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Inside The Trump White House As The American Death Toll Rises; Crazy Conspiracy Talk On One Of Trump's Favorite Channels; The Business Of News During A National Emergency; "Up All Night" Tells The Story Of CNN's Launch; Trump Versus Voice Of America, A Federally Funded News Outlet. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 10, 2020 - 11:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Thanks to all of you for being a part of this "GPS" special. I will see you next week and every week at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on Sundays, right here on CNN.


BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, happy -- a very happy Mother's Day to you and yours. I'm Brian Stelter live in New York, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.

We're going to show you how vile and dangerous coronavirus conspiracy theories are spreading on cable television and talk about why President Trump continues to promote this particular channel.

On a happier note, we're going to speak with the CEO of "The New York Times" about how some newspapers are weathering the coronavirus storm.

And since it is Mother's Day, we're going to introduce you to a Wisconsin mom and her two daughters who are keeping journalism alive from their home with a brand-new online newspaper.

We have some great guests standing by. Maggie Haberman, Oliver Darcy, Catherine Rampell and many more.

But, first, let's talk about the big picture of this global pandemic. Reporters and historians like to refer to the big picture. They say zoom out, what's the big picture view?

Well, this current crisis is so big, it feels almost impossible to zoom all the way out. But that's why it's so important to try. One way is by reaching for comparisons, but the current unemployment rate is the highest in living memory. There's nothing to compare it to unless you were alive during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"The New York Times" tried to capture the staggering number on their Saturday front page by taking over the right side, showing the chart, showing the dramatic change in employment by taking up the front page that way.

Look, it's a time to be creative, to try new ways to tell these stories because the economic crisis and health crisis are both daunting. The death toll in the U.S. is nearing 80,000. Those are the cases we know about. Most experts believe there's an undercount.

We're talking about more fatalities than during the Vietnam War or any terror attack in the U.S. or any hurricane in modern history, and while grounding in the horrors of the past helps us see the magnitude of what's happening right now, COVID-19 is different. Hurricanes hit but they run out of energy. Wars rage but they're eventually resolved.

Right now, there have so many unknown variables, so much unknown about this pandemic, it's impossible to know when it will be over, but still, we reach for comparisons. Think about Hurricane Katrina, where at least 1, 800 people died along the gulf coast. This week, there was a daily average of 1900 deaths a day.

So basically, one Hurricane Katrina every day. And again, just like with Hurricane Katrina, that's only an estimate. We still don't know exactly how many people died from Katrina. We probably won't know exactly how many people die from COVID-19, but there are some commonalities of the federal government's failures in responding.

But, you know, let's just think about this -- between 1,000 and 2,000 deaths a day. It's as if ten planes crash every day and we just expect it to happen tomorrow. It's as if New Orleans floods every day and we just assume it's going to happen again tomorrow.

This brings us to the president and the leadership we're seeing or the lack of leadership from the federal government. There are some attempts now to downplay what is happening or normalize what is happening. You know, as we saw this week, the president talking about maybe shuttering his coronavirus task force, then saying he's not going to do that. We're not seeing daily briefings by the task force. We're not getting the kind of national data we need from the government.

And we're seeing some allegations of the administration retaliating against whistleblowers who are speaking out trying to call attention to some of these failures.

It's a frightening time. We have seen these attempts to hold information back, to block public disclosure about coronavirus supplies, for example, and we have seen this attempt to bury a detailed guy from the CDC about reopening the country.

Of course, when the "A.P." came out with the scoop, they said, oh, it was a draft, it was a rough draft, we're still working on it. OK, can we see it tomorrow? Can we see it on Tuesday?

Why does it feel like the government is withholding information in the midst of a crisis the size of which we have never seen? The data is important. The numbers are important.

The death toll isn't something to just be downplayed. It's not something we can hide from, even if it is gut-wrenching to hear about every day. It's like New Orleans floods every day. It's like the planes go into the towers every day. And to look away or

act like it's now normal or acceptable is a disgrace to the victims.


It's so disappointing to look at what we're seeing from right-wing media these days where there's such an obsession with the deep state and these revelations about the Russia probe and the decision about Michael Flynn. They're treating the Michael Flynn story like it's a bigger deal than the deaths of 2,000 Americans are day. We're seeing this on "Fox and Friends" and other shows.

But when the president called into "Fox and Friends" the other morning, Friday morning, right before the unemployment rate numbers came out, he talked about the Flynn case for 20 minutes before he was asked about the pandemic. In what right mind is any scandal, any political scandal, any Department of Justice story more important to ask the president about than the pandemic that's raging?

Look, ultimately, that's about news judgment, about lack of judgment, but I find it befuddling that some people are acting like this death toll is just normal and accepted and common and just another day now. Imagine if 1,000 to 2,000 Americans were dying a day from terror attacks. Imagine the president's response.

All right. That's where we start. That's how I'm feeling. I would love to know how you're feeling. Send me a note on bstelter@gmail.

And I want to bring in the first of my many guests this hour to talk about this news and how it's being processed inside the White House and well-beyond. Maggie Haberman is here with me, the Pulitzer Prize- winning White House correspondent for "The New York Times."

Maggie, I'm curious for your impressions of what the president's approach has been. You know, he has been tweeting up a storm as he often does many weekends, comparing the pandemic to the H1N1 outbreak of the Obama years. We can put the chart up on screen that shows -- well, it's an awful number of death from H1N1 but how the current pandemic is at a much more severe scale, of course.

But the president's trying to promote the idea that H1N1 was a unique disaster and he's doing a much better job now with COVID-19. Your reaction? Your reporting?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, Brian, the president's actions are pretty apparent. People are familiar with what they are at this point. He has often tried to deflect attention onto his predecessor or predecessors to suggest that what he's doing is better than them.

So, this is not a surprising tack that he's taking. He repeatedly points to the limited travel ban at the end of January, which, you know, was draconian, but likely effective to some extent.

The problem it was essentially his mission accomplished moment and he basically didn't do anything for the month of February, including into the months of March when he was downplaying it and even planning rallies for his campaign for later that month.

Look, the president often struggles with projecting empathy, and I don't even know if he struggles. I don't think he wants to. I think he thinks empathy is a sign of weakness. It's antithetical to what any politician does, and I think you have a president who likes to fight with people, so when you have a president who likes to fight with people and likes to be in fights, when he's at the podium and talking to the public or when he's on Twitter and talking to the public, that's what he's projecting.

And all that does is add to anxiety for a public that is not -- not feeling comfortable right now as much as officials, including the president, want to take measures to reopen the economy, to reopen states, and that is understandable. A lot of people are hurting. But people have to feel comfortable that they're going to be safe when they go out, and the president is really failing in that regard to make people feel safer.

STELTER: To that point about what we know and about the data about whether it is safe to start to resume normal activities, is it your impression the White House is trying to keep some of this data in quarantine. This CDC draft, for example, that perhaps was stopped by the White House?

HABERMAN: Look, the staff of the CDC is clearly in revolt against its own leadership and against the White House. There are folks in the task force including Dr. Birx, who questioned some of the data that have come out of the CDC, that's our reporting, "The Washington Post's" reporting yesterday as well. So I think it's a little more complicated. I do think the desire from the White House is not to make public the most negative potential data that has been the issue the whole time.

Brian, I have talked repeatedly in interviews about how the best moment for the president when he was doing those briefings that went downhill pretty fast is when he went out, went to the podium, and said to people, there's going to be a very painful two weeks. That was when he talked about the prospect in that modeling of 100,000 to I think 240,000 deaths, a marker that might get hit still. He was telling the truth. He was being candid.

That's what we expect leaders to do when the kind of thing is happening. I understand that he gets frustrated because everything has turned into an up/down referendum on him.


He certainly does that too. We expect leaders to be honest with the public during moments like this, during national disasters or tragedies or attacks. And that has not been his impulse.

STELTER: I keep wondering where the national addresses are, where are the addresses to the nation, where the speeches from the oval office. That's the kind --

HABERMAN: Why would you want that after the one Oval Office response we got I guess would be the one thing that I would say in response to that. He was not good at that format. He did the second one that he's ever done on March 11th, and it was filled with errors. He didn't look comfortable.

So I'm not sure that that actually calms the nation either. Look, he can't be someone he isn't, right, but what he could do is continue turning that presentation over to Mike Pence.

The problem is, Mike Pence was getting praise and attention for how he was doing at the podium, and the president's advisers, two of them, anyway, wanted the president to come in and take over once that happened. The president is not great at sort of controlling himself depending on what setting he's in, and he's just treated these as if they're rallies or as if they were any other appearance.

And so, I'm not sure that giving that kind of address to the nation in the Oval Office is something he could do, and I'm not even sure it's something folks should want him to do, given how the last ones have gone.

STELTER: And now, the rallies are taking the form of "Fox and Friends" phone calls and his tweets. The other day on Twitter, he implied that MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough is a murderer, and nobody even reacted.

I know that, you know, we have talked for three years about not getting num to these things, but I'm feeling pretty numb right now, Maggie.

HABERMAN: Look, I think of all the things that the president is doing right now, I mean, with all due respect to everyone on that tweet, what's more important is how he's handling the economy and how he's handling the general public. So he says things on Twitter all the time that no other president would have whispered let alone done with a bull horn.

I hear you on folks not becoming numb, but I think folks also need to keep their eye on the ball and the ball at the moment is what's happening with the rest of the country.

STELTER: Yes. Maggie, thank you very much.

Let me bring in "Washington Post" columnist and CNN political commentator Catherine Rampell on the point about the economy and the staggering levels of unemployment that we are now seeing in the data. We have known it for more than a month. People are feeling it. Now the data is bearing it out.

Catherine, I just wonder if you have thoughts on how we can make these painful numbers digestible and comprehensible to people?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's really challenging. I mean, the official number for unemployment was 23 million people, but that excluded a lot of people who probably should have been counted, people who have given up looking. They don't get counted. People who have had their hours cut and want to be working full time, but now they're now working part-time, et cetera.

So even if it's only 23 million people, that's mind-bogglingly huge. The way I have been trying to understand this is through the kinds of comparisons you talked about earlier. Things like 23 million people is the equivalent of every man, woman, and child in the state of Florida suddenly -- you know, having looking for work or having been working and suddenly having lost their jobs, or we have wiped out all of the job gains that the economy has created going back to 2011.

Or if you want to drill down into a specific industry, like leisure and hospitality, President Trump's own industry. They lost almost half of their jobs overnight. And they wiped out all of the job gains going back to 1988.

So I think those are the kinds of comparisons that we need to be offering to just help people wrap their minds around the level of devastation there is.

STELTER: Yes, when we're in an environment where it's all unprecedented, the challenge for journalists is even harder.

And look, we have to rise to that challenge. That's what it's all about. Writing and communicating is essential in this moment.

RAMPELL: Yes, I absolutely agree. And finding ways to make this feel real to people, I mean, a lot of people obviously have been directly touched by the extent of the pandemic, the extent of the economic devastation, but because we're all quarantined and we're all separate from one another, it can be hard to really, you know, understand how to visualize what all of these problems are.

And I think the numbers are important in telling that story. Telling the actual stories of real people is critical right now. So it doesn't seem so abstract. I think the best economic stories in particular match up the real statistics with the human stories.

STELTER: Catherine, thank you so much. Great to see you.

Coming up this hour, escalating tensions between the U.S. and China, with journalists caught in the middle.

Plus, a rare interview with "New York Times" CEO Mark Thompson.

But, first, right after this break, we're going to talk to you about a small cable channel that is influencing what President Trump thinks and hears and is spreading absolutely crazy conspiracy theories. We're going to show you in a moment.



STELTER: News is in high demand right now, but so are sick and vile conspiracy theories. And where there's demand, there's supply.

Have you heard of One America News?

It's a small but loud right-wing channel that's frequently promoted by President Trump. He touts OAN on Twitter all the time, right along with Fox News. He takes questions from OAN's person at the press briefings even though that person was expelled from the briefing rotation because she was violating social distancing guidelines.

So, OAN, it doesn't have high ratings. In fact, it's not rated by Nielsen at all, so it's pretty small, but it's getting a huge megaphone thanks in part to the president.


So, that's why this next point matters. This is one of the most heinous things I have ever seen on television. What OAN was showing viewers in recent days, a crazy conspiracy theory -- that's the only word for it, crazy -- a crazy conspiracy theory.

Let's keep going. I don't want to the old, let show the new video of what was broadcast recently. On Friday, as was re-airing, it's on YouTube, an entire segment, a crazy segment, claiming the Clintons and George Soros and Bill Gates and Anthony Fauci and all these people are into this plot to hurt people, to maybe establish sweeping population control.

Look at the banner. It says population control through COVID-19.

That is crazy. It's dangerous. But it's broadcast on cable. It might be broadcast into your home, and it's up on YouTube right now from a former Russian propagandist, OK? And this is the kind of channel the president promotes all the time.

Now, I spoke with two people from OAN, from One America News, who are just as embarrassed by the video as I am. They say they don't want their name attached to it. They don't want to work at a channel that broadcasts those kinds of lies. But there it is on YouTube right now.

So, let's talk about it and other COVID-19 conspiracy theories with Oliver Darcy, CNN's senior media reporter, just wrote a new story about OAN and its influence. Renee DiResta is also here, she's a disinformation researcher. She works at the Stanford Internet Observatory. And Brendan Nyhan is here, a political science professor at Dartmouth.

Oliver, OAN, I hate talking about this crazy lie they're spreading, but it's happening. The only way to try to expose it is to talk about it and explain why it's so crazy. Do you think there's any chance, any, any responsibility, any accountability in this case?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: I doubt it. I mean, if you look at what the kind of content this outlet has pushed in the past, this is just really run of the mill for them. You know, they kind of mask a lot of their content by running "Reuters" and "Associated Press" packages throughout the day. You can pay for those and run their content.

STELTER: Just straight news. Yeah.

DARCY: If you look at the kind of content that OAN produces and the people they hire, they have hired well-known right-wing conspiracy theorists, very prominent conspiracy theories. No secret to the kind of content they promote, and they run packages like the one there. The bigger problem is not almost what they're running but the fact that the president of the United States is promoting this channel during a public health emergency.

When people need accurate information, the president of the United States is promoting this channel. They're promoting other things as well. Bad drug treatments, you know, all sorts of conspiracy theory about Bill Gates, but the president is effectively endorsing this messaging during a public health emergency.

Brian, if you took the president's advice and watched the channel and tuned in to the news he wants you to, you would end up with a very twisted, frankly, Frankenstein image of America, and I can only think that he does this because it benefits him politically, but it's certainly not good for the national discourse, and again, it's important to stress that during a health emergency, people should be watching and consuming credible news information, not these crazy conspiracy theories.

STELTER: And so, let's zoom out beyond this one idea of population control. There's other COVID-19 theories out there. There's death toll denialism going on, there's anti-vaccine messaging going on.

Help us connect the dots, Renee DiResta, between these. What we're seeing is this amalgamation of QAnon believers, and anti-vaccination activists, and now, these COVID conspiracy theorists.

RENEE DIRESTA, STANFORD INTERNET OBSERVATORY RESEARCH MANAGER: Yes, so there's nothing new about conspiracies popping up during an epidemic, right? It's remarkable to see it on American media, but it's not new. I think what we see with the others, though, is they're really spread virally from person to person. People don't really know what to trust right now. They're not getting good information from the government. The government doesn't even have good information because the disease is so new.

And you see a lot of the appeal is people wanting to inform their community. So when they see a slickly produced conspiracy theory video like the ones making the rounds on social media over the last few days, they're inclined to share it. They think, this is a researcher telling me a truth that resonates with something I want to believe, so I'm going to share it.

And the way that the pipeline works is anti-vaccine activists, there's a lot of them in the QAnon community is shared to the antivax pages and groups. Most of the QAnon pages and groups moves to the reopen pages groups. Whenever you have that overlap on social channels, you do start to see things move through communities one after another after another. And that's how they go viral.

STELTER: Brendan, add on to that, you know, why -- why at a gut level to people want to believe in conspiracy theories?

BRENDAN NYHAN, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, DARTMOUTH COLLEGE: It seems to be appealing to believe that someone is pulling the strings.

[11:25:01] That may be less scary than thinking that there are these unpredictable risks out there that none of us can control. And, of course, there is this information vacuum that Renee is describing. It's hard for anyone to make sense of what's going on, and these conspiracy theories provide a simple story.

So, it's not surprising people might want to share them, but what's worrisome is when those move from the fringe into the mainstream in the way Oliver was describing, and in that process, potentially put us all at risk. There have always been conspiracy theories but these might undermine the public health measures that we need everyone to undertake to protect us.

We are in this together. If people believed in a 9/11 conspiracy theory, it didn't put my family and your family's health at risk, but this one might, and that is very worrisome to me to see media amplifying those kinds of dangerous claims.

STELTER: Renee, how are the social platforms handling this? They got attention in March for being proactive and taking down disinformation related to the virus. Are they still on top of it or are they starting to flag? What's going on?

DIRESTA: There's a real challenge with -- there's a pipeline happening here. So, YouTube is where a lot of the videos are emerging from. There's a lot of creators on YouTube who produce them, and then very deliberately, they're shared to Facebook.

Some of the recent one that went viral was actually organized as a book marketing campaign.

So, what's happening is the platforms are struggling to figure out what is health misinformation and what is a political opinion. When the YouTube video is titled Dr. So-and-so takes down Fauci, that's not vaccines cause autism. That's a different angle that kind of crosses into that gray area where they're trying to decide what to take down.

The other problem is if YouTube takes it down but it's been uploaded to Facebook organically so it's local to Facebook, then Facebook has to decide what to do about it as well. So, you have these gaps in enforcement, these gaps in the areas where the platforms decide this is going to come down, this is not going to come down, and sometimes the discrepancy or the takedown after the fact where it's massively viral on one platform, means there's a second order wave of complaints about the conspiracy to sensor. So, that's one of the challenges that the platforms have to deal with right now.

STELTER: And oftentimes it's really on the fringe that gets removed, then gets the attention of Fox News which is much more mainstream because of the censorship complaint.


STELTER: I wonder, Brendan, what you make of Fox News stars who are out there encouraging people to resume their normal lives, get back to work, while broadcasting from their homes, staying at home? NYHAN: Yeah, I think you should watch what people do and not what they

say. I think there are a lot of people sitting in their houses on webcams telling everyone they should go back out and resume their lives. And that's cheap talk from elites who aren't frontline workers, who aren't in essential roles that put them at risk.

I think it's really being tossed off casually in an irresponsible manner. I think, you know, what's right to do is hard to know. But I think people are being very casual with the stakes right now, right?

People are dying, in the thousands. We're already over the totals for the Vietnam War. So, you know, this is just different than the kind of conspiracy content that Fox was running prior to this pandemic. The stakes are higher in a direct way for everybody.

STELTER: The stakes are so high.

Brendan and Renee, thank you very much.

Oliver, please stick around.

Since we were talking about Fox, I want to make a full disclosure. This week, I announced my forthcoming book about Fox News in the Trump era. The title is "Hoax". It comes out in August, and you can order it right now at

Up next here, and speaking of publishing, the printing presses of "The New York Times" continue to roll on, but how is the virus affecting the business of news? Will your favorite paper be around at the end of this pandemic? The CEO of the times is coming up next.



STELTER: Now, to the business of news during a national emergency. Attention is up, interest is up, subscriptions are up, but ad revenue is down, way down at newspapers, television networks, etcetera. So how is this affecting news coverage? How are outlets at the New York Times weathering the storm?

Let's ask Mark Thompson. He's the president and CEO of the New York Times Company which reported earnings a few days ago. Mark in your quarterly earnings report, ad revenue plummeted and you said that you expect revenue to fall 50 percent, ad revenue to fall 50 percent in the -- in the three months that we're now experiencing. How is the New York Times keep --


STELTER: Go ahead.

THOMPSON: We're seeing a really -- a really big -- we think transition to advertising. The explanation is very straightforward, which is -- which is the massive, the almost the kind of medically induced coma which so much of the economy has gone into has a direct effect on advertising.

STELTER: Is this happening across the board? It's not certainly not just New York Times. It's because companies are closed, that there's nothing to advertise, right? Exactly -- that's exactly right. The key thing about the New York Times though, is advertising nowadays, was once in the golden age of print more than 80 percent of company's revenue. Now, it's less than a quarter.

And the subscription business is -- and the audience story is just very, very different. It's -- there we're seeing really quite astonishing growth.

STELTER: So when I worked in the New York Times a long time ago, and you started digital subscriptions, I was pretty skeptical, I have to admit. But you've now gained 6 million subscribers, mostly digital subscribers. What about smaller papers because they're certainly not doing as well as that?


THOMPSON: Well, I want to say I think moments like this, this extraordinary and terrible experience, which this country and the world is going through is a moment for news organizations and newspapers to find audiences and prove the value of trustworthy news. And you know, we're finding by the million new readers for the New York Times right now.

And I think that if papers have got enough, in a sense enough cash on hand to keep going through the crisis, I think they can build audiences and build loyalty and build recognition. And I also think it's a great time to innovate. We're hiring still. we're still developing our digital products. We're still increasing the size of our newsroom, because we think that the end is the heart of a successful business model.

Clearly, advertising is tough now, and I think anyway, advertising was looking suspect as a way for paying quality -- paying for quality news. So, I would say to newspapers and news organizations of all sizes, it's a -- I think it's a good time to start looking at the future and trying to develop and implement the future now, so that once we come out of this terrible virus, you'll be ready for the future. And I do except for, particularly for local newspapers, that's a very, very big ask.

STELTER: So certainly, the dynamic is accelerating changes in the news business, the way it's going to accelerate, you know, changes in our commutes and our lifestyles and all the rest. That's interesting. But I just wonder about these local papers that have furloughed staffers, laid-off staffers, required pay cuts as a result of the pandemic, is that something that you've been able to avoid at The Times?

THOMPSON: Yes, completely, so far. We said in our earnings call we might see a comparatively small number of job losses over this next period. Small meaning, really a very small percentage of the -- of the total. And in key areas like journalism and those critical digital product functions engineering, data science, we're going to go on hiring.

I recognize that it's very hard for other media players, but I have to say, if it's humanly possible, this is the moment when the world needs great journalism, it needs newsrooms working 24/7. It needs -- it needs journalism now. And it's the moment to prove the importance and the value of journalism.

So if there's any way of keeping the journalism going, the public I think will thank everyone -- will thank every local newspaper which can stand by its community through this period. I think we'll be thanked by that community.

STELTER: That's a great point. And then if you want to help your local paper, you can help it survive by subscribing. Real quick, Mark. I know they're been talking about you transitioning and maybe stepping down as CEO this year. Have you delayed that because of the pandemic?

THOMPSON: Nothing to say about that, except to say that one thing that we really believe in is the momentum of what we're doing. We've been really growing this business, changing this business, and we want to carry on with the momentum of that.

So we really focus on succession planning for everyone, for my job for the -- for the publisher, for the editor for all of the top team. And what that means is, when it's time to make a change, you're ready and you can pass the baton without losing a beat in terms of the momentum of the business.

STELTER: That's the goal, certainly. Mark, thank you very much. Good to see you.

THOMPSON: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Now, from the business of newspapers and online news, to the business of cable news. This channel, CNN, it's about to turn 40 years old. These are some images from the launch of CNN in 1980. June 1st is actually the anniversary, really the birth of 24/7 T.V. news, and it's been going ever since.

Right now, we're living through one of the most important moments in CNN history, but my next guest Lisa Napoli says this channel almost never happened, almost never launched at all. Napoli's brand new book is titled Up All Night: Ted Turner, CNN, and the Birth of 24 Hour News. She recounts how Ted Turner's vision sparked a media revolution. And Lisa is joining me now.

Lisa, you and I have been friends for a long time, you've been a mentor to me. I've known you since the late 1990s when you were covering the internet, the dawn of the internet age. But in the 80s, you were an intern at CNN. So why did you decide to go back to the history now? And is it really true CNN almost didn't make it at all?

LISA NAPOLI, AUTHOR, "UP ALL NIGHT": That's the most amazing story. Yes. And I decided to go back to the history because I wanted people your age to understand -- and people my age and older to understand how we got in this crazy time that we're in right now. I don't mean the pandemic, but I mean in 24-hour news.

My last book was about Ray Kroc and the making of fast food and McDonald's and I'm just really fascinated by origin stories. And it seems like the 40th anniversary was a really interesting time to look at Ted Turner and the merry band of misfits who he assembled back in 79, 80 before there was cable or as cable was just burgeoning, as satellites were coming up. Everything was changing.

And it's such a fascinating moment in time, especially when you think of all the obstacles they encountered along the way. The satellite went missing, money dried up, the club -- the country club they were retrofitting almost didn't get done in time. There were all sorts of obstacles along the way.

And all those haters of CNN out there who I saw on Twitter this morning, when you tweeted that I was coming on the show, I want them to read this book too because they would be very surprised at Ted Turner's politics and the idea that this wasn't all sprouted from some great conspiracy to dominate the airwaves in a liberal sense. So I think that --


STELTER: But you know, when I read -- when I read Up All Night, which officially comes out on Tuesday, I came away thinking CNN helped create the idea of news junkies. Because once there was 24/7 news, there could be such a thing as a news junkie. Now that could be good, that could be bad, it is what it is, but Is that a fair takeaway?

NAPOLI: Absolutely. In fact, you when you were a kid, were watching three TVs at once because you could because there was cable and there were different channels that you could see. I know because I used to be on MSNBC and that's how you found me.

STELTER: That's right.

NAPOLI: But back before that, my father in Brooklyn, may he rest in peace, he was sitting around in Brooklyn reading six or eight newspapers a day or a week at least and listening to all news radio. So news junkies existed. People love the news.

But there was something about the acceleration. And that was what Reese Schonfeld, the founding president of CNN envisioned. He wanted people to follow as the story developed, not just right to hear the story at 6:30 at night when they came home from work and sat in front of the evening news.

STELTER: You know, we have our flaws for sure. We have our flaws for sure. But I love about your book is it reminds us that the potential of this medium. You wrote on page 123 that Ted Turner believe one of the reasons why America had so many problems in the 70s and the 80s was because his fellow Americans were so ill-informed.

He said, "There was no better place to promote a variety of opinions than on all mighty television. With a news channel, he could quite possibly help save the world." That's pretty ambitious, but he was a pretty ambitious fellow, so I'm glad he tried.

NAPOLI: Well, and it seems quaint and retro now to say that. But if you step back to 1980, and that's what I tried to do, actually, to 1970 and even before that, I look at the evolution of television news, and how Ted and all the people who joined him got this idea. And it really was a marriage of technology that allowed all of this to happen at that moment in time. Someone else have done it if they hadn't done it then.

But it was his vision and he really did have this grand grandiose plan of saving the world, of uniting the world. And of course, you know, we could sit here -- sit here and talk all day about how it also destroyed a lot too, but it's a really interesting story and I'm honored to have been able to tell it. It's a fascinating slice of American history.

STELTER: If Ted is watching right now, I'll say -- I'll say thank you, Ted Turner. Thank you, Reese, as well. Lisa, thank you. Thanks for being here. The book is titled Up All Night. It comes out on Tuesday. You can order it online. For more from Lisa, check out our RELIABLE SOURCES podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Up next here on the program, President Trump escalating his feud with the federally funded news outlet Voice of America. Plus, a shake-up at NBC. What happened? We'll have the details next.



STELTER: At noon Eastern Time, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to hold his daily press briefing on the coronavirus crisis. You'll see it live here on CNN when it happens. We're turning to RELIABLE SOURCES now. Three big media stories you should know about in the week ahead.

First, Andy Lack, the chairman of NBC News and MSNBC stepped down last week or about a week ago this point out rather suddenly running NBC News and MSNBC. He was expected to retire toward the end of this year. Now he's leaving this month. Let me bring Oliver Darcy back to discuss this and more.

So, Oliver, on the same day of Lack's departure was announced and Cesar Conde is taking over for him running the news assets at NBC Universal. There are these reports about the New York Attorney General's Office investigating NBC News, investigating the complaints about sexual harassment and retaliation at the news division.

Now, there's no reason to believe that his departure is a link to that probe, but it is notable that the AG's office won't confirm or deny if the probe is still going on.

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes. And what's also interesting is the NBC management, you know, stresses that they have no idea about this probe. So you know, you have the A.G. which has apparently interviewed a number of people, but NBC management says they don't know about it. So it's really unclear at what stage it is. Is it still ongoing, is it wrapped up? We don't really know. We don't have answers.

STELTER: Yes. You know, Lack had a lot of accomplishments when he was running the news division. It's number one in the ratings in a lot of different ways. However, the Ronan Farrow issue, with Harvey Weinstein Farrow claiming a cover up by NBC News, and Lack. That really did stain Lack's tenure as the chairman of NBC News.

Our next story is notable because there could be some movement in the coming days about President Trump in his disdain for Voice of America. But remind us all. Voice of America is a federally funded government news operation. So this is the president who has lately been attacking something he funds.

DARCY: Right. And you see a real back and forth between the Voice of America and the president. Most recently, there is this skirmish between the White House reporter and Pence's office where he -- Pence's office was upset about a tweet from this reporter and initially appeared to take some action against the reporter but pulled back. So there's this back and forth going on.

It seems that the President really wants this person overseeing the parent organization of this media outlets maybe to control what they're doing or at least rein him in a little bit. That's unclear, but you definitely --

STELTER: Yes. Here's the headline from the New York Times to explain to people. The President's pushing for the Senate to install this contentious filmmaker, as The Time says. His name is Michael Pack.

He's a Steve Bannon ally. And the President has been trying for years to get him installed as the head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which is the group that then sends money to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe and all these different U.S. government funded entities.

It's frustrating for the staff of VOA because these are just journalists trying to report fairly and accurately around the world. But the President is out there basically saying they're pro-China, and saying that they should be doing propaganda for the U.S., and that's not the role of Voice of America.


DARCY: Right. And again, to not hop on it too much, but it would bring a little more true as criticism if you weren't promoting an outlet that had suggested that the virus started in North Carolina, right? So you know, he's promoting one outlet that's pushing these crazy conspiracy theories that he would say is Chinese propaganda while attacking another.

STELTER: Yes, indeed. By the way, there is a Senate committee hearing about Pack's nomination that's coming up. That's the new developments that we'll be keeping an eye on. And then finally, another story involving the United States and China. There's been this back and forth for months now, this clash between the U.S. State Department and the Chinese officials over journalists being able to access these two countries.

Chinese officials kicked out reporters from the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and other outlets has been this back and forth. The latest headline now this weekend is that the US is announcing new visa restrictions on Chinese journalists who are in the United States. So this back and forth between two superpowers and its reporters who just want to do their job who were stuck in the middle.

DARCY: Right. And while the U.S. is obviously not expelling these journalists like China did, it's still reminiscent, the move that they're making, from you know, governments that aren't as open as the U.S. says it is. So you know, it's not as bad as what China has obviously done to the U.S., but it's still reminiscent of what you would see around the world from governments that don't like a free press.

STELTER: Yes. Some Chinese state-run news outlet produced propaganda, anti-American propaganda. There's no disputing that. Some of them, you know, are able to be here in the United States and benefit from the fact that we have a free press and the First Amendment is contrary. But that is a side effect of having a free press. So we'll keep an eye on this clash between the two countries.

Oliver, thank you very much. Oliver and I produce our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter which you can sign up for free right now. You go to You can get on the list for our nightly newsletter with all the day's media tech and culture news.

A quick break here on the program, and then a way to acknowledge Mother's Day, a way to thank all the moms out there. We're going to introduce you to one mom who's showing us it's never too young to start learning how to be a reporter.



STELTER: On this Mother's Day, here's a kid-friendly activity for families who are staying at home during the pandemic, start an online newspaper. Here's an idea. You can see some young journalists have been hard at work actually all across the country producing their own first drafts of history at home. Thanks to the web, it's easier than ever to do it.

So I want to introduce you to heroic mom and former English teacher, Claire Lundgren, who has been putting together something she calls The Quarantine Times with her daughters Claire and Rachel. This paper covers everything from the pet side view of the quarantine to local chalk art.

The fourth edition of the quarantine times came out today or came out recently and it includes some Mother's Day tributes. So let's bring in Laura, Claire, and Rachel from their home. Laura, what gave you the idea to do this? LAURA LUNDGREN, MOTHER AND EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE QUARANTINE TIMES: Brian, as I was watching things get canceled, I just realized kids don't have much to look forward to. And I knew people were going to be lonely and really isolated and I thought this would be a great communication piece between kids at home and people in the community.

STELTER: Claire, what have you learned so far about being a reporter?

CLAIRE LUNDGREN, STARTED ONLINE NEWSPAPER WITH MOM: I learned that you have to work very hard and make sure you got everything right before you publish.

STELTER: It doesn't get more important than that. You've already got it down. Rachel, what about you? What's the -- what's your favorite thing you've written or produced for The Quarantine Time so far?

L. LUNDGREN: Writing about your fictional friends?



STELTER: So four issues down, many more to go.

L. LUNDGREN: That's right.

STELTER: And where can people find it? How will they read it?

L. LUNDGREN: You can read it on our Facebook page at the Quarantine Times WI for Wisconsin, or you can find us on flipsnack/thequarantinetimes.

STELTER: There we go. I love the idea. Laura, Claire, Rachel, thank you very much. Happy Mother's Day, Laura.

L. LUNDGREN: This is, shall we say, a pretty socially distant Mother's Day with many families unable to get together to celebrate. My mother Donna was a nurse and a manager in a nursing home for many years, which got me thinking about all the moms on the front lines who are battling this dreaded virus right now. Thank you to them and to my mom and my mother in law, Helen, and my wife, Jamie, the mother of my two kids.

Every night now, our three-year-old daughter Sonny wants to FaceTime with Nana, and with Bobby. Every night, she wants to know how much longer they have to stay away from her. How much longer until the germs go away. It can be really tough. But moms are natural-born teachers.

I'm still learning from the moms in my life, and I can see that Sonny is too. She's learning to wear her superhero mask, and she's learning about nurses and doctors, and she's learning patience. That's probably the most important part of all.

I like to think that the ultimate lesson right now is about resilience. As I said a few weeks ago here, it's OK to not be OK right now. No one is OK. But from this time, we are all going to carry lessons for the rest of our lives. Lessons about being resilient. So I just want to say thank you to all the moms who are teaching us today and every day.

We are out of time here on TV. But join us online at for our weekly podcast, daily newsletter. Plus, a quick program to note about next Sunday, an incredible documentary about "The National Enquirer." It's called "Scandalous." And it's premiering here on CNN, next Sunday night. You're going to make sure to tune in.

Thanks for joining us on RELIABLE SOURCES. "STATE OF THE UNION" is next and as soon as Andrew Cuomo begins his daily briefing, we'll bring it to you live.