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Text of Iran Nuclear Deal Just Released; MSNBC in Hot Water Over Anchor's Remarks; BuzzFeed Creates Unique News Beat; "Race- Themed" Movies Rock Media
Aired November 24, 2013 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
RELIABLE SOURCES with guest host Eric Deggans of NPR will begin shortly and for our international viewers, "GLOBAL EXCHANGE" is coming up with breaking news out of Iran.
But, first, we want to bring you the latest that we have here.
The United States and five other world powers have reached a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran sealing a deal to slow Iran's nuclear program. Iran wins an easing of sanctions in exchange for limitations on its nuclear activities.
President Obama strongly welcomed the deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Substantial limitations, which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran's most likely paths to a bomb.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Tehran is celebrating but there are warnings from congressional critics and from Israel's prime minister who says the deal makes the world -- in his words -- much more dangerous.
The Secretary of State John Kerry tells CNN the deal should make Israel safer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe very strongly that because the Iranian nuclear program is actually set backwards and is actually locked into place in critical places, that that is better for Israel than if you were just continuing to go down the road and they rush towards a nuclear weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We have full coverage including reaction from around the world. CNN's Reza Sayah standing by in Iran's capital of Tehran. Ian Lee is in Jerusalem.
Let's go to our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. He's in Geneva. He's been covering these negotiations.
And, Jim, let's look ahead briefly. What's next as far as this deal is concerned?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is an interim deal. Just lasts six months. In effect they hit pause on Iran's nuclear program on some of it and some on the sanction regime and they'll get into the harder process of talking about deleting some of these programs.
For instance, when you talk about centrifuges, Iran has agreed here not to add any new ones or bring them online. Are they going to dismantle some of them going forward? The Arak heavy water reactor, a second path to nuclear weapon, a plutonium facility, are they going to convert that facility into something more peaceful? In this agreement, they've just agreed to stop building it, stop upgrading it.
So, the next stage of these talks are arguably more difficult because they are talking about long-term but certainly a tremendous agreement today because I think if you and I were talking a few weeks ago, a couple months ago, we couldn't have predicted an agreement with this severe restrictions on both sides.
BLITZER: They didn't really wrap it up in Geneva until around, what, 3:00 a.m. Geneva time. They worked for days on this and well into the night. The secretary of state obviously very pleased, but the critical reaction coming in from some in Washington, members of Congress, not only Republicans but some Democrats, critical reaction from Israel, from some of the -- from the Saudis, for example. How are they dealing with that?
SCIUTTO: Well, that's going to be a problem going forward. It just seems that this administration, U.S. administration, has accepted it. That they're going to disagree with two of their arguably closest allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Israel, who -- both have been lobbying against this deal leading up to it. And now, as you saw today, Netanyahu saying the world is a more dangerous place today than it was, whereas Kerry says the exact opposite, that it's safer.
You know, U.S. officials keep going back to the talking point that this is just a tactical disagreement with Israel but it's a fundamental tactical disagreement here because in effect, the U.S. is saying we can make a deal with Iran. We can if it's verifiable trust Iran and Iranians and the Saudis are saying the opposite. You can't trust them.
That's a very serious disagreement. You don't see how they reconcile that going forward, so you know administration going through this next phase, longer term phase, is going to face similar, arguably, harder opposition.
BLITZER: Real source of tension right now between the United States and Israel, the Obama administration and government of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Jim Sciutto in Geneva, thanks very much.
Let's go to Tehran right now. Reza Sayah has been getting reaction from folks on the street and others inside Iran.
I take it, Reza, they are happy about this easing of international sanctions?
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL C ORRESPONDENT: They are. They know it's an interim deal. They're not quite sure what the long-term implications are.
But the overwhelming reaction here is a positive one. Many Iranians are happy that Iran sat across from the world powers and managed to hammer out a deal. For many Iranians, this was a roller coaster of emotions, three rounds of talks. At about 5:30 a.m. this morning word came that an agreement had been reached.
The big sanctions that are really impacting the lives of Iranians here are the ones on oil exports, banking restrictions, they are still in place. Iranians believe this is a positive step, a golden opportunity to get to those sanctions and to get to a place where those sanctions are going to be lifted. And if that happens, you can look at it in a number of ways of who the winners are. But, certainly, the Iranian people could be the biggest winners.
Remember, this is a very young, educated population who suffered through years of economic isolation, these crippling sanctions. They voted in Hassan Rouhani, Iran's new president, back in June. They gave him mandate to take office and improve the economy, and best way to improve the economy, obviously, was to ease some of these sanctions and they believe this is the first step in doing that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Reza. As you and I are speaking, the White House just released the official text of the document, the U.S./Iranian agreement. It's called a joint plan of action.
Let me read the first two or three sentences, Reza. I'm going to get your reaction.
"The goal of these negotiations is to reach a mutually agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons. This comprehensive solution would build on these initial measures and result in a final step for a period to be agreed upon and resolution of concerns."
Reza, that's pretty specific. Iran, according to this agreement signed in Geneva, it says it will never develop a nuclear weapon and as you know Iranians have always maintained their nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes, but now they stipulate that directly in this agreement.
How is the reaction going to be over there? SAYAH: Well, for Iran, this is not a new position for them. That's what they'll tell you. They'll tell you that repeatedly they have said they're not building a bomb. They'll tell you that no unbiased objective, credible organization or government has ever made public any evidence that they are actually making a bomb. Not even the IAEA.
So, this is an agreement they are happy with, and they believe there are steps that Western powers can take to verify that they're not making a bomb. And what's been fascinating to observe over the last several hours is how politician leaders on both sides have cranked up their PR machine and spun this agreement in a way to make themselves look like the winner. And that's no surprise because there's so much at stake for Iran politically, domestically, and, of course, Washington and western powers, internationally and domestically as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: And the Iranians know if they don't live up to this agreement, the text is right here. The U.S. and other international powers can ramp up those sanctions once again making life very, very miserable for the Iranians.
All right. Reza, thanks very much.
Let's go to Jerusalem right now. CNN's Ian Lee is standing by.
The prime minister of Israel says this deal is bad and makes the situation even more dangerous. Though interesting, Ian, the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, was much more conciliatory, seemingly much more open to this agreement. There seems to be a little bit of a split there.
Is that what you're getting?
IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's definitely what it appears, wolf. The president elderly statesman, someone widely respected in Israel said the success or failure of the deal will be judged by results and not by words and he said, I would like to say to the Iranian people you are not our enemy and we are not yours.
There's a possibility to solve this diplomatically. It is in your hands to reject terrorism to stop the nuclear program and stop development of long range missiles. They prefer diplomatic solutions and that's a lot softer approach than we heard from other officials in the Israeli government that came out strong, especially the prime minister who said that this is an historic mistake.
And when you talk with officials in the Israeli government, they have a few things set out that they believe would have been better and that would have been the dismantling of the centrifuges, that all the enriched uranium be taken out of Iran. And, finally for that heavy water plant in Iraq, to be dismantled as well.
This would have been a deal that they would have liked to have seen. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that it's either all or nothing in his eyes, that either Iran gives up their nuclear program and gets relief of sanctions or the sanctions continue, Wolf.
BLITZER: Ian Lee in Jerusalem, Reza Sayah in Tehran, Jim Sciutto in Geneva. Guys, thanks very much.
We're going to be following the breaking developments involved in this historic international nuclear deal with Iran throughout the day here on CNN.
RELIABLE SOURCES will begin right after the break for our domestic viewers. The fallout from the controversial comments made by the MSNBC anchor Martin Bashir, that will be a focus of RELIABLE SOURCES.
For our international viewers, "GLOBAL EXCHANGE" coming up next with much more on Iran.
ERIC DEGGANS, CNN HOST: Good morning and welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES.
I'm Eric Deggans, TV critic at NPR.
MSNBC's Martin Bashir kicked off an avalanche of criticism when he described a slave owner who punished slaves by making them defecate in the transgressor's mouth. Then, he made a suggestion about how to respond to Sarah Palin who critics said had trivialized slavery by comparing it to the U.S. debt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC: When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn't just prove her rank ignorance, she confirms that if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, then she would be the outstanding candidate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEGGANS: A wide range of critics condemn the remark, including one of Bashir's co-workers, morning show host, Joe Scarborough.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, "MORNING JOE" ON MSNBC: It was a deplorable thing to say. And he has every reason to be ashamed for saying it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
DEGGANS: But while Bashir has apologized, critics aren't ready to drop the discussion. So, is an apology enough? And at what point do we need to move on?
Joining me discuss: in New York, Amy Holmes, anchor of "The Hot List" on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze.com.
And here in Washington, Erik Wemple, a media critic at "The Washington Post."
So, Amy, I'd like to start with you. Martin Bashir apologized for his comments. He reached out to the Palin family.
Is there really a problem here? Or are competitors and partisan people try to make an issue being made out of something that has already passed?
AMY HOLMES, THEBLAZE.COM: Well, obviously, MSNBC and Mr. Bashir believes that there is a problem there. I mean, like most Americans, I don't watch his show. It's a low-rated show.
But his remarks, as Joe Scarborough said, they were deplorable. And not only that, they were planned. There was malice of forethought, and bizarrely for a TV host who is constantly attacking the president's critics as racist, he cast himself in the role of a vicious slave owner who wanted to meet out this dehumanizing punishment on this public figure.
What MSNBC decides to do, it's completely up to them. But let's reflect back that in 2008, David Shuster, he was guest hosting for MSNBC. And he made a remark that was offhand and distasteful about Hillary Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea Clinton. And he was put on indeterminate suspension and eventually after acrimony, left the network.
DEGGANS: I'd like to pushback just a bit and note that your boss, Glenn Beck, accused President Obama of being a racist. Later reconsidered his words, apologized, people moved on.
Shouldn't Martin Bashir get the same sort of consideration?
HOLMES: I don't think the remarks compare. I can't speak for Glenn Beck. You know, you can make your decision about what you think about the president's racial outlook.
But what Martin Bashir was doing was actually casting himself in the role of an 18th century slave owner who suggesting that Sarah Palin be treated to what we agree is vicious, vulgar punishment.
DEGGANS: Now, Erik, you said his apology should be enough and went to a book signing by Chris Matthews and asked him to comment on it. He wouldn't talk about it.
But if that apology isn't coupled with some kind of punishment or suspension, is it really enough?
ERIK WEMPLE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, my point is in media, we apologize a lot, because we screw up a lot. So, this dance of screwing up big-time and then apologizing is something we do a lot.
I though Bashir, I mean, there's controversy about whether Martin Bashir wrote his own apology. But whoever wrote, he seemed quite sincere, quite contrite, and I do believe that a good media apology needs to be celebrated at some level. It appears that he's genuinely regretful about what he had said and that he will learn and move on from this.
I mean, as Newsbusters itself, which is conservative media Web site, has shown, Bashir has done a lot of bomb throwing in the past but never gotten this vile, this terrible in the past.
I don't know whether more is needed. I will say that I do think that the continued pressure that this hasn't gone away is not just a partisan thing. I think there's always a tipping point in these stories. At some point that tipping point is at which it either fades away or it has the fuel and has the fumes to keep going.
And I think that this one somehow does. I don't think you can just contribute that to people who already hated Martin Bashir. I think what he did was really, really wrong and bad.
DEGGANS: Well, Sarah Palin spoke with "FOX News Sunday" this morning, earlier this morning, and implied that the channel took the issue less seriously because he was criticizing a conservative woman. So, let's watch that clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: As for the networks condoning those type of statements because there's been no punishment of the fella who said these words, that's hypocrisy. That's a given, though, when a conservative woman says something that they take offense. They usually just kind of pooh-pooh it and laugh it off as no big deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEGGANS: In a statement to CNN, MSNBC says, "Martin Bashir has taken responsibility publicly for his offensive commentary and has also personally apologized to the Palin family. MSNBC is handling this matter internally."
Amy, is Palin overlooking a sincere effort to apologize?
HOLMES: Well, you know, Martin Bashir's sincerity, only he knows what's in his heart. The question I think that she was raising is, what is the accountability? And I think Erik Wemple knows that other journalists have seen their careers go down in flames for far less.
The difference here is that Martin Bashir's remark as I mentioned were pre-planned. They were composed. He had every intention of saying every single word that he did.
WEMPLE: I don't think --
HOLMES: It wasn't an offhand remark. It wasn't an offhand remark. It wasn't political punditry going awry. He invoked a lengthy story --
WEMPLE: I don't think --
HOLMES: -- about an 18th century Jamaican slave owner and describing in quite vivid detail of what that person would be to dehumanize his own slaves and he said that Sarah Palin ought to be treated in that precise way.
DEGGANS: Now, Erik, I know you want to respond. I want to throw in real quickly that several news outlets have reported that Sarah Palin canceled an interview with NBC's "Today" because of Bashir. So, in addition to your response, can you talk a little bit about the ramifications for NBC News beyond MSNBC?
WEMPLE: Yes. First of all, I don't think this whole notion of preplan versus off the cuff remarks makes a difference in large part because often when you make offhand remarks, those are closer to your heart and your soul than preplanned remarks that may have been written by committee, may have been written by a producer. So, I don't think that is dispositive or important here at all. I think the important part is a full apology was brought to air.
HOLMES: Believe me, I don't read what producer write for me without reviewing it.
WEMPLE: We're not talking about you. We're talking about what may have happened here.
DEGGANS: I do have to step in. I do have to step in, guys. Guys, I do have to step in. I do have to step in.
We have run out of time. Thank you so much for joining us, Amy Holmes, Erik Wemple.
DEGGANS: This is a spirited discussion and we'll continue it later.
These days, missteps in politicians' personal lives from extramarital affairs to financial troubles almost never escape the media's watchful eye. So, why didn't journalists in mission in Michigan report that a city council candidate was also a convicted murderer until after he won the election? We'll explore that strikeout, next.
DEGGANS: Unless you live in Flint, Michigan's Fifth Ward, you may not have heard of Wantwaz Davis. Voters in the Fifth Ward recently elected him as their representative on the Flint City Council.
But even if you follow local media, there's something about him you might not have learned until after the election. Davis is a convicted murderer. His criminal past wasn't revealed in a local television and newspaper reports before the election, including this article in "The Flint Journal" titled "Everything you need to know about the Fifth Ward Flint City Council race." Well, maybe not everything.
So, how did the Michigan media miss this important fact? And is this the inevitable result of cutbacks in local newsrooms around the country?
Joining us now from East Lansing, Michigan, Vincent Duffy, news director at Michigan Radio and chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Foundation.
And here in Washington, Richard Prince, who covers news about journalists of color in his online column "Journal-isms" at the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
So, you know, as journalists, I think we're used to politicians becoming convicted felons after they get elected, so this is kind of an unusual thing.
Vince, you wrote about this for the RTDNA newsletter. What happened here?
VINCENT DUFFY, MICHIGAN RADIO: Well, this was really a problem of the newspaper to begin with. They just didn't cover it. They had a questionnaire that Wantwaz David filled out and sent in, and that was the basis of everything you need to know article that they had.
And after Mr. Davis was elected, the day after, they published a story that told the voters throughout Flint that, in fact, he was also a convicted killer, something that the voters might have wanted to know perhaps before the election.
DEGGANS: You know, what was interesting to me about this, as you noticed, that his conviction was in his Google results, right? The first page.
DUFFY: Yes --
DEGGANS: Why didn't they just at least Google his name?
DUFFY: I don't know. I mean, the publisher of the -- I'm sorry, the editor of the newspaper Marjorie Reamer (ph), apologized in an article and said that they didn't do a good job, which is a bit of an understatement.
This wasn't heavy investigative work to figure out that he had this conviction and had done prison time. If you Google his name, the lawsuit comes up right away in Google.
There was also a debate that he participated in where the debate moderator introduced him and included this material in his biography and there was a reporter from the "Flint Journal" sitting in the audience at the debate, and they still didn't pick up on it then. DEGGANS: Wow. So, Richard, you know that the story has a racial component because there's apparently at least one Web site that has said that blame black voters for electing two black men who have criminal records.
RICHARD PRINCE, MAYNARD INSTITUTE FOR JOURNALISM EDUCATION: Right.
DEGGANS: But if the local media didn't really report on this, how can you blame the voters?
PRINCE: You can't blame the voters. As a matter of fact, the voters don't really blame the newspapers because they already knew about this, as Vince pointed out. This is good that this segment is coming up after our segment about Martin Bashir, because what's important is not the apology but what you're going to do about it.
And I think this is a fascinating story. The voters elected somebody who had a criminal record. They understood the criminal record. In fact, if you look at the comments on some of the stories, some of them thought this was a good thing because he would be able to relate to his constituents better.
DEGGANS: Right. Well, now, Vince, they didn't just make a mistake with Wantwaz Davis. There was another felon who was elected and two other people with bankruptcies who were elected who also weren't covered.
Does it say something about the city that so many officials with legal problems are getting elected? And are journalists making too much of this?
DUFFY: You know, I don't know what it says about the city. I mean, it's -- the city is under emergency manager because of financial problems. So, the state really has control of it and at the moment, city council doesn't have a whole lot of power, so that may have diminished the number of people that wanted to run for those offices.
But I do think that it's a symptom on the newspaper side and on all of the local media side of what's happening at many small markets and media markets around the country where you have staff cuts at the newspaper and staff cuts at the broadcasting outlets, and reporters being asked to do a lot more these days than just report the news. The newspapers, they are putting up Web sites. They are responsible for taking photos. They have to be on Twitter. They have to be on Facebook.
There's a lot that smaller newsrooms are asked to do and my concern is that this is a symptoms of news just falling through the cracks. Reporters are acting fast and corners are being cut, and in this case, clearly, they didn't even bother to Google the candidates that are running for city council.
DEGGANS: Now, Richard, I'm wondering, does the situation like this present an opportunity for another news outlet? I mean, isn't this the kind of thing that hyper local sites like AOL Patch were created to address in the first place?
PRINCE: Yes. But I think that one of the other problems aside from this -- from the cutback in staff is the cutback in the experience level of the staff. And the story that I was talking about that I think would be fascinating is why is the black community electing people like this as that racist Web site pointed out. We had a situation here in Washington, D.C. where Marion Barry was elected again after his felony.
But apparently this is not a concern. This is actually an asset to people who say we've got problems in the black community and Flint is majority black city, and why is this happening? What is going through voters' minds?
I think that would be a tremendous service not only to people of Flint, Michigan, who need to be introduced to the people in the wider circulation area, but those around the country who will pick up on the story.
DEGGANS: Great. Well, thanks very much for joining us, Vincent Duffy, Richard Prince. We really appreciate having you here.
PRINCE: Thank you.
DUFFY: Thank you.
DEGGANS: The Web site "BuzzFeed" takes a serious turn in the coverage that just might narrow the gender gap and reporting on international issues, when we come back.
DEGGANS: Lists about cats and cool YouTube videos might be its bread and butter but the popular website BuzzFeed is also staking its claim on long form reporting and niche journalism.
A most recent example, hiring Gina Moore as its new international women's rights correspondent. It's a bold and necessary move given the way many media outlets undercover women's issues.
According to a media report from the Media Women's Center, on articles discussing women's rights 64 percent of quotes are from identifiably male sources; just 27 percent feature identifiably women, but there are complications to covering sensitive subjects like rape, abortion and sex trafficking.
Here to discuss the challenges involved, in New York, Lauren Wolfe, director of the Women Under Siege Project at the Women's Media Center, and Miriam Elder, the foreign editor for BuzzFeed, who hired its new women's rights reporters.
So, Miriam, I'll ask you first. Why did BuzzFeed think it was important to have a women's issues correspondent?
MIRIAM ELDER, "BUZZFEED" FOREIGN EDITOR: Aside from the fact that you stated that women's issues tend to be woefully under covered where we're trying out this new approach to international news, where you have regional coverage as well as thematic coverage and we find that you can explore places that might feel alien to many American readers by going in through something that they are incredibly interested in, such as women's rights.
If someone is interested in women's rights in America, the bet is that they'll be interested in women's rights abroad and, again, it's woefully under covered and we're just hoping to jump into that space.
DEGGANS: Now, Lauren, you have done a lot of work on how these issues are covered around the world. Why do so few mainstream media outlets actually take the time and the resources to assign someone to cover these issues?
LAUREN WOLFE, DIRECTOR, WOMEN UNDER SIEGE PROJECT: It's a good question, but I don't think it's hard one to answer. If you look at the Status of Women in Media report that you just had up there, you can see that even on Sunday talk shows like this, 25 percent of the guests are women.
At the top levels, there's maybe 15 percent of women on major media boards; there's just not representation across the board that's equal. We're still fighting what goes on in mainstream society in the media itself, that there's just more interest in coverage of men's issues.
DEGGANS: Now, I'm going to toot our own horn a little bit. In this program, we're going to have more women than 25 percent so --
DEGGANS: -- at least we're getting on the right page.
So, Miriam, I remember "The New York Times" columnist Nick Kristof (ph) had a great book and documentary series called "Half the Sky," saying that oppression of women is the biggest issue in the world that needs to be addressed.
So again, I ask you, why do American media outlets seem to be moving so slowly in covering this story?
ELDER: Well, I do think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that men tend to be in leadership positions. But I think that the way you phrase that question is also interesting.
What we're trying to do is, yes, quote-unquote, "oppression of women" is a majorly under covered story, but what we're going to try to do with this position and with all our foreign reporting is also give some agency to women.
So rather than come at it with a male perspective of, oh, these downtrodden women who aren't really achieving anything, try to focus on the places where advancements are being made and also places where women are just doing things you would expect. And that part is also incredibly under covered because men tend to control the narrative.
So, Lauren, one of the big challenges in a job like this would be interviewing victims of sexual assault and gender-based violence, featuring their stories in ways that don't retraumatize them.
How do you do that -- particularly here in America ,of course, we're very careful about naming victims of sexual assault and gender- based violence.
How do you cover these stories in ways that reveal their problems without retraumatizing the victims?
WOLFE: Right. You know, I certainly have come across that in my work where I'll be looking to interview maybe a survivor of rape at the Syrian border and I've been told that she's already been traumatized by reporters who have come through.
I do think it's important that BuzzFeed is taking the step that all media outlets really move forward in covering these issues, because women don't culturally want to speak to men in a lot of parts of the world. It requires a woman to go in and do this hard work.
You know, and I also think it requires a new perspective from the media that involves all readers. You know, men have empathy for the violence against women. They -- it involves their family members, their community members. It's time to really include men in this conversation as well, and I think that this is a great chance at BuzzFeed to do that.
DEGGANS: Now, Miriam, we only have a little bit of time here. But one thing that some activists on these issues here is that Western media and Westerners just don't understand the cultures in places like Africa or India where this might be a problem.
Can you give a quick answer on how Gina will cover this and respect the local customs as well?
ELDER: Well, Gina has a lot of experience reporting out of Africa in particular for a really long time. And I think it's precisely what you said; it's about being attuned to the local environment and taking into account the concerns of people that are around you.
We're not trying to come in and say, you know, the American way is the right way or the way the U.S. media covers this is the only way. It's all about an exchange of ideas and really listening to the concerns of the people on the ground.
DEGGANS: Well, Lauren Wolfe and Miriam Elder, thank you so much for joining us on RELIABLE SOURCES.
Coming up next, is Bloomberg News afraid of the Chinese government?
DEGGANS: This week Bloomberg News was widely criticized after suspending one of its Hong Kong-based journalists. The journalist, award-winning investigative reporter Michael Forsythe had been working on an investigative series on the financial interests of several Chinese leaders. But multiple media outlets, including "The Financial Times" and "The New York Times" reported that Forsythe's story was pulled by Bloomberg editors. They worried it might spark retribution from Chinese officials, including expulsion from China.
Bloomberg has denied those reports, saying in a statement to CNN, quote, "As we have been very clear, it's absolutely false that we postponed these stories due to internal or external pressure. We believe Bloomberg's reporting in any location should and must be definitive, detailed, transparent and accurate. And these stories were not there yet."
Forsythe said on Twitter that he has left the company and critics fear the episode could incite a larger problem of self-censorship for Bloomberg News.
Joining me now to discuss here in Washington, James Fallows, national correspondent for "The Atlantic."
Now, James, you just got back from China and you were telling me that you think maybe this incident might be coincidental to the Chinese actually cracking down on visas for journalists.
JAMES FALLOWS, "THE ATLANTIC": It's related in time. It's part of one big concern that is connected which is the Chinese government, at a time when it's opening some economic reforms at home, is being much, much tighter, it seems, on foreign criticism of all kind. It's harder for journalists to get visas in there. And there's a sense which the Bloomberg story seems to fit into of the fear of self- censorship, of biting tongues on the part of foreign media, organizations and perhaps universities, too.
DEGGANS: So now, James, does this story, if it's true, does it turn Western media outlets into an adjunct of the Chinese media in a weird way?
Do they wind up echoing the same concerns that the Chinese media have to navigate?
FALLOWS: Well, I think that the Bloomberg case is unusual in that Bloomberg, as we all know, is mainly a financial services company that happens to have a journalistic side business. And until now we generally viewed that as a good thing for Bloomberg's journalism, because they have all these other terminals that are profitable to support this investigative work.
But this suggests that when, if its main business operations in China may be threatened, then the journalism could be sacrificed.
We should note that Bloomberg denies this, although so far the denials have been strong but vague.
FALLOWS: (INAUDIBLE) story what was good enough.
Meanwhile, we have normal news organizations that may feel as if they have to keep fighting to do their stories and to get their visas.
DEGGANS: Well, and to that denial, let's bring in another source here.
Joining us by telephone from China's North Guangdong province, we have Demetri Sevastopulo, a reporter for "The Financial Times," who was covering the story.
So Demetri, as we saw, Bloomberg has insisted that you and "The New York Times" and other news outlets have gotten this wrong; they simply held the story for more work.
Are they lying?
DEMETRI SEVASTOPULO, "THE FINANCIAL TIMES": Let me put it this way. I had several email conversations with Matt Winkler (ph) and I asked him, I said, in a conference call that he had with reporters and editors in Hong Kong, he apparently said that Bloomberg would be kicked out of China if they ran the story.
He said the Communist Party had made it clear that writing about the wealth accumulated by the relatives and the friends at the top Chinese leaders was a no-go area.
He also said that he compared the situation to Nazi Germany when certain media self-censored so that they could stay in Germany to continue reporting on the situation. I asked him in an email point-blank whether he denied any of these things. And he wrote back and said it would be inappropriate to discuss internal conversations.
It suggests to me that they don't have any strong evidence to refute the story, as Jim said. They are saying the only problem was that it wasn't ready to run, but they're not actually tackling the claims made by the reporters and editors who were working on the story.
DEGGANS: Well, Demetri, you're there in China now.
What are the hazards that you face in reporting and what's your sense of the boundaries that you have as a reporter in China to report stories without facing the fear of expulsion?
SEVASTOPULO: In recent years there have actually been very few expulsions. There have been one or two cases. What's more common, I think Jim alluded to a second ago, is that news organizations who fall out of favor with the authorities have more difficulty getting visas for their journalists. Bloomberg has had that problem. "The New York Times," which has also written some very aggressive stories, has had problems.
They've got one reporter in Hong Kong who spent about a year trying to get into the mainland where his family are. And so I think that's one problem.
Also Bloomberg and "The New York Times" are blocked in China. You can't access their websites.
So there are ways the authorities try to make your life more difficult, but in terms of actual expulsions, it's a pretty aggressive move. But the Communist Party in recent years has tended to hold back from doing that because of the negative press they would receive.
DEGGANS: Jim, you look like you want to jump in. We only have about 20 seconds. Can you give us your response.
FALLOWS: Yes, I think the biggest picture here is from a Western perspective the Chinese Communist government is hurting itself by making it so hard for reporters to travel there, because I think Demetri would agree that the -- on balance, the picture from inside China is more positive than negative, but we have the clash of two different views of free expression, one from China and one from the Western world.
DEGGANS: Thank you very much. We appreciate you guys joining us.
It's looking like a banner year for movies with mostly nonwhite casts.
But is Hollywood and the media unfairly marginalizing those films by focusing on the race of the actors? That's next.
DEGGANS: Movies featuring a cast of all black or Latino actors is nothing new. So when "USA Today" tweeted out a link to a story entitled, "'Holiday' Nearly Beats 'Thor' as race-themed films soar," many critics took offense, striking off a heated debate about the difference between a movie with an African-American cast like the "Best Man Holiday" and a movie focused on race such as Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave."
"USA Today" ultimately changed the title to remove the term "race" from the headline, but the damage had already been done.
So when did movies featuring black or Latino actors become a genre?
Here to discuss in Washington, Viviana Hurtado, founding editor of The Wise Latina Club, and a veteran of ABC News and NPR.
And Alyssa Rosenberg, features editor and critic at thinkprogress.org
So Alyssa, you wrote about this, so I'll just ask a simple question: what's wrong with calling a movie that has a predominantly black cast a black movie?
ALYSSA ROSENBERG, FEATURES EDITOR, THINKPROGRESS.ORG: Well, just because a movie has a predominantly black cast doesn't mean that everything that the characters in that movie do is about their blackness.
By contrast, we would never think to call a movie with a predominantly white cast a white-themed movie, even though an indie like Woody Allen's "Blue Jazzman," which is about the way that class reflects race or the action comedy, "The Heat," which is about a large Irish Catholic family in Boston, we've never called those race-themed movies, even though they're much more about race than a romantic comedy like the "Best Man Holiday" or the big hit, "Think Like a Man."
DEGGANS: Well, now, and I'll push back a little bit because don't we think that if we have a movie like "Best Man Holiday," that shows a bunch of black characters who are related to each other, we're seeing dynamics about family, about African-American family, that we wouldn't normally see in a film with all white characters, so doesn't that kind of make it a black movie?
ROSENBERG: Absolutely. I think we should perhaps be more expansive in what we think of as movies about race. But tweeting a movie like the "Best Man Holiday" that inflects interactions that all of us have with race doesn't make that movie primarily a heavy movie about race in the same way that something like "12 Years a Slave" was.
African-Americans living out their daily lives isn't actually strange, it doesn't make a genre picture and that we treat it that way, I think, drives audiences who should like those movies away from them. I think that's unfortunate.
DEGGANS: So Viviana, earlier this year we saw an independent Mexican film, "Instruction Not Included," shatter box office records. It became the highest-grossing Spanish language film in America, despite playing on a limited number of screens.
So why didn't Hollywood see this coming and what's the lesson they can learn about its success?
VIVIANA HURTADO, FOUNDING EDITOR, THE WISE LATINA CLUB: Well, I think it says a lot about the mentality of Hollywood and the power structure in Hollywood. What's really interesting about this is, you know, the media, certainly television and movie, is centered in Hollywood. That's in L.A., which is arguably one of the most Latino, particularly Mexican-American communities in the country.
And that is leading all kinds of firsts. You see Mayor Villaraigosa, for example; you see Latinos in positions of power at every level.
And yet in the media world, particularly in Hollywood world, you don't see that. The higher up you go in the power structure, it's increasingly white, it's increasingly male, so it's not just a question that these executives, these agents, these executive producers, these studio heads aren't reading the U.S. Census data.
Which I kind of do that every once in a while but I'm a little bit unusual in that sense. It's the fact that they're just not seeing the world around them, because again, they're living in L.A.
ROSENBERG: And I don't even know if you have to read the census data. If you go to the box office every weekend, every time you have a well-crafted film that is aimed at Latino audiences, that's aimed at African-American audiences, people turn out for it.
But I think there's a real investment in seeing these movies as flukes and then seeing the kind of actors who carry these movies, like Kevin Hart, Romany Malco, as flukes because then you don't have to invest serving that audience and you don't have to go looking for talent in different places.
I think that treating these movies like surprises is a way of keeping certain processes and certain assumptions in place. DEGGANS: Well, I was going to ask about that because "The Hollywood Reporter" had an interesting story about the fact that black-centered films like "Best Man Holiday," "12 Years a Slave," "Fruitville Station," "The Butler," they have huge wide audiences.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure.
DEGGANS: And we saw even a year ago, black-themed films that didn't get -- didn't do so well. So is it that white audiences are coming around, too? Or what's flipping the switch here? And is it just a fluke or is it something that's going to continue further?
ROSENBERG: You know, I think it would have been interesting to see that piece take a little bit more of a historical perspective, because I don't think African-American audiences made Sidney Poitier a huge movie star on its own.
But, you know, I think that people have underestimated the extent to which white audiences have an interest in movies about black issues.
When a young man like Oscar Grant is shot on a BART subway platform, that isn't an issue that is exclusive to African-American voters. That's an issue that concerns all citizens. It's not just white people who have an interest in grappling with, you know, (INAUDIBLE) it's not African-American audiences who have a sole interest in grappling with the legacy of slavery.
"12 Years a Slave" is a remarkable movie because it's as much about whiteness as it is about blackness. These are movies that serve all of us.
HURTADO: And so then the question becomes, how outdated, how retro is the -- you know, are the people in positions of power that are deciding what movies get green lighted, what casts are formed and how is this advertised, where are movie theaters being built, for example?
DEGGANS: Exactly. Well, I was going to ask about that, because if population trends continue, we're going to see the prime demographic for advertisers be mostly Latino in just a few years.
How can media reach this group?
How can people who make movies and television reach this group?
HURTADO: I think going forward, I am a big believer that if there are opportunities that are given at the very top, if we're able to create pipelines in executive suites, for example, if you're able to create pipelines to make people of color, get them behind the camera as directors and executive producers, if you start making those decisions now, creating that pipeline, it's going to create, it's going to have to create and yield results in the very near future.
DEGGANS: Viviana Hurtado and Alyssa Rosenberg, thank you so much for joining us on RELIABLE SOURCES.
So that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Eric Deggans of NPR.
If you have any suggestions or comments, you can tweet us at CNNReliable, use the hashtag #reliable. If you missed any of today's program, you can find it on iTunes. Join us here again next Sunday morning at 11:00 am Eastern. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.