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The Biggest Story Of 2020; The Media's Crucial Role On Election Night; The Murdoch Smear Machine; U.S. Media Literacy Week Starts On Monday; How The Pandemic Is Hurting Local News Coverage. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired October 25, 2020 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter, and this is a special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES, all focused on the election which will be over in nine days.

This hour, do the long lines, the early voting lines mean we will have a shorter wait to hear who wins on election night? Or the opposite actually true? The "A.P.'s" top editor is here with answers.

Plus, a new look at the Murdoch smear machine and a divide inside his newspapers about how to cover a key story.

And later a road trip. Come with me to Pennsylvania, a place where the pandemic and the election and the local news crisis are all converging right when the public needs reporting the most. I'll show you why we were all outside for that interview.

But, first, what are people hearing and reading as they decide when and how to vote. Clearly, the biggest story of 2020, despite President Trump's deep denialism, is coronavirus. It's a once-in-a-century pandemic. It's affected every person on the planet.

Trump is tired of COVID-19. But most Americans are still wide awake, paying attention. He doesn't want to hear about it on TV anymore. He is lashing out at the press for keeping COVID in the news.

But the public is paying attention to the news. Most of you want to know more, want to stay updated on how to stay safe. A recent Pew survey found that four out of five Americans are following news about the virus closely.

So, when Trump attacked CNN the other day for focusing on COVID, when he called us "dumb bastards", that word "dumb" ricocheted right back at him.

Obviously, no one wants COVID to be a top story. The overwhelming majority of Americans know it has to be a top priority. This is less about newsrooms setting the agenda and more about the virus and the public health community setting the agenda. This is less about media fearmongering and more about public health experts leading the way. This virus has a nasty way of asserting itself. And it's happened

again this weekend -- News of this new outbreak in Vice President Mike Pence's inner circle. It's just the latest example.

Five people in his orbit have tested positive. Thankfully, we heard have a White House official that Pence and his wife tested negative this morning. So, that's good news.

We have also heard from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who told Jake Tapper this morning, quote, we are not going to get control of the pandemic.

That is the sound of capitulation by the federal government. That is the sound of surrender.

Trump, meanwhile, sounds bored with this leadership challenge. He actually is starting to sound like his impersonator, Alec Baldwin. Watch.


ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Coronavirus, so boring, right?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You turn on the television COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID. A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don't talk about it.


STELTER: We don't talk about that because it hasn't happened in many years. But he is whipping up hatred of the media anyway. It's part of his closing argument in the campaign, and he's adding a conspiracy theory, this is what it is, a conspiracy theory, to top it all off.


TRUMP: COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID. By the way, on November 4th, you won't hear about it anymore. It's true.



STELTER: You hear the crowd? You hear their reactions?

Presumably, Trump doesn't mean this literally. Hopefully, he knows better. But, obviously, COVID will remain a top story all winter long. It is forecast-able. The same way we can forecast that winter storms will be a top story.

And in the same way snow piles up whether you measure it or not, the virus spreads whether or not you test for it. But Trump continues to blame the media for caring so much about testing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: What it does is it gives the fake news media something to talk about. So they say, cases are up in the United States! That's because we test.


STELTER: Clearly, he doesn't want the top story to be about sick and dying Americans struggling with a virus that's out of control in part due to his government's failures. Obviously, he wants us talking about Hunter Biden or fake news or how mean "60 Minutes" is to him. And his base agrees. But he is out of touch with the rest of the country is.

I mean, this is really important to recognize, 78 percent of Americans in a brand-new poll say they remain concerned about getting infected. Put it another way, just one in five Americans are not concerned about getting infected with COVID-19.

Now, Trump claims this is because the media is trying to scare everybody, but most Americans are looking at the raw data, listening to local officials and making up their own minds. And more than six in ten of them disapprove of how Trump has handled this.

He wants this to seem like a fight about the media. Maybe he thinks that's a fight he can win, right? He has been doing that for years and years.


Maybe he thinks he can win against the media since he is losing against the virus.

But he's not really fighting the media on this one. He is resisting reality. He is trying to make up his own reality, which is really the central story of the Trump years ever since inauguration day. Another day, another distraction.

You know, Trump's lies are so pervasive that "The Washington Post" says he is on track to exceed 25,000 false or misleading claims by Election Day. CNN's Daniel Dale is almost running out of adjectives to describe all the lies.

But the polls show that reality is winning. Reality is winning. Taking the threat seriously, talking about it, covering it responsibly is a way to earn trust.

That's what the president has never fully accepted all year long. But news outlets have. Well, most of them. I think most news outlets are actually gaining trust by covering this pandemic seriously.

But to borrow a phrase from Trump, there are some dumb you-know-whats in the media industry, but they are the ones who have downplayed this disease, who deny the danger to this day. Sadly, they are mostly right-wing pro-Trump websites, TV shows, other megaphones. And these outlets are not just missing the biggest story of the year, they are making it bigger by making the coronavirus worse. Just a few minutes ago on Fox, Maria Bartiromo interviewed the White

House chief of staff like Tapper did an hour earlier. She didn't ask a single question about the new outbreak in Vice President Pence's orbit. That's malpractice.

See, if these interviewers and hosts and propagandists think they are helping Trump, they are actually doing him and all of us a grave disservice. The virus doesn't disappear just because you pretend it's not there. It doesn't disappear because you don't ask about it or talk about it or hold the administration accountable.

I think that's most important is the polling I showed you. Most Americans get what's going on. Reality is winning.

Now, let's see what the panel thinks about all of this and more. They are with me for the hour.

"USA Today" columnist and CNN Senior Political Analyst, Kirsten Powers is here. Plus, one of the founding editors of "Politico", John Harris. Also, the head of the National Association for Media Literacy Education, Michelle Ciulla Lipkin.

And last but not least, Emmy Award-winning producer and comedian, Larry Wilmore. He's the host of the show "Wilmore" on NBC's Peacock.

Christine, let me start with you on this news about the vice president's inner circle and this outbreak. According to "The New York Times," Meadows wanted to keep a lid on it. The White House chief of staff did not want this to get out.

Yet it leaked out last night. Reporters, CNN, Bloomberg, everywhere else, they were chasing this story on Saturday. So it did get out.

What do you make of the fact that the White House is trying to keep these secrets and they keep leaking out?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, obviously, they want to keep it a secret because pence is the head of the coronavirus task force and, you know, people on his staff can't keep themselves from getting the coronavirus, especially when you consider all of the access that they would have to testing and to rapid testing.

Much more than the average American, they have so many more opportunities to find out who has it and to take the precautions, and yet it still has swept, this illness still swept the White House, including the president, obviously. So I think that they can recognize that this is the thing that, you know, if Donald Trump loses, this will be what did him in.

STELTER: John, you have a headline for "Politico" that to me this is the most interesting story all week. It's at It's headlined: Trump is doing worse than it seems but reporters are afraid to say so.

You and Daniel Lippman argued that by historical standards, Trump's coverage is favorable in one key aspect. What is that key aspect?

JOHN HARRIS, FOUNDING EDITOR, POLITICO: The fact that reporters are giving generous allowance that Trump could still win and they are treating this as quite a close race, based on the experience of 2016. Let's face it. A lot of us did not see the Trump victory in 2016 coming. So we're gun shy this time.

I am not sure that's a bad thing, actually. I think sometimes we go too far in the other direction of looking like the race is over when we don't know that. Probably we made that mistake in 2016.

But what Trump is avoiding, and it's a huge gift to the media is giving him, Brian, he is avoiding death watch coverage, the coverage that John McCain got in 2006.

STELTER: Death watch?


HARRIS: - where everything is like a hospital vigil. In a desperate move with time running out, you know, with advisors warring and finger-pointing over who is to blame for a debacle, et cetera.


Trump is largely avoiding that.

STELTER: Interesting.

Larry Wilmore, the banner says are reporters overcorrecting in response to 2016? That's what John is getting at. Do you see that happening? You are an avid news consumer.

LARRY WILMORE, HOST, "WILMORE" ON PEACOCK: I feel sorry for the media. What are you supposed to do, you know?

Trump, I mean, you can't even cover his lies anymore because people are so exhausted, you know? I think it would be better if you just pointed out when he says people are saying and say, no, they're not. It's coming in two weeks, no, it's not, and just start covering him that way because -- like he is the president. You have to cover him.

I feel sorry for -- I feel sorry for so much of the media. What are you supposed to do at this point?

STELTER: I never hear that kind of sympathy. Thank you. Thank you, Larry, on behalf of the media, okay?

Hey, let me show you the debate ratings from the other day. I want to note how important this debate was. I know it feels like ancient history. But at least 63 million people watched the debate. However, that is down from the first debate of the season. Notably, it was the vice presidential debate that outperformed in 2016. I think that's interesting. That's a whole separate conversation.

The other interesting media narrative this week was about "60 Minutes." President Trump again seeking a big audience. He's going to be on "60 Minutes" in a few hours. The interview was taped ahead of time.

And then Trump leaked it out. First of all, he walked out early on Lesley Stahl. Then he shared the video on his own social media accounts, an unprecedented move that CBS strongly criticized.

So, Michelle Lipkin, I wonder what you made of what you saw in the leaked interview? What did you make of Lesley Stahl's interviewing techniques?

MICHELLE CIULLA LIPKIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR MEDIA LITERACY EDUCATION: Well, I think that, you know, this is a situation that's ripe for media literacy discussion. The idea that the raw footage is out there, as you said, being able to compare it to with what we will see to tonight, I think we have to ask ourselves some important questions like why in this situation does the president only want to do interviews that don't ask tough questions? And let's be honest. The questions weren't that tough.

And I think it really just gives us kind of a bird's-eye view of what we're looking at with Trump's relationship with the press and being able to see it, I think it really backfired, right, because it really does show some strong journalism and it really does not do what he intended it to do by releasing it.

STELTER: Larry, how would you feel -- you tape interviews for your Peacock show. How would you feel if the person you interviewed tried to release it several days early?

WILMORE: If it was Trump, I would say, yes, thank you, yes, let people see, because he doesn't understand how bad he looks. It's insane.

I mean, think about this, Brian, if he just showed compassion to the people who have been affected by COVID rather than acting like he is COVID Jesus, you know, all the time , he showed more compassion for Ghislaine Maxwell. If he just showed a certain amount of leadership, it would just be so much better for him. He is too interested in himself.

STELTER: It always does comes back to COVID even when he doesn't want it to come back to COVID, it does.

For former Barack Obama had a lot of fun poking fun about "60 Minutes" yesterday. Let's play the clip.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When "60 Minutes" and Lesley Stahl are too tough for you, you ain't all that tough. Hey, if you've got to walk out of a "60 minutes" interview, then you're never going to stand up to a dictator. If you're spending all your time complaining about how many reporters are to you, you're not going to stand up to Putin.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STELTER: Kirsten, it occurs to me, first, Barack Obama loved doing that. He was relishing that moment.

And, second, Obama is taking Trump's anti-media attacks and turning them against him. I don't see that happen very often.

POWERS: Yeah. Well, it was something that I actually noticed too, too, if you look at the way Trump and the White House went after, you know, Savannah Guthrie, Kristen Welker, Lesley Stahl, it is with much more vigor and vitriol than you would ever see him -- well, he doesn't show any towards like a Putin or the leader of North Korea, you know, who runs concentration camps and wants to destroy the United States.

I mean, it is really remarkable who he believes the enemy is, isn't it?

STELTER: The enemy.

And saving the most important storyline for last. John, the president continues to sow seeds of doubt about voting even when he is voting himself. He continues to suggest the only way he will lose is if the criminal Joe Biden cheats. Is the press doing enough to point out this is the most serious danger to the election?


HARRIS: Well, we can't do too much. You know, we don't need Larry's sympathy, although it is nice to hear every once in a while. I don't know what the press should do.

I know what we should do. We should cover election security and election access like it's the biggest story of our professional lives, certainly for a lot of us, it must count the top two, three, four stories.

We're a democracy. We've always been able to vote and vote fairly and transparently, in ways that people trust the result. Now for the first time in a couple of centuries, that's under question. And it's really an enormous story and we can't cover it enough.

STELTER: And it's not partisan. It's not partisan to defend democracy.

I am going to lose my breath saying that over and over again, but it's true. And if we weren't so polarized, everybody would know it. All right, stay with us.


STELTER: Go ahead, John. Go ahead, John. Sorry. Go ahead.

HARRIS: Well, it's a big, big responsibility. Walking out on Lesley Stahl, that's entertaining for us, and it's a good media story, but it's essentially just static.

This is not static. This is real. Can we trust the vote? And do people respect the vote. STELTER: Right, nothing matters more. Yeah.

Everybody stand by. We have a lot more coming up, including a special look inside the political brain. But, first, Sally Buzbee, the head of the world's largest news organization, the "A.P.", she's here to explain what to expect on election night.



STELTER: Let me take you behind the scenes now since newsrooms and major TV networks like this one are already in rehearsal mode for election night, run-throughs and drills and practice sessions are a way to test out possible scenarios, establish the workflow, make sure all the data is coming in as expected.

And, of course, the rehearsals are especially important this year given the immense amount of early voting and the challenges posed by the pandemic. More people in more locations than usual.

Right now, there is something interesting going on in the news coverage about early voting. It's a virtuous cycle instead of a vicious cycle that we're used to.

I am sure you have seen this graphic on CNN before showing how many Americans have already cast their ballots. Right now, the number is approaching 58 million. It will top 60 by the end of the day. There are extraordinary lines, lines that are, frankly, too long in many parts of the country.

This number keeps growing and every day we see the number on TV and we see it in headlines. We see it all across television.

And, of course, the lines are voters are also having an impact.

If you haven't voted yet, you see lots of other people standing in line waiting to cast their ballots and it has this virtuous cycle. It reminds you that you've got to go ahead and cast your vote because your friends and your family members and your neighbors already have.

I think this is a positive. All this talk about early voting, all this coverage of how many people voted so far is actually going to boost turnout even higher. And someday, hopefully someday soon, we're going to be looking back as Americans and we're going to say, why in the world did we all just cram all the voting on the most important elections on one Tuesday in November? It never made since. Now it's changing.

The question here on RELIABLE SOURCES is, how will this early voting affect election night? In what ways are the networks and news outlets getting ready for that?

With me now is the senior vice president and executive editor of "The Associated Press," Sally Buzbee.

Sally, thanks for being here.


STELTER: I'm well. How are -- how are the rehearsals going? What do you call what the "A.P." does in the weeks leading up to election night?

BUZBEE: Well, we do drill. We prepare. We obviously do an enormous amount of preparation. We work through various scenarios. We have final conversations with our crew of count stringers with all of our reporters.

We do go through some scenarios. We test all of our systems, all that sort of thing. And also we are also obviously informed by, as you said, the amount of early vote. We do expect a big turnout this year, and so that gives us some indications of how election night will go.

But obviously there is, you know, the voters really make the decisions in American elections. And so, there is only so much you can test. You don't really know what is going to be the final outcome.

STELTER: Will the amount of early voting and mail-in balloting make this take longer or is it possible we'll have a result, a projection, a declaration earlier as a result of all the early voting?

BUZBEE: So, I think the biggest factor that determines if there is an early race call, a early declaration of a winner or a later one is really the closeness of the race. That's still the single biggest factor.

So if one candidate is, wins by a large margin, you're going to be able to determine that earlier in the night. If it is a closer race, it is much more likely to go longer. I think what's history has always shown us.

The difference this year is that there are so many more mail-in ballots. There is also a lot of early in-person voting as you just referenced. If you walk around in a lot of states right now, there are a lot of people in line not voting by mail, but voting early in person.

And many states count that early vote after they have counted the election day vote. And so because that number is so much higher this year, the advanced vote percentage is so much higher, it is possible that some states could release results somewhat later than in past years. That I think is the effect that the advanced vote will have on what happens on election night.

STELTER: So are you viewing it as election night or viewing it as an election two days -- how are you describing it personally?


BUZBEE: We are very much prepared for the fact that it could go longer than election night. That's not entirely new. I do want to make that point.

In 2004, a winner was not declared until the next morning, Wednesday morning. So this is not a new phenomenon in American elections. What is new this year is that the advanced vote is expected to be so much larger because of the pandemic.

Remember that people were moving towards advanced voting whether mail- in ballots or early in-person voting well before the pandemic started. In both 2016 and 2018, 40 percent of American voters, around 40 percent of American voters voted before Election Day. This year because of the pandemic, those numbers are really expected to go up, most estimates saying it will probably be more than half of American voters.

But we are definitely, because of that, prepared that some states could release results slower. So we're definitely -- I mean, it could happen on election night. I want to be clear about that. That would be a perfectly normal outcome.


BUZBEE: It also could last until the next morning or until the next afternoon or even later.

So we are very much prepared for both scenarios.

STELTER: Right. Pack your patience. Don't be surprised by any outcome.

There are two systems in this country the news media uses essentially for this process of assembling the votes and knowing what people were thinking when they voted. One is the National Election Poll that includes CNN and the broadcast networks. The other is AP Votecast and Fox News subscribes to AP Votecast.

Does this mean there are two systems that are trying to compete to assemble the vote and declare a winner? Is that like a check and balance for America?

BUZBEE: So, I don't think we are necessarily in competition with each other. There are two methodologies on the survey, as you said, the traditional exit polls and then Votecast.

We developed Votecast simply because so many Americans were starting to vote before Election Day that we did not believe that going to them as they left polls on Election Day was going to be an accurate way to do that going forward.

So, we did it well before the pandemic, but, you know, now, obviously, as you point out, if people vote one time ahead of the election, they are probably more likely to do it the next time. So, we think it's a good solid methodology for the future of America and what the vote might look like in the future of America.

But we are not really in competition with each other. I mean, the networks race calling and decision desks are all incredibly professional organizations. We deeply respect them. We all do independently call races, right? So we don't communicate

with each other. We don't communicate with candidates.

We call races as a mathematical, analytical exercise, and we have those people in a bubble where they are looking at the numbers, they are looking at Votecasts, they are looking at the vote count, and they are making decisions based on deep knowledge of American politics, deep knowledge of states, but also, they are looking at the data.

And the data, the facts are driving our decisions on election night.

STELTER: I notice you don't call them projections. You say you declare winners. Is that cockiness? What is that?

BUZBEE: That is our standard. Our standard is that we do not declare a winner in any race from the presidency down to a state legislative race until there is no path that the trailing candidate could catch up and win that race.

STELTER: Could catch up.


STELTER: You say you trust the network decision desks. Does that include Fox News? I know a lot of liberals in this country are worried about Fox on election night.

BUZBEE: You know, I really can't speak to their -- to their decision desk. They have a very professional decision desk. There has been a lot written about that, interesting stories in the last couple of weeks. Their race-calling is independent of yours.

STELTER: Right, that's right. For what it's worth, I trust the Fox decision desk. They are professionals who have been in this business for a long time.

There are concerns about what the propaganda folks on Fox might say, but not what the news decision desk people will say.

I think the point maybe, Sally, is there are -- there are multiple outlets doing this independently, and that's a good thing for people's trust in the outcome.

BUZBEE: There are multiple outlets doing this independently, looking at the data, in many cases, you know, bringing that mathematical and analytical eye to it. The way, you know, race-calling is also -- you need to really understand a state to call a state's race.

So, for example, if an urban heavily Democratic area of a state has not reported its results yet, that's very important for the eventual outcome. That happens in many cases, in many races in the past couple of years in the United States where one candidate may look ahead in the vote count, but that's because a significant part of the state that votes differently has not yet reported its results.

So this is not magic. This is actually math and facts and science. That's how races are called.



Sally, thank you so much for breaking it down for us.

BUZBEE: My pleasure.

STELTER: For more on this, sign up for our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter, full coverage from the CNN media team. You can sign up for free at Up next here on the program, cutting through the fog of the Murdoch media machine's latest anti-Biden narrative.


STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. You know, the media outlets operated by Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan employ a lot of great reporters but they off to -- they also sometimes operate as a smear machine. Look at -- look at the graphic here, you'll see Fox Corporation includes Fox News and Fox Business, the other half of the Empire News Corporation includes the Wall Street Journal and The New York Post.


It is the New York Post that first launched the Hunter Biden e-mail story that was then parroted by Fox News promoted by Fox News stars. And it seems to be losing some steam in recent days. We have seen this storyline start to change with the Wall Street Journal actually challenging it and parts of Fox News as well.

Let me explain to you what's been going on with these stories. The Wall Street Journal's news division published an account that really cast doubt on the so-called scandal that the opinion operation has been promoting. And yet the opinion part of the Wall Street Journal is still hyping it, still claiming these e-mails are a massive story.

Of course, there's still a lot unclear about the credibility of these e-mails and how significant they are, how real -- whether they are all real, whether some of them are made up. All of these disinformation questions linger. And what we see is a news versus opinion fight at the Wall Street Journal.

The panel is back with me Kirsten Powers, John Harris, Larry Wilmore, and Michelle Ciulla Lipkin. Michelle, since you had a media literacy group, let me start with you. What is the media literacy lesson when there's a story that's blowing up in right-wing media that is questioned, its credibility is questionable, and other news outlets are not able to confirm it, outlets like CNN try and are not able to confirm it? What's the media literacy lesson here?

LIPKIN: Oh, there's so much meaty stuff here. You know, we really have to break this story down to really understand how it even came to be in the New York Post. And I think this is a really good look at agenda and bias, right? We're really looking at what is the agenda behind the story, and how did the story get covered, how were the social media platforms responding to it, how is the subsequent stories about the story being covered.

But I think we have to remember, New York Post, they have an agenda. Their agenda is to get people to read their newspaper. And the more people that come and read their newspaper, the more advertising they're going to sell and the more money they're going to make, and that's their agenda. And this is a good story for that agenda, right?

And if they're involved in this -- you know, they're owned by the Murdoch Empire. Murdoch Empire is known for putting controversial and tabloid stories upfront, so there's nothing surprising about this story. There's nothing surprising that the New York Post would end up with it.

And what is really fascinating is when you start to break down the, you know, the authenticity of the story, the sources, the connections with the -- with President Trump and his supporters, you start to see how that agenda and bias can get really tricky. So, it's the kind of story that I think a lot of media literacy educators are having a really interesting time in classrooms talking about.

STELTER: John, you say, in some ways, it's a perfect modern media political story. Why is that?

HARRIS: Because neither the people pushing it, nor I think people in the media who are very wary about the sourcing and credibility of it, really trying to push it to the margins, probably nobody really cares that much about the substance of it. Its total -- its interest is totally as a weapon in the kind of nonstop ideological and cultural war that defines our politics in the nonstop sort of media battle in the closing days of an election.


HARRIS: The substance of the story is almost beside the point.

STELTER: And it just pretty -- prides fuel fodder for the 24/7 anti- Biden narrative. I'd like to go around to everybody and hear what your priorities are for the press, right? If you could say there's one priority for the press between now and November 3rd, what would it be? Larry, do you have one first?

WILMORE: I think the press -- you don't have to try that hard, honestly. The American people are smart, you know. There are a lot of people, I do think they get duped and fall into these conspiracy things, but the press just shows us what it is. The American people are smart. The American people really care about this country.

Brian, I'm very inspired by the people who are out voting right now. It just goes to show you how much people really care. They want the process to work even though they're being told that it's broken. So, it just shows us guys, you don't have to do too much, you know. People are smart out there. They can see what's going on then. They know the difference between things, you know. STELTER: Definitely. Kirsten Powers, your priority or your message between now and Election Day?

POWERS: I think just, you know, stick to the basics and avoid trying the predictions. I mean, I actually think that it's fine that that reporters and the media aren't going out of their way to do deathwatch stories, although there have been a few for Trump.

It's not really the job of the media to predict what's going to happen in the election. Let people vote and don't -- you know, don't try to predict the outcome. We saw what happened last time when a lot of people did that. But even if that hadn't happened, I still think that it's not really the job of the media to be predicting, you know, who's going to win the White House because that has an effect on the voters, and we need to just let people vote.


STELTER: John, how about you?

HARRIS: Look, modern politics is raucous and there's a lot of noise. But I think in the closing days, we should remember it's really a solemn thing, this idea of the world's oldest democracy, voting. And we should try to recover an element of solemnity. Brian, (AUDIO GAP) Washington Post and a mentor of mine, and it sounds a little bit boy scout, but I really think he was right when he said, look, this election does not belong to the candidates, it does not belong to the operatives, it doesn't belong to the journalists, it belongs to the voters, and let's respect them.

I agree with Larry. They're very much deserving of respect. People take this seriously and we should -- we should respect the -- we should show the same seriousness that the voters are showing.

STELTER: Right. Great words from Brodeur. Michelle, to you, this week is U.S media literacy week presented by the organization every year. It seems like great timing ahead of the election. So, what's your message about media literacy at the election?

LIPKIN: Well, I think that, you know, in general, we want to be on high alert for misinformation and disinformation. In 2016, we were surprised and in 2020, we need to be prepared. And that's not only the media, it also -- we also need to be prepared as news consumers. And so, my message is for news consumers out there is to make sure we let news coverage get evolved.

And we know there's going to be a lot of news coverage, so don't jump to conclusions, don't get too caught up in the speculation, ask questions, stay alert, exercise media literacy skills. Make sure you're constantly you know, using those critical thinking skills and just be really careful and know that misinformation and disinformation will find us. And like Larry said, let's be smart, we know most of you are, and just really stay alert.

STELTER: And for Media Literacy 101, if people want to start to get involved, where should they go? LIPKIN: Oh, well, that's a great question. So, please start with

STELTER: There we go.

LIPKIN: Like you said, this week is the sixth annual one. Lots of events being planned around the country. We also have a new PSA campaign launching, so you can go to also.

STELTER: Stop -- wait, did you say This is going to be good.


STELTER: OK. All right, I'm checking it out.

LIPKIN: Yes, please do.

STELTER: To the panel, thank you all for being here on the subject of media monsters. No, just kidding. On the subject of the Murdoch media empire. A quick reminder about my book Hoax. Look for it in a bookstore near you. Order your copy at After the break, do political pundits assess campaigns all wrong? My next guest says there is a better way.



STELTER: What is a newsroom without a physical room to meet them? And how are cuts to local papers hurting communities? Answers to those questions can be found in the battleground state of Pennsylvania where reporters for the morning call are pushing for a new home after their century-old newsroom was shut down by owners at Tribune Publishing.

I took a road trip out to Allentown to speak with some staffers about how the paper is carrying on and covering all the election news without a newsroom. Take a listen.


STELTER: Here in Allentown, Pennsylvania, it is hard to miss the Morning Call. The newspapers downtown building is a blocker to from everything, the courts, museums, performance halls, and more.

JENNIFER SHEEHAN, FEATURES REPORTER, MORNING CALL: We've been here on Sixth Street for 100 years.

STELTER: Features reporter Jennifer Sheehan has worked at the paper for 13 of those years and she has watched it shrink.

SHEEHAN: When I started in 2007, I did not have a desk because there was no room for me to have a desk. That's how crowded our newsroom was. And in March, which was the last time I worked physically in our newsroom, I was surrounded by empty desks. STELTER: Now, she's standing outside because the paper's owner is closing the physical newsroom. Temporary measures forced by the pandemic are becoming permanent. Tribune Publishing is taking this drastic action across at least five of its papers from the New York Daily News, to the Orlando Sentinel, to the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, the site of a mass shooting in 2018.

Michelle Merlin, a Morning Call reporter who chairs the papers union blames the hedge fund that owns a stake in Tribune.

MICHELLE MERLIN, REPORTER, MORNING CALL: They're looking out for their bottom line. They're known for stripping news organizations to the bone and getting rid of them.

STELTER: Despite the paper's location in a critical battleground state, political coverage has suffered too with fewer reporters available to cover campaigns. A bipartisan group of lawmakers have expressed support for the newsroom, but Tribune does not appear to be budging. The company did not respond to our interview request. But earlier in a statement, a Tribune spokesperson said that management is constantly evaluating real estate needs and will keep employees informed.

MERLIN: I don't think people really understand quite the crisis that we're in.

STELTER: The pandemic has sped up the slow-motion decline of local news with advertising dwindling and social media gobbling up attention. These empty offices have become a symbol of what is being lost.

SHEEHAN: It's a detriment to our newsroom, it's a detriment to the staff, and it's a detriment to our readers because we need to have a home base. We need to have a place that we can come collaborate.


STELTER: For now, at least, they are collaborating on the outside here on the corner, trying to pressure Tribune to provide a physical home for the news in the Lehigh Valley.


STELTER: And Tribune is not the only company giving up on physical newsrooms. Gannet has been taking some of the same steps. This is happening in local markets across the country. The bottom line is that local news sources need your support more than ever. We're back with more RELIABLE SOURCES in just a moment.



STELTER: Before we go this hour, a quick plug for this week's podcast. New York Times Chief T.V. critic James Poniewozik joined me to discuss the looming season finale of the Trump show and similarities to The Apprentice. Trump always gets more aggressive and dramatic towards the season finale, he says.

I also asked him about Joe Biden, talking about OK, Trump, The Apprentice, reality T.V., what's the equivalent with Biden? He compared Biden to Antiques Roadshow. Check it out on the podcast wherever you listen to your pods.

Later today on CNN, a new episode of First Ladies, about how Eleanor Roosevelt found her voice and became a hero to millions. That's it 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time tonight on CNN. We will see you right back here this time next week.