ: And she's landed countless big interviews over the years with everyone from world leaders to celebrities.


WALTERS: Are you sorry you didn't burn the tapes?


WALTERS: Do you drink too much?


WALTERS: In our country, we read that you are unstable. We read that you are mad.

What kind of a tree are you? Because you think you are a tree now.

KATHARINE HEPBURN, ACTRESS: Everybody would like to be an oak tree.

WALTERS: Mr. President, your supporters say you saved the banking industry from collapse. You saved the automobile industry. You cut taxes for the middle class.

If you did all of these things, why are you so unpopular?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, first of all, Barbara, I'm not so --

WALTERS: First, I gave you the compliment. OBAMA: I appreciate it.


KURTZ: Barbara Walters told me she won't comment on what she calls rumors, but a source familiar with the situation confirms that the 83-year-old journalist will finally hang it up a year from this May.

Walters gave up her Oscar specials a couple years ago. She told me on this program that she was tired of chatting up the same old movie stars.


WALTERS: It doesn't seem special to me any more. I feel I've been there, done that. I thought that I didn't want to get stale. I could have stayed for 30 years but -- and then everybody would say, it's time for her to go or maybe she was pushed out.


KURTZ: Joining us now from Boston, Carole Simpson, former anchor at ABC News, and in Tampa, Eric Deggans, television and media critic for "The Tampa Bay Times" and author of the book "Race Baiter".

Carole Simpson, this question: What has given Barbara Walters such incredible staying powers over the decades?

CAROLE SIMPSON, FORMER ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Because she's just the best. I'm sure she will go down in history as the greatest television newswoman ever. And she deserves the accolades and the position that she enjoys, because I have never seen any. I worked with her at both NBC and ABC and I have never seen anyone work as hard as Barbara Walters.

And I suspect and I hope it won't be any time soon, that on her dying bed, she will be calling God looking for an exclusive interview before she goes to heaven. She's just a remarkable woman and I'm so proud of what she has done.

KURTZ: And since you did work with her at two networks. What influence did she have personally, professionally and otherwise on your career and your aspirations?

SIMPSON: Not much, because I was always based in Washington and she was in New York. So, I would see her at the occasional function by the network. She did give me some advice, though.

I toyed with the idea of moving back to Chicago, my hometown and running for Congress. And I told her, I said, Barbara, I want to be in Congress. And she said, you crazy fool. Why would you do that and be one of 435 people instead of being an anchor on the weekend and reaching millions of people at one time?

She said, forget about that. And I really thought about it and said she's right. She's right. I probably do have more --

KURTZ: She saved your journalism career and she saved you from a life --

SIMPSON: She did.


KURTZ: -- of politics.

SIMPSON: Oh, yes, how happy I'd be to be there now.

KURTZ: Eric Deggans, people forget in these days of "The View" that her -- the big breakthrough was that she was the first female co- anchor on "ABC Evening News" and how shabbily she was treated in that role. Harry Reasoner clearly didn't want to sit next to her.

ERIC DEGGANS, TV/MEDIA CRITIC, TAMPA BAY TIMES: Exactly. Yes, she was a trailblazer and I think she was a trailblazer in another important way. She brought together some of the entertainment values that we see in news now where you, you're cognizant of celebrity, you're cognizant of making an impact with pop culture and she brought that together with new sensibilities.

So, some of the things we see in terms of how "Dateline" NBC or "The Today" show handles news stories now, she pioneered in her time both as a news anchor and later with her entertainment specials that mixed politics and entertainment in the '70s.

KURTZ: Was that a good thing or a bad thing?

DEGGANS: I think it was both. I mean, it created a style of news that is engaging people now, but some people feel it can be taken to an extreme and it can be taken too far and it cheapens the news.

So, she started something that has been quite profitable and that has kept people engaged in the news, but it's also been a double edge sword for the news business.

KURTZ: Right.

And, Carole Simpson, we take it for granted now that women can anchor, even the most serious, major national news programs, Diane Sawyer, of course, at ABC, Katie Couric before her at CBS. What role in your view did Barbara Walters play in changing that environment to such a thing not only become possible, but now commonplace?

SIMPSON: She talked to me about it when the women of ABC were trying to get more representation on programs at the network. And she said, you know, you all shouldn't be fighting these battles. I was the one that went through the field and started breaking up the ground and so on.

And once the ground is broken, you all are going to have to navigate around the boulders and all of that kind of thing. But you shouldn't are to break up the ground, again. So, she was very cognizant of the fact that she had broken through the glass ceiling, she stayed on the air like some of the older white gentlemen that are on TV and at advance stages. And I'm so proud that she was able to stay because women were given up on at age 40. And I think that because of her great talent at getting anybody to talk to her and talk to her openly and deeply she is just the bomb.

KURTZ: Well, personally, I don't know what she's thinking talking about retirement in a year. She's only 83.

But, Eric Deggans, the other part of her legacy --


KURTZ: -- is, of course, "The View." Talk about that show and how it became a cultural force to the point that, you know, presidential candidates feel compelled to stop by and chat with the ladies.

DEGGANS: Well, yes, she created a template for daytime talk that has been cloned across the networks now. We've seen NBC try to do its version with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford. And we've also seen CBS do its version with the show called "The Talk."

KURTZ: By clone, you mean stolen? By clone, you mean ripped off, imitated.


DEGGANS: Well, I don't know -- I don't know that it's the most original thing to have four people in front of a camera talking about the day's events. That's been done for quite a while.

KURTZ: Right.

DEGGANS: But Barbara Walters was able to create a unique template that melded news and entertainment. She's had the president on. She's had ex-presidents on. She's some very important political figures on, while at the same time having some of the most entertainment-oriented programming that you could have in daytime all in the same, all in the same, you know, hour-long show.

And, particularly, in the first 15 minutes, you always wanted to tune in to see, you know, what's going to happen. What are they going to talk about, what sort of news story will they uncork that they will be talking about later in the day.

KURTZ: Right.

DEGGANS: That is an amazing achievement to (INAUDIBLE) at the time when a lot of people are thinking about it.

KURTZ: Right. Hot water cooler topics.

And, Carole, with "The View" already losing Joy Behar, now with Barbara Walters not officially confirming, but we do know that she will be stepping down in May 2014. can that show survive without its founding member and animating force?

SIMPSON: Well, you know, Whoopi is -- Whoopi Goldberg is the titular host of "The View." And Barbara was kind of like mother hen to all of those women and what kind of put Whoopi in her place when sometimes she got out there, I can't really see the network turning over the show to Whoopi to run it with her erratic ways and her tendency to say what she feels --

KURTZ: Right.

SIMPSON: -- no matter what the consequences.

Howie, I just wanted to say one thing about the fact that Barbara is retiring. I was very concerned when she fell at the British embassy during the inauguration in January.


SIMPSON: And then to come down with a case of chickenpox, which my daughter, who is a physician, calls very unusual, she probably isn't doing that well. She had open heart surgery before then. And it's probably TV people are great actors and she looks great and continues to talk, but maybe she's not feeling that well.

KURTZ: It's a testament to her fortitude that she's overcome those obstacles. I'm glad you pointed that out.

Let me touch on another subject before we go to break. That is over at MSNBC, Chris Hayes is about to start a primetime show this week, who has been on the weekends.

He says in an interview, from a journalist interview that he has used quotas in booking his weekend show, just numerical test, not too many white guys on, there are four people on. He says no more than two should be white men.

Do you think that goes a step too far, Eric Deggans? I know you're an advocate of getting more minorities on the air.

DEGGANS: I don't necessarily think that goes too far. The key is to make sure that the pool that you're choosing from that everyone is qualified to be a pundit. As we know, that bar is kind of low.

But as long as you are choosing from a group of people, all of whom are able to talk about the issues in a way that's great for the show, then saying that an extra level is that you want to make sure they're also diverse, I don't know how you achieve that other than keeping track.

KURTZ: Right.

DEGGANS: One of the problems that we have is --

KURTZ: Let me -- DEGGANS: Oh, sorry.

KURTZ: Let me jump in because we're short on time. We're all mindful of diversity. I think about every single week as we book our segments, trying to get more women and minorities on. I think we do an OK job. We could do better.

But, Carole, when you talk about not just making an effort butting having numerical quotas, unlike, say, affirmative action, that does suggest to some people that it's not about getting the most guests on, but it's about achieving a certain demographic mix.

SIMPSON: I appreciate what Chris Hayes is trying to do because I worked at ABC and, again, when the employees were trying to get better representation of minorities and women on shows like "Nightline" and "This Week" with David Brinkley it was at the time, it was all white guys. Every Sunday when Martin Luther King birthday's came along they would get some black guests to talk about it.

I remember they used Ron Dellums, the congressman from California, who was head of the House Armed Services Committee. But they wouldn't talk to him. They wouldn't book him when they were talking about arms.

KURTZ: Got it.

SIMPSON: They booked him when they were talking about Martin Luther King.

KURTZ: Right.

SIMPSON: So, we came up with a list of experts that were Asian and Hispanic and black and female that could be used in these expert roles without the same usual suspects.

KURTZ: That's a good point. We're going to get a break right now. A reminder that we're standing by for a news conference in Kaufman, Texas, about the shooting death of district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia. CNN will carry that when it begins.

When we come back, latest plot twists in the soap opera known as "The Today" show.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.

We wanted to let you know that we continue to monitor events in Kaufman County, Texas. This is where the D.A., the district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found dead in their home on Saturday. You are now looking at Kaufman Law Enforcement Center where we expect a news conference to take place with more detail on what happened. The flags, as you can see, have been lowered to half staff.

What is making this news all the more tragic is that, two months ago, Mike McLelland's deputy was gunned down outside the courthouse. So, within two months, Kaufman County has seen the death of its -- an assistant D.A. and the D.A. and his wife found Saturday.

We will continue to monitor these events. We will bring you the news conference live when it happens. But, right now, we want to return you to RELIABLE SOURCES.

KURTZ: Thanks very much, Candy.

Turning now to "The Today" show. As we have talked about on this program, Matt Lauer continuing to take a beating over the departure last year of Ann Curry, the messy way that was handled. Very critical piece of "New York Magazine" this week.

And now a report that NBC executives this week reached out to CNN anchor Anderson Cooper to gauge his potential interest in co-hosting "Today" show. Cooper told NBC that he was not interested.

Eric Deggans, what does that tell you about the situation with NBC's morning show?

DEGGANS: It tells us that Matt Lauer's image is in a lot of trouble. They need to do a little image rehab with their star. They just recently, of course, signed a new deal with Matt and they're paying him a lot of money.

I think there was a sense that he was the one thing they could count on to preserve that show's popularity and now he's the one thing that is most under attack in these stories. This idea that he didn't save Ann Curry before she was moved from the show, that they didn't get along and that you could see it on the air, and, you know, now, to have the ratings troubles that they're having, as well.

KURTZ: Right.

DEGGANS: It's all sort of piling on Matt Lauer's head.

KURTZ: Right.

DEGGANS: And NBC seems powerless to hold back or prevent this stuff.

KURTZ: Carole Simpson, a lot of people concluded with this phone call to Anderson Cooper who, just to repeat, said he's not interested in leaving CNN, that, you know, maybe Matt Lauer would be replaced next week. In fact, I am told and NBC said publicly that it's committed to Matt Lauer.

I think what a lot of people don't understand, maybe you could shed some light in this, is that networks talk to talent all the time about, would you be interested down the road, feeling people out when their contracts come up. Can you elaborate on that for us, please?

SIMPSON: Yes, but I think it's more serious than that. Yes, they put out feelers to people who could possibly come to their places when they needed some help.

Anderson, I don't think, although he's doing his talk show, I don't know -- but I can't seem him doing cooking segments. I can't see him talking to the pets and things like that that they have on "The Today" show. But, he certainly would bring some excitement to the show, if he were to be brought in.

I just want to tell you that when you're on TV, when you've been on TV -- people are always asking me. They think I have all the answers about what's going on. I have to tell you, I never had as many people ask me about Ann Curry than happened when she was so unceremoniously taken off the show.

She was more popular than I think NBC executives thought she was. People are very upset and they blame Matt Lauer. This is the public. They blame Matt Lauer for pushing her out.

KURTZ: That is certainly the perception. I have reported that Matt Lauer actually tried to slow that train down and he has criticized in his interview with me the way that NBC mishandled that situation.

The morning show soap opera will obviously continue and we'll keep an eye on it.

Carole Simpson, Eric Deggans, thanks for stopping by this morning.

A reminder that we're continuing to wait for that news conference in Kaufman, Texas, about the killing of the district attorney in that area and his wife two months after his deputy was killed. We'll bring that to you live.

When we come back, a supreme test for same-sex marriage. Have the media already ruled on one side of this issue?


KURTZ: Less than a year after legal analysts told us the Supreme Court would strike down Obamacare, it was far more cautioned this week when the high court heard challenges to California's Prop 8 ban on same-sex marriage.


PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: There seemed to be no interest in issuing a sweeping decision on same-sex marriage, one way or the other.

TERRY MORGAN, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The one dominant sense that I got from the justices was that they want that great debate to continue.


KURTZ: There was a similar sense of caution after a second court hearing on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Liberal commentators are thrilled that the marriage debate is swinging their way, at least in the court of public opinion, while many conservative pundits were muted or surprisingly supportive.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The matter before the Supreme Court today is neither about sexual relations nor civil unions. It's about basic human liberty, who you want to be publicly married to.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: The compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals. That's we're the compelling argument is. We're Americans. We just want to be treated like everybody else. That is a compelling argument. And to deny that, you got to have a very strong argument on the other side.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: And the argument on the other side --

O'REILLY: And the other side hasn't been able to do anything but thump the Bible.


KURTZ: Not everyone on the right was happy, though. And Rush Limbaugh unloaded on O'Reilly.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: How many of you who watch FOX are bible thumpers? Because last night, you were -- you were sort of marginalized on "The Factor", as not having a compelling argument and just being a bunch of Bible thumpers.


KURTZ: So, how are the media covering this sea change on a major social issue?

Joining us now, John Aravosis, the founder and editor of And Jennifer Rubin, who writes "The Right Turn" blog for "The Washington Post" and as a contributor to CNBC's "The Kudlow Report."

All right. John Aravosis, the commentary as we saw after those Supreme Court hearings was cautious based on the justices' questioning. Do you think it was wise for the media not to be predicting a sweeping verdict, one way or the other?

JOHN ARAVOSIS, EDITOR, AMERICABLOG.COM: Well, sure, I think the media has followed the pundits. The pundits have the sense that, you know, that DOMA was getting (INAUDIBLE) thrown out Prop 8, they might sort of -- the media sort of went down that path. So, it made sense.

KURTZ: Are the media pumping this into moral cases as opposed to legal issues that just have to resolve according to their reading of law and the Constitution?

JENNIFER RUBIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think there's a natural tendency whenever people who are not lawyers cover the court. Now, I'm a recovering lawyer, so I accept myself in this.

To miss a lot of the nuances -- there's a lot of procedural issues, including the Prop 8 case, which I must I say, I agree with Justice Kennedy. Why in the heck did they take that as a vehicle? Because there are a lot of complications having to do with that case, per se, including the fact of the matter that the state of California is no longer defending it.

KURTZ: Are journalists missing these nuances?

RUBIN: I believe so.

KURTZ: You say as a recovering lawyer?

RUBIN: I do. And I think sometimes, they will characterize the justice's interest in these nuances as trying to duck the issue or trying to avoid the issue. This is what they do, during the business of deciding legal case based on a whole slew of technical and legal restrictions.

So, it's not surprising that they want to know if there's a party defending the law. It's not surprising that they want to worry about things like standing -- which is the technical legal term. And it's not a sexy thing to explain to the audiences. It's much more interesting, trying to explain that there has been a sea change in American public opinion.

KURTZ: From where you sit, having watched and, obviously, having a personal interest in this issue for a long time. Are the media waking up to the fact that this is a civil rights issue?

ARAVOSIS: I think so. You know, the way I would sort of describe it is I think the media is still being objective and in the middle. The thing is, is the middle has shifted in that -- look at African-American civil rights. OK?

In 1996, maybe it was OK. We wouldn't say now, but back then it was OK to discuss on TV. Should we or shouldn't we think this is bad for society for blacks to marry whites? Today, we'd say that's insane.

Ten years ago, I'd go on TV and have to debate whether gays were pedophiles. Now, you got CNN anchors jumping in and shutting down the debate when a religious rights spokesman says are pedophiles. The debate itself has shifted. Therefore, the media is in the middle, I think, it naturally has gone in that direction as well.

KURTZ: Media in the middle?

RUBIN: To some extent, yes. I think and this is not something that conservatives necessarily, you know, dwell on. But I think in the media, you have fewer people who are religiously conservative. Not politically, but religiously. So, there's a lack of perhaps sympathy, a lack of understanding for people who hold those views.

KURTZ: You don't think there's a subtle sense or sometimes not so subtle sense of cheerleading for same-sex marriage in the media? A position that even as the public support has risen to, say 58 percent recent "Washington Post" poll, a lot of Americans and a lot of state governments still strongly oppose.

RUBIN: I think there probably is. I had an interesting conversation with now retired Senator Joe Lieberman's press secretary, who said I never got as much love from the media as when we were working on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I never got a hard question. I never got a press on an answer that I got because I think there is this sense.

And I think because of the demographics and because they tend to come from big cities in America, they tend to be socially more liberal. That said, I don't think that they have mocked, I don't think I haven't seen rudeness or abruptness. There's perhaps a lack of nuanced understanding, if you will, of the positions and the beliefs of the other side.

That said, you know, last Sunday, I believe it was, before or even two Sundays ago, you know, there were very balanced debates on the morning television shows. There weren't, you know, a pro-gay marriage and another pro-gay marriage. There were people on both sides.

KURTZ: Another thing that has changed, and you know this, John, is that 20 years ago, there were many journalists in the media who were not out as being gay.


KURTZ: Now that has changed. Anderson Cooper at CNN is one of the more recent example --

ARAVOSIS: Don Lemon at CNN, you have got a number, yes.

KURTZ: Right. And I'm wondering -- I want to play some tape showing how certain gay journalists have talked about this on the air and talked on the other side about how it has perhaps subtly influenced the debate.

We'll start with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow who was talking about just as Ruth Bader Ginsburg referring to same-sex marriage as being treated in many quarters as a skim milk marriage. Play the tape.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: This is no skim milk drink, and I think America is about to leave skim milk marriages behind.

THOMAS ROBERTS, MSNBC: Getting married in the fall was something really personal and really incredible that we got to experience with our family there, supporting us, our loved ones. So, I highly recommend it.

JENNA WOLFE, NBC NEWS: Thank you very much. My girlfriend, Stephanie Gosk and I, who works here at NBC, we are expecting a baby girl at the end of August.


KURTZ: So they have Jenna Wolfe on "Today" show saying she is pregnant with her girlfriend, who also works at NBC. Imagine that happening 15, 20 years. That would have been a bombshell and that was a blip.

ARAVOSIS: Absolutely.

KURTZ: So does this have any impact on public opinion? Because now it's not just faceless people, but it's people who come into your living rooms who say, I'm gay.

ARAVOSIS: Absolutely. I think even if you look at the way journalism has gone over the last 10 or 20 years, I think it has gotten more personal in a way.

One of the things that I think Fox does very well, Fox News, is they personalized their commentators in that whether you like O'Reilly or not, you know who O'Reilly is and who know who Hannity is. They have become real people for you. They are not just citing the facts.

KURTZ: Isn't it true on the other networks as well?

ARAVOSIS: I think Fox took the lead on it. Now, the question would be -- I would argue, you know, don't go biased in that sense, but the readers or the viewers like the humanity and you see it in blogging, as well. So that when the commentators are also gay, in addition to being black or Jewish or whatever, you start to say, there is a real person here.

KURTZ: How does it make you feel as a gay person when Rachel Maddow pours a drink and is celebrating the progress of gay marriage or Thomas Roberts of MSNBC talks about his wedding?

ARAVOSIS: I think Rachel is more of an advocate, but when I see CNN's, you know, objective news people like Don Lemon or even Anderson Cooper coming out publicly as gay, it still means something to me.

Even though I'm out as a gay man, so it's not like I'm not being forced out of the closet. I see that and I'm proud. It even matters to me. So, I think you can't really separate the personal from the objective public in this sense.

KURTZ: What about TV shows and movies, Vice President Biden cited "Will & Grace" as helping to change American's attitudes toward gays, not necessarily on gay marriage, but it's all part of the same ball of wax. Could it be said that this is Hollywood kind of pushing the liberal agenda?

RUBIN: I think it is a variety of factors. Hollywood is both accelerating and reflecting this change and we were just, in fact, before the show talking about why we have had this revolution in public opinion in such short time. Much faster, I think, than the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I think it's a confluence of events. I think it is culture. I think it is media. I think it's the gay advocates coming out so that everyone knows that it's not just gay marriage in the abstract, but it's Frank and John down the street and Jill and Ann by the water cooler.

So, that I think all these factors coming together and also I think the fact that marriage is no longer seen as a religious institution or an economic necessity --


ARAVOSIS: But look at Hollywood and TV back in the '60s. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," which I was just reading about this the other night. It was a huge --

KURTZ: Changing racial attitudes.

ARAVOSIS: But look at "Star Trek," big sci-fi fan, Nichelle Nichols, doesn't matter to the rest of you out there, but bottom line is she played one of the lead characters in the '60s, she is black.

Martin Luther King told her, don't you dare leave that show. You're making an incredible difference. TV and Hollywood was also at the forefront I think in the '60s on black civil rights as well.

KURTZ: I was not expecting "Star Trek" to be cited. John Aravosis, Jennifer Rubin, thanks very much.

A reminder that we're standing by for a news conference in Texas about a double murder there involving local prosecutor. This program will be right back.


KURTZ: Twitter is phenomenally popular among journalists, but until now it's mostly words and links to still photos, but a new app called "Vine" adds video to the mix. That is as long as you limit it to six seconds. How are news outlets handling this new toy?

Well, here are stars stopping by CNN. Here's "New York Times" covering fashion week. And "New York" reporter, Brynn Gingras, giving viewers an up-close view of Hurricane Sandy. It looks windy.

I spoke to two journalists earlier to examine the potential of "Vine."


KURTZ: Joining us now from New York is Brynn Gingras, reporter for WNBC TV and Katie Linendoll who covers technology for ESPN. So Brynn, obvious question about "Vine," no matter how quickly you talk, what can you actually say in 6 seconds?

BRYNN GINGRAS, REPORTER, WNBC TV: Well, you can say a lot. I mean, obviously, our viewers, NBC in New York, really want news right now. They want it instantaneously, and that's the service we are trying to provide for them.

So when I go out on the story, I want to get that information out there as fast as possible. So I can tweet it, of course, in 140 characters. You add a picture to that. A picture speaks a thousand words. But imagine the volumes it speaks with 6 seconds of video.

And I have actually a good example for you, Howie. I was really privileged last year to actually be recognized by Twitter as having a top tweet of 2012, and I took a snapshot of that roller coaster in Seaside Heights. I'm sure you're very aware of that image.

But imagine if I was using "Vine" last year and I was able to capture the roller coaster with the waves crashing against it and the dock I was standing on that was just destroyed.


GINGRAS: So, really, it is a great service to our viewers.

KURTZ: Isn't this 6-second app really pushing the media further down the road towards superficiality?

KATIE LINENDOLL, ESPN: I don't think so. You know, I think seeing a number of different brands use it in very unique and creative ways. We're all about self-promotion. This is just another tool to add to your bag.

When we talk about brands from Urban Outfitters to Play-Doh to events like New York Auto Show and now even Hollywood on board. Just the other day, we saw the movie "The Wolverine." The director, James Mangold, actually for the first time before the trailer was even out put out a 6-second looping vine of the film.

I think it's really, powerful, creative tool. It re-creates --


KURTZ: On that point, Katie, is it promotion or is it journalism?

LINENDOLL: I think it can be both. I think it's how a matter of how you use it. You know, I as a journalist, I like to use it behind the scenes. I think people are fascinated when you give them a glimpse into the world.

And for example, when I was out by South by Southwest or the New York International Toy Fair, take a 6-second clip, that's all the time people have attention for anyways, put it out there and show somebody a different perspective as opposed to this very polished TV segment.

KURTZ: Brynn, do you agree with that? In this era of shrinking sound bites and shrinking attention span that 6 seconds matches the audience, what the audience wants and 10 seconds or 15 seconds would be way too long?

GINGRAS: Yes. I mean, 6 seconds I think is a perfect amount of video. I mean, that's what our viewers --

KURTZ: Time is up for that answer, 6 seconds. Keep going.

GINGRAS: Yes, no, I mean, it is a terrific way to get the information out there as fast as possible. I mean, you want to know exactly what's going on at that moment. You want breaking news and you want it in the palm of your hand. That's exactly what "Vine" is allowing us to do.

I think 6 seconds is all you need. You can be creative with that. I had a colleague who did a time lapse of a snow storm. He took 6 seconds of video over a course of time of the snow building up and it was so creative and interesting way to tell the story.

KURTZ: I started using the program "Tat," which gives you 15 seconds at least you can get a sentence and a half out. But Katie, why does Twitter want to have video on the site 6 seconds long? Who is this aimed at from Twitter's point of view?

LINENDOLL: Well, I think it makes a lot of sense. You know, I did ask Twitter about the time limit and they said in the early stages of creating "Vine," they experimented with a 4 to a 10-second time limit and 6 seconds kind of read just perfectly for them.

But I think the differentiator here in terms of pushing video content on Twitter, which we don't need to tell you, it's a powerful platform. It's embedded seamlessly and it's very clean.

So, you know, with a tweet, you send a video and quick to watch. It makes a lot of sense to have this under their tool belt.

KURTZ: Is it also easy, Brynn, to do when you're out in the field and you whip out your phone and you can shoot and post in a short period of time?

GINGRAS: It is extremely easy. I mean, there are a little bit of limitations that I would like to see them adopt. For example, when you're using your iPhone, you want to take video of yourself.

I mean, there was one time I was shooting storm coverage and I wanted to be able to show the sand and the wind coming up against me. It's kind of hard to do that when you can't turn the screen towards you and see what you're actually shooting in that perspective.

But it's very easy to shoot and I think also our mindset right now as journalists is to sort of capture everything we can whether it be for our newscast later in the evening or right there to give our viewers the perspective we're seeing.

KURTZ: Right, but if you can't shoot yourself, I mean, it should be all about us, the journalists. Katie, what are the chances that this is just the latest shiny tech toy and in a year from now, we'll be talking about something else, maybe something that will last 3 seconds.

LINENDOLL: I don't think so. I know that's a problem obviously, especially in the app world and the influx of apps, themselves. But I think actually that "Vine" is going to get better and you know, we still have yet to see it over on the android side. I think it's a little buggy.

I still think there's a lot of capability that can be added and make it a more powerful tool. I mean, just the first week alone when it was released, sky rocketed. I don't think it's going away any time soon. Even just for my friends who are not journalists, they love it. So I think that's too speaks volumes. I think it will just get better.

KURTZ: That's the important thing. It passed the friends test. All right, Katie Linendoll and Brynn Gingras, thanks very much for joining us.


KURTZ: Here's a 6-second tease. RELIABLE SOURCES will be back in a moment.


KURTZ: Allyson Bird seemed born to be a reporter, but when she was gave up her job at the "Post and Courier" in Charleston, South Carolina, she did not go quietly. She posted a lengthy essay on her blog saying this is the real reason why I left news.

I finally came to accept the vanity of a byline was keeping in a job that left me physically and emotionally exhausted yet supremely unsatisfied. I spoke with her earlier from South Carolina.


KURTZ: Allyson Byrd, welcome.


KURTZ: In your last newspaper job, you worked a lot of hours and felt you had to be available all the time, even on vacation and in your view weren't paid enough. You know nobody goes to journalism to be rich, right?

BIRD: I sure do.

KURTZ: Why then did you decide to give it up?

BIRD: I decided to give it up because I felt like I was no longer developing personally or professionally in the job. We were just being asked to do so much with so little to produce more and more every day and I felt like I was no longer really developing my craft, as a writer or as a journalist.

KURTZ: Now, you write -- in a way you seem to blame the audience in your now-famous blog post, you write that the corporate folks who manage newspapers tried to comply with whims of a thankless audience with a microscopic attention span. So you felt in part that you were trying to do good journalism and people weren't paying attention.

BIRD: I guess it is sort of a chicken and egg scenario. It is because people were demanding more that we responded that way or is it because we tried to put so much information out there to the audience that they came to expect it. I don't know but the end result was definitely clear. You were being asked to produce so much with so few resources.

KURTZ: Originally you loved reporting and then you came to question the value of what you were doing. Is that fair?

BIRD: No. I don't really feel that way. I always have loved and continue to love reporting. It just stopped being as fun.

KURTZ: You write also in this piece, I don't know a single person who works in daily news today who doesn't have her eyes trained on the exit sign. Can that really be true? Everybody wants to get out? It certainly seems that newspapers for all of their woes and cutbacks have plenty of applicants who would like to work in the newsroom.

BIRD: Right. I guess, I should qualify that statement. Since I wrote the blog post, I have met a lot of people who do not have their try eyes trained on the exit sign. A lot of people responded very viscerally that they do intend to stay in journalism. But at the time, when I wrote that within the sphere of people who I know, yes, I would say that it was fair.

KURTZ: How much in your view involves the question of compensation? If you were making significant higher salary, would you have felt the various sacrifices involved in being a journalist were worth it?

BIRD: You know, I don't ever think that it was the sacrifices weren't worth it. It was just that because of the demands I felt that the actual product was diminishing. So it really had a lot less to do with money and more to do with just feeling proud of what I was producing at the end of the day.

KURTZ: Talk a little bit more about that. So, on the one hand you felt overworked. You felt under paid. Anybody in the business can probably relate to. That and you felt over time the stories you were doing you didn't have enough time to do solid journalism and felt you were just cranking it out?

BIRD: Well, I think it just changed a good bit. I mean, I entered the industry at a time when online was just becoming so prominent in newsrooms. At that point, you would write a version of a story at the end of the day and it would go up on a web site.

Over time you were writing multiple iterations of the same story throughout the day and there's a phrase that we use in the industry, just throw it up on the web site when something first breaks.

I remember we had a legal expert talk to us at the newspaper and he said when you are throwing it up on the web site, that's what you are literally doing, vomiting content on to the internet and I just didn't necessarily think that was the right way to do journalism.

KURTZ: It is a bit of a hamster wheel. So now that you are in a saner job in PR. Is there anything you miss about being a journalist?

BIRD: I don't actually work in PR. I work in fundraising for a public hospital here in South Carolina. I still write stories daily. I still interact with very interesting people. So day in and out my work is similar surprisingly.

I do miss being part of the newsroom. I miss suppose seeing a fire on the side of the road and chasing after it and getting the story first and tweeting it out to people and just I guess sort of having that knowledge of what is going on, but in general I'm happy where I am right now.

KURTZ: It's hard to completely lose those urges. Happy that you are pleased with where you are now and interesting lesson in how one young person views the craft of journalism. Allyson Bird, thanks very much for joining me.

BIRD: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.


KURTZ: The "Media Monitor" is up next.


KURTZ: It sounded like a big exclusive for "The Today Show." Matt Lauer announcing that Jerry Sandusky will explain in his own words what he says happened on the Penn State campus, but it turned out this was not an NBC interview.

Instead Lauer chatted with filmmaker John Ziegler who had talked to the former football coach by phone from jail where Sandusky is serving time for child sexual abuse. And Ziegler has an agenda. He is making a documentary called "The Framing of Joe Paterno."

The late Penn State head coach founded by an independent reader to help cover up Sandusky's horrible crime. To his credit, Lauer repeatedly pressed Ziegler about Sandusky's conviction.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe he was wrongly convicted?

JOHN ZIEGLER, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Jerry Sandusky already had his day in court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But do you believe he was wrongly convicted?

ZIEGLER: I have written extensively about this at our web site. I want to say that my focus here has been on Joe Paterno.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court believed Jerry Sandusky is a pedophile and he is guilty of the things he was accused of -- ZIEGLER: I have no doubt that Jerry Sandusky was guilty of many of the things, if not all of the things that he was accused of, but I do believe that there were due process problems with the trial.


KURTZ: Maybe it was worth it for "The Today Show" to get the audio clips of Sandusky defending himself despite all the evidence against him, but NBC should have been more straightforward in promoting the segment.

That's it for RELIABLE SOURCES. Happy Easter and happy Passover. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.