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The Story Behind Jeff Zucker's Sudden Resignation; Biden Admin Snaps When Reporter Pushes for "Evidence"; How Will Maddow's Hiatus Impact MSNBC: Big Tech Overpowering Local Media; NBC Olympics Coverage Addresses China's Human Rights Record. Aired 11-11:59a ET

Aired February 06, 2022 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, here we are. I'm Brian Stelter live in New York and this is RELIABLE SOURCES, where we examine the story behind the story and figure out what's reliable.

This hour, we have in-depth coverage of the shake up right here at CNN.

Plus, a new controversy involving Joe Rogan. Will Spotify ever hold him accountable?

Plus, NBC's coverage of the Beijing Olympics. They are not holding back when it comes to China's human rights abuses. We're going to analyze that, coming up.

And later, big tech platforms leaching money from local media. Does D.C. have the solution? Senator Amy Klobuchar joins us in a few minutes.

But first, the future of cable news. Inside CNN, this was a week like no other. The sudden removal of CNN boss Jeff Zucker has rattled this news outlet to its core. Staffers are confused, angry, and concerned about what might come next.

So let me try to explain it based on my reporting from inside this very organization.

Since Wednesday morning's resignation shock, I've talked with at least 100 people here at all levels, as well as sources on the outside who represent all the players. And the dominant question that I'm getting from inside CNN is why? Why did this happen?

This is the ugliest shake up at CNN since the days Ted Turner was still walking the halls. Zucker was in charge one minute and he was gone the next, so why? Even employees who didn't look like him are mad because this made CNN look bad. So they want to know why. They want to know what happened.

But most staffers did like him. Many loved him. Many felt Zucker was the best boss they'd ever worked for. They would walk into war zones for him and sometimes they did. And in return, Zucker protected them, defended them, cheered for them.

He was like a heat shield. That's the best way I can explain it. He shielded his staff from all sorts of heat, from corporate interference, from ratings pressures, from presidential threats.

Zucker was always on, seemingly always awake and online, always watching, always quick with words of encouragement or a sharp question for a guest or a better idea for a homepage headline. He cared deeply and every employee knew it.

Even if they didn't like his story idea or his solution to a problem, they knew that he cared. That's not always the case in media. Leaders don't always eat, sleep, breathe, live the news, but Zucker did.

I mean, this was the headline when I first joined CNN nearly ten years ago, it says the guy has news in his veins and that was exactly right. He knows news.

Now, I haven't spoken with him since last week, but I'm sure he knows his exit is a big news story. It's been front page news, in fact.

So let's try to answer the question on the minds of everyone I've been talking with. Why was he forced out?

Well, the big part of the story that was underappreciated on Wednesday, all this news coverage on Wednesday, the big part that was underappreciated, the backdrop to all of this is a looming mega merger.

CNN and HBO and the rest of WarnerMedia are being spun off right now by AT&T. It is step one in the formation of a new company Warner Brothers Discovery. The current CEO of Discovery, David Zaslav, will run the new company.

The deal is most likely two to three months from taking effect, assuming the government and the shareholders all sign off. But assuming is dangerous when it comes to the government. The regulatory review process is complicated. It is a big source of stress for the executives.

AT&T and Discovery are determined to get this deal done. It is the top priority. It is frankly all that matters to the management right now. They don't want anything to go wrong.

And it doesn't seem like anything is going to go wrong. It seems like the deal is going to take effect. But that's the background for Jeff Zucker's exit.

Now, what was in the foreground? Well, as these headlines say, he resigned over a relationship with his key lieutenant, Allison Gollust, the head of marketing and PR for CNN.

Many people inside this company believe it would not have come to this without Chris Cuomo. So, let's unpack that.

As the "Wall Street Journal" reported, Chris Cuomo's legal team raised questions about Zucker's relationship. They brought it to the forefront. Think back one year to the scandal surrounding New York Governor Cuomo.

The governor hurt his brother Chris and that caused headaches for Zucker. For months and months, there were debates about whether CNN did the right thing by keeping Chris Cuomo on the air on primetime.


There were lots of debates about it right here inside CNN.

Eventually, Zucker decided to fire Chris, no severance, no payout. And that's when Cuomo called in lawyers. He wanted the money.

Someone brought up Zucker and Gollust. Were they a couple? Were they concealing it? Were they violating the company's code of conduct? Wasn't Zucker guilty, just like Cuomo was guilty?

See, the way Cuomo's detractors see it, he exacted revenge. It's as if he said, you took me down, so I'm taking you down. Cuomo's allies totally reject this view. They say Chris' hands are clean.

Either way, Zucker did have a secret and that secret came out because of Cuomo's firing and the tug of war that followed. Zucker was asked if he was in a romantic relationship with Gollust. He said yes, but he had not disclosed it before.

Now, inside CNN, people had wondered, were they together? But there's a big difference between wondering and knowing.

What people did know and I'm channeling the feelings of many sources when I say this, is that Zucker and Gollust made each other better at work. They were an incredibly effective team. She was essentially his chief of staff. She could have been in line to run CNN, but now all that's gone.

And you can draw a straight line from Andrew Cuomo's downfall to Zucker's. It is almost Shakespearian. When Zucker's boss Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar found out about the relationship last week, he brought it to his boss, AT&T chief John Stankey.

My sense is Zucker knew there would be fallout because he knew he had violated the code of conduct for not disclosing his relationship with his subordinate right away, but he did not expect to get fired. This was on the minds of many on team Zucker, a 15-yard penalty, but AT&T threw him out of the game all together for it. Kilar said Zucker had to resign or he would be terminated.

Zucker tried to stay on for a transition period, a month, even just a week, but he was told no. He was out instantly.

Which brings us back to the question inside here, why?

CNN's Dana Bash said it to Kilar directly during a tense staff meeting Wednesday night, she said it felt like the punishment didn't fit the crime. That's the prevailing view inside CNN. But Zucker did break the rules. News outlets hold others accountable for breaking the rules all the time.

And beyond that, in this case, I wouldn't say timing is everything, but it's a lot of the things. AT&T wants and needs that deal to go through, doesn't want any mess, any complication.

So Zucker is out and CNN now continues without him. And these headlines capture the situation, staffers are angry, they're angry at Warner Media. They're angry at Cuomo, and they're wondering what happens now.

We know that Kilar has appointed three steady, reliable hands, three long time members of Zucker's leadership team to run CNN until Discovery takes over -- Michael Bass, Amy Entelis and Ken Jautz. They know what to do and they're doing it every day, keeping CNN humming along.

When this deal closes, probably April or May, Discovery will name a new boss, a new head of CNN. I'm told by sources that Discovery views this as a fresh start for CNN.

And maybe in a year, people will look back and say this was a good thing for CNN, new leadership. But it's not what the staffers here wanted and certainly not like this.

Now, that's my report from the inside and, let's face it, I work here.

So I decided to bring in three outsiders, three media reporters and analysts who are looking at this from outside CNN, so they can bring their perspectives and you can hear independent views of this situation.

Let's bring them in now.

Claire Atkinson, chief media correspondent for "Insider".

Mara Schiavocampo former ABC and NBC correspondent, now the host of the "Run Tell This" podcast.

And Joanne Lipman, who wrote a guest essay for "The New York Times" about this topic and about workplace romances. She is the former editor in chief of "USA Today" and author of the book, "That's What She Said."

Thank you all for assembling this morning.

Claire, your 30-second assessment of what this week was for CNN.

CLAIRE ATKINSON, CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT, INSIDER: Yeah, I mean, it's a little bit of a week from hell, right? We've all been on the outside trying to figure out how -- how this transpired, who was the main protagonist in pushing Jeff out?

Was it the CEO of Warner Media, which is the holding company for -- sorry, the operating company for CNN? Was it the AT&T bosses who needed things to look clean before they hand off to Discovery? Was it John Malone perhaps, one of the Discovery shareholders?

And so we've all -- and Chris Cuomo, not to leave him out. As you've said, that's been a big part of the story here.

I think this week will be a slugfest between the two parties. We're going to see more stories come out.


You know that your colleagues feel so strongly about this story because they did love Jeff and felt like his leadership was so strong and behind them in all things, but I would suggest that all journalists keep their counsel until the facts are out. We don't know all the facts yet. We are all reporting them out. There might be other things that come out this week that perhaps might surprise people.

And I think just to get to the heart of the question why now? Why did it happen? It's curious to me that the news came out the very day after AT&T explained it was going to spin the company into a new company with Discovery. They had a legal situation to deal with.

Once Jeff and Allison admitted the relationship, then you have a legal situation on your hands and a legal situation you need to deal with ahead of a merger. I'm sure that the folks at Discovery would not want to be dealing with that problem.

And ultimately, CNN has to adhere to the highest professional standards. And, as you mentioned, when this kind of thing happens at other companies, you would report on it. And so --

STELTER: That's right.


STELTER: There's headline from "Puck". Let's put it on screen. It says -- referring to whether more shoes will drop. Is there another Zucker shoe?

And, Mara, it seems to me so far, there has not been any other shoe to drop and furthermore, there doesn't need to be. Meaning clear violation -- clear violation of policy, thus that's all it took. There was no other need for anything else to be in the background.

However, there's speculation that Zucker and Gollust were counseling Andrew Cuomo, and there are reports to that effect that have been rejected by Zucker's PR people.

What's your read on that, Mara?

MARA SCHIAVOCAMPO, FORMER ABC AND NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well, if information comes out to support that, that would definitely change the narrative in a way that's quite significant because based on the way things are right now, you know, we are looking at Cuomo and Zucker and these two situations, but they're not equivalent, right?

So there are reports that, you know, Cuomo brought this up, there's speculation that he brought it up in his fight to get this $18 million saying essentially, wait a minute, why am I being fired for this inappropriate relationship when my boss is carrying on an inappropriate relationship of his own?

It's important to keep in mind the distinction between the two cases. In Cuomo's case, he was fired for reportedly giving advice and counsel to a sitting governor in the midst of a political scandal, which would be a clear and major breach of not only journalistic ethics but also company policy.

In Zucker's case, he stepped down because he admitted to not disclosing the romantic relationship. It wasn't the relationship that was the problem. It was the failure to disclose it. And that's a very important distinction because that's essentially a technicality. As you mentioned, it would be a penalty versus throwing someone out of the game.

And so, the questions that have been raised are legitimate, which is does the punishment fit the crime? Now, those questions are based on what we know in this moment. As you noted, if there's more that continues to come out, then people may change their judgment on the way that this was handled and why it was handled so quickly and abruptly.

STELTER: Joanne, does this prompt a broader conversation about workplace romances and how corporate America handles those?

JOANNE LIPMAN, FORMER EDITOR IN CHIEF, USA TODAY: Sure. Well, corporate America has done a dreadful job in terms of handling corporate romances because they are incredibly common. By my research, at least a third of people have them, but most don't report it, and half of them don't even know what the rules are.

But I think that the case here for CNN, for Jeff Zucker, really is a case of this was an unforced error by every measure by every person involved. I mean, think about this, right, it was considered according -- widely reported that this was considered an open secret, this relationship. So why not just disclose it, right?

I mean, Jeff Zucker is considered to be one of the most savvy media executives around, he's a political animal. Why not -- he would have been able to acknowledge it and to be able to move on in some way, maybe making some adjustments in terms of responsibilities and reporting lines.

And the other piece of this is, what about -- where was Warner Media in all of this? If it truly was an open secret, why didn't they do something before?

And, Brian, the one thing that I really want to point out here is that there are plenty -- plenty of very high profile media couples who have managed to navigate this very, very successfully. Very often, it starts with a lot of rumors and eye rolling and, you know, office chatter, but then you manage to navigate it successfully.

Think about Bob Iger at Disney who is married to Willow Bay. Les Moonves, when he ran CBS, married to Julie Chen.


Peter Kann, who ran Dow Jones and "The Wall Street Journal", married to the publisher Karen House and on and on.

The best example, actually, the recent example that I think is really relevant here is think about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. And there were rumors that they had a romance and it was a little bit of a scandal and people loved to chatter about it. Well, then they came out, they said, yeah, they got married. And does anybody care? No. These things go away.

And that's why this was such an unforced error, a self-inflicted wound because it does seem like Jeff, as savvy as he is, could have managed to navigate this successfully long ago and this never would have been an issue.

STELTER: Joanne, you mentioned in your column, maybe there was a hidden hand here. Maybe Discovery wanted him out. Do you have any reason to believe that?

LIPMAN: Look, we'll find out as the reporting comes out why and what other elements there were. My point here is regardless even if they did want him out, he -- and frankly by hiding that relationship -- handed them ammunition that was simply not necessary.

STELTER: Joanne and Mara, thank you both. Claire, please stick around.

AT&T CEO John Stankey is about to spin off WarnerMedia. He says he thinks the best days of CNN are still in front of it. So what is ahead for this news outlet?

This week, the Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who's the one will be taking over the company, he praised CNN's abilities and leadership in global news gathering. He said he is good friends with Zucker but had nothing to do with him leaving.

The question is now about whether -- the vision for CNN, Zaslav's vision, may also be influenced by key shareholder John Malone, who has been critical of CNN, including as recently as last November.

Let's talk about that with Ken Auletta, one of the most respected media journalists in the country. He's been a writer for "The New Yorker" for decades. He's the author of many books, including one about Ted Turner, the creator of CNN.

Ken, great to see you this morning.


STELTER: What can you tell us about Zucker and Zaslav, and what Zucker was thinking about his future? Because my understanding is there was a world where Zucker may not have been at CNN much longer anyway. AULETTA: Well, remember, as you know better than I, Jeff Zucker was planning to step down at the end of last year, chose not to after the merger announcement. He and Zaslav are close friends. Not polite friends, they're close friends, and they talk regularly, they golf regularly.

But when I interviewed Zaslav in late November at a public forum at the Paley Center, I asked him about CNN, I asked him about Fox. He described Fox News as an advocacy network and he talked about the importance of facts and suggested there was too much commentary, right wing commentary on Fox.

So that's his attitude. He's a liberal Democrat, which is unlike John Malone who is a conservative, mostly Republican, but really a libertarian.

The complication in this is that Malone -- if you go back to Ted Turner, Ted Turner considered John Malone his top investor and advocate. And so, he felt that John Malone was actually behind him and behind the news that cast -- that CNN had created.

Now, Malone has since criticized CNN for too much advocacy, too much commentary, too little reporting from the world.

There's some merit to that. I mean, CNN had always talked about how we cover the world like no one else -- maybe the BBC being an exception to that. Well, they don't do it. If you watch CNN regularly, there's much more domestic news on it, much less international news, even though when Afghanistan breaks or Ukraine breaks, CNN puts some real terrific reporters on the story.


STELTER: I disagree. I disagree with you, but we can fight about that some other time.

Here is what Malone had said on CNBC. This is the crucial sound bite people need to hear and understand where he's coming from. Let's watch.


JOHN MALONE, DISCOVERY SHAREHOLDER: Fox News -- Fox News, I think, in my opinion has followed an interesting trajectory of trying to have news-news -- I mean, some actual journalism embedded in -- in a program schedule of all opinions, and I think they've been relatively successful with that, with a service like -- like Bret Baier and Brit Hume before him that tried to distinguish news from opinion.

I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with and, you know, actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing.


[11:20:03] STELTER: Many CNN staffers found that to be offensive. Jeff Zucker found that to be quite disturbing because he's looking at that thinking, what is Discovery's key shareholder going to do to CNN?

But here is the thing, right, Ken, Malone is not going to have as much power as he used to have. In this new Discovery deal, in this merged company, he will just have 1 percent of the shares, 1 percent of the vote, he will just be one member of the board along with 12 or 13 or 14 others.

So should CNN anchors and reporters be concerned about John Malone's views of CNN?

AULETTA: Well, of course. I mean, I think what Malone just said, the clip you played, was comical. It's a joke. It's not real and he's wrong.

If you listened to what Zaslav told me in that public forum in November, he disagrees with Malone. Now, Malone is his business mentor and an important shareholder. Will Dave Zaslav go off on the Malone (ph) reservation about this?

He says basically -- what he said in November was that he would (AUDIO GAP) question, I don't know the answer to that.

If I was at CNN and I was an employee and I loved working under Jeff Zucker for understandable reasons, I would be concerned.

There's no question that David Zaslav, as he said to me in November at a public forum, believes that there's too much commentary on CNN.

And if you watch CNN, the anchors are much more animated with opinions than they were when Ted Turner started the network --


AULETTA: -- back some three decades ago.

And so, I would -- I would be a little nervous if I was at CNN, yes.

STELTER: And, Ken, last question. What's the big question you'd be asking in the weeks ahead?

AULETTA: I would -- I would want to ask David Zaslav, do you agree with what the comical things that John Malone said about Fox News? That's certainly one thing.

I also would want to know several different things.

I would want to know -- apparently, Cuomo -- what Cuomo's lawyer is alleging is that he was fired for not telling the truth to Jeff Zucker, which is why Zucker said he -- Zucker said he fired him. Is he claiming that Zucker did not tell the truth either in the length of time he had been involved with Allison Gollust or did he give some private advice to Andrew Cuomo, which came up in your last segment?


AULETTA: Those are really important questions that may or may not get some ventilation in the coming weeks.

STELTER: Ken, thank you very much.

The bottom line here, everybody, the news continues regardless of who's in charge.

There is uncertainty spilling out elsewhere in the media world. MSNBC's top host on hiatus. What could that mean for the network?

And later, the one thing I want everyone to know about CNN, and that includes Mr. John Malone.



STELTER: Just trust us, just believe us. That's basically what the Biden administration said this week, twice, when reporters pressed for evidence of the government's claims. Just trust us.

Well, that is not what journalists do. That is not what journalists are meant to do. Journalists are meant to probe and press for the evidence, regardless of who is in power.

That's the purpose of places like CNN. That's the reason why we need independent news rooms in this country. That's why other countries suffer when they don't have them.

For more on that and a lot of other stories, David Zurawik is here with me, former "Baltimore Sun" media critic, now professor at Goucher College. Claire Atkinson is also back with us, chief media correspondent for "Insider".

David, I couldn't believe this. The Biden administration is just saying, just trust us. Believe us. That is not our role.

DAVID ZURAWIK, PROFESSOR OF MEDIA STUDIES, GOUCHER COLLEGE: Brian, it's absolutely not our role and it's more important than ever that we never give into that. I think the Biden administration thought just because they weren't Trump, they were going to get some kind of free ride and it's outrageous.

You know, Lyndon Johnson said trust him on Vietnam, him and General Westmoreland, the light at the end of the tunnel, we're going to win.

No, we trust no one. That is exactly what we do. And here is why it's so important today, Brian, in my 45 years I have never seen a crisis like the one we are now in with disinformation and misinformation.

Almost every story in the news from Joe Rogan to this one, the press -- the push back from the Biden White House involves disinformation and misinformation. Our challenge is bigger than ever to find the truth in this sea of

disinformation that the country is really drowning in. To find the truth and deconstruct the lies and then present it in a way that is engaging enough that we can help people sort it out.

STELTER: Amen. That's why we need to protect --

ZURAWIK: So, absolutely not, Brian.

STELTER: -- we need to protect American newsrooms in order to do that job.

And let's talk about a couple of examples of newsrooms. Interesting stories this week, Rachel Maddow taking a hiatus at MSNBC until April.

Claire, you broke this news for "Insider". So, basically, they're going to keep her show on. They're going to keep the colors and the lights and the set and the logo and the name but with other hosts.

It's kind of a -- I don't know, is that a desperate move by MSNBC to keep viewers watching even though she is off to other projects?

ATKINSON: I mean, it's good marketing, isn't it?


ATKINSON: The word "hiatus" is also intriguing.

She's not just taking a vacation. She's going to be away from the 9:00 slot. It's described as weeks. I don't know if she comes back in April. She hinted on air that she would be back having another hiatus, perhaps later in the year.

She's got lots of projects to do and I think that raises the question of what happens to the 9:00 hour at MSNBC. Rachel drives a lot of political conversation, her clips drive web traffic. And so, we are waiting to see what happens next week. Do the viewers go somewhere else is the question?


STELTER: ABC, Whoopi Goldberg suspended this week. ABC News product, by the way, suspended because of her ignorant comments about the Holocaust. But David, a lot of the reactions on social media has been pro Whoopi saying, hey, she apologized. She seemed to mean it so why is she on the bench for two weeks?

ZURAWIK: Well, I -- you know, I think this is a case of misinformation rather than disinformation.


ZURAWIK: This is something where someone was ignorant, but there's no excuse for Whoopi Goldberg not to be better informed. I mean, in one way, there was the Washington Post editorial, it said, this shows the need for a kind of critical race theory discussion in schools and I agree with that, but there's no reason for her not to be better informed about Jewish identity in this nation and historically.


ZURAWIK: I really think -- but it is misinformation. It's not like the Republican Party calling the horror of January 6 legitimate political discourse, that's this information. But, Brian, we're just too much of it. And by the way, CNN is one of the stations -- one of the -- of all the television, broadcast networks, and cable channels, it pushed harder in 2020 -- from 2016 to 2020 against Trump, and it was part of the firewall that I think has saved democracy this far under Jeff Zucker.

STELTER: That is a very important piece of context for the conversations I've been having the last few days about Zucker's exit. I know a lot of people blame him for enabling Trump. Others praise him for holding the line and even taking Trump to court when needed when seen -- when here at CNN.

Oh, yes, but let me get some more of the media stories of the week, Spotify. This is crazy this weekend, Claire. This video comes out -- this video compilation of all the times Rogan use the N-word on his podcast in the past before Spotify did that exclusive 100 million dollar distribution deal with Rogan.

So now, you know, Spotify is expressing concerns and they're maybe figuring out what to do, the company's not commenting at all. They're not actually taking any action against him. Is Spotify just going to -- going to keep him on the so-called air, the proverbial airways, the podcast airways or do you think this is a kind of thing so awful that it could cause him to break ties with Joe Rogan?

ATKINSON: I think it's so awful. It should -- it should cause them to break ties with him. I -- amorphous free speech, people should be able to say things that other people don't like. This is a transgression. That's unbelievable. It's hard to believe Spotify didn't listen to every single episode before they did this 100 million dollar deal.

STELTER: Yes, right.

ATKINSON: We, Insider, broke a huge story on Friday that kind of got lost in the mix. The Obamas have a podcast deal with Spotify, they are shopping around at the moment. You wonder if perhaps they knew this story was going to break. The question for Spotify now is how many of their artists might break ranks with them? A few already have. India Ari has said she over race. She said she didn't want her music on the service. And so I think this is going to be a difficult week for Spotify.

STELTER: It's going to be a difficult week. I was just looking at my phone to see if there's anything new from the company. Still -- they still aren't saying a word about this. It's been like 36 hours. They're staying stone-cold silent the camp forever. Claire and David, thank you both for being here.

We're going to keep covering all these stories in our Nightly RELIABLE SOURCES Newsletter. Sign up for free right now I'll try to have it out I'd say nine o'clock Eastern time tonight.

Coming up, some lawmakers say big tech platforms have unfair advantages. They're trying to change that. Senator Amy Klobuchar joins me to tell us what her plan is, right after this break.



STELTER: Big tech companies keep posting breathtaking profits, small newspapers keep getting smaller, some fading away altogether. Many are fighting, making the move digital trying to sign up digital subscribers, but it's a struggle. So how connected are these two trends, big tech triumphing, local news perishing? And is there anything that lawmakers can do about it?

Well, that was a subject of a hearing on Capitol Hill this week chaired by Senator Amy Klobuchar. She is advancing legislation that would try to give local news more leverage against big tech. I talked with her about that and her love of local media. Watch.


STELTER: Senator Klobuchar, thank you for coming to the program.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D-MN): Well, thanks, Brian.

STELTER: Let's start at the very beginning. Let's start with your birth. Let's start with your parents. Your father was a well-known newspaperman, and I know he passed away last year. How much of his life and his career has affected your views of local news?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, for me, growing up in newspapers, the First Amendment was everything. And my dad interviewed everyone from Ginger Rogers to Ronald Reagan to Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka, and I won't say which one he liked the best. But he had this incredible career over 8000 columns covered the Vikings but also wrote about anything you want, in his words, ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

So through my life, I saw newspapers closed down, merged, get smaller, but we've never seen anything like we've seen in this last decade with the advent of tech. We've lost now, Brian, so many newspapers, 2200 at last count. We have seen declines in ad revenue from $37 billion to $9 billion for newspapers.

At the same time, these advertising Titans, and I don't think anyone ever calls them that but that's what they are, Facebook and Google bind market total of 2.6 trillion. While they've gone up, newspapers and other news organizations have gone down.

STELTER: So much of this is due to market forces. And Google just this week reported incredible earnings, Reno increased growth and in ad revenue, so it continues to take away that revenue from print. But isn't this just the market doing what it's doing? Is there -- is there anything that lawmakers, regulators can do? KLOBUCHAR: It's not just the market. A lot of these newspapers have their own websites and they have adapted to that and they show their local news that way.


KLOBUCHAR: What's really killed them is the ad revenue. I just gave you that figure 12 years from 37 to nine, while in just three months of this year -- last year, Google came out with their number. $61 billion they wrecked it. So a lot of it is how much these news organizations, not just newspapers are getting paid for their content?

So, all we're doing is saying big, small, people should be able to negotiate with these platforms together so you don't have some small newspaper in Lanesboro, Minnesota trying to do it by themselves. That's why you see the gamut from myself to Senator Kennedy, who's a conservative Republican from Louisiana supporting this bill, either Ken Bach in the House, a conservative from Colorado. So we're pretty excited about the momentum we're getting not just on this app store bill just passed the Judiciary Committee of the Senate 21 to 02 weeks before my bill -- 21 to one, my bill two weeks before.

That said, you can't self-preference to your own stuff, whether it's apple, whether it's Amazon, whether it's Google, 16 to six. It was the first competition bill to be headed to the Senate floor since the advent of the Internet, Brian. They have stalled off doing anything in our country while other nations are stepping into the breach.

And we just have to have some rules of the road when it comes to anti- competitive behavior and also anti-democracy behavior which is basically decimating our news organizations by sucking up all their ad revenue.

STELTER: I'm worried that these bills aren't actually going to get a Floor vote though. Can you get these through and pass this year?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I have talked to Senator Schumer, talk to Senator McConnell, who by the way, Senator McConnell used to be a co-sponsor was want tech actually on the news bill. We feel like we have a really strong coalition. We know people have different views from Mark Warner and Cory Booker to Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham and Josh Hawley, Mazie Hirono.

I get that they have different views, but what unites us is a view that we must continue to rejuvenate America's economy, and we must push for competition and allow for competition. And right now, when you have dominant platforms with over 90 percent, over 70 percent of the market, that is not what was envisioned by the founders of our country.

I don't want to stop these companies from existing. I use everything from Fitbit to iPhones. I'm not a Neanderthal. I just know that we have to make sure their platforms are fair to allow for competition.

(END VIDEOTAPE) STELTER: Coming up next here on the program, the world's media converging on Beijing for the Olympics. Hear what you need to know about Chinese influence behind the scenes at media companies next.



STELTER: Well, we've all seen the glitz and the glamour of the Beijing Olympics. But you just scratched the surface a little bit and you can see the ugly truth of China's human rights abuses and crackdowns. So, can a media company that's there cover the spectacle that's paid for the rights to the Olympics to broadcast them exclusively, can that network, NBC, tell the truth about China? They can and they are.

And be speedy -- NBC spoke truth to power during the opening Olympic ceremonies on Friday and they are receiving rightful praise for the honest look at the state of politics and human rights in China. Though NBC deserves credit because there were a lot of questions before the Olympics about how the network was going to handle this.

And certainly, the scrutiny should continue all throughout the games. But zooming out beyond NBC in these Olympics, there's an uneasy relationship between China and top U.S. media companies. Beijing has pumped big bucks into the entertainment industry and its left media critics are wondering if that makes corporate America turn the other way when it comes to serious abuses and other matters involving China.

Erich Schwartzel is the film industry reporter for The Wall Street Journal out with an outstanding new book, Red Carpet: Hollywood, China and the Global Battle for Cultural Supremacy. It's coming out on Tuesday. So I'm grateful to have you here, Eric at the opening ceremony this weekend. The Olympics, let's start with that. Do you see a connection between coverage of the Olympics and your topic which is Hollywood's -- China's influence in Hollywood?

ERICH SCHWARTZEL, FILM INDUSTRY REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, you know, I think the coverage you just referenced is the exception, not the rule in today's American media industry.

STELTER: Good point.

SCHWARTZEL: Because you know, let's use the Beijing Summer Olympics from 2008 as a bookend. In 2008, when China first hosted the Olympics, a movie being released by Universal, let's say might hope to make 50 or $60 million at the box office. But since then, we have seen China grow in terms of box office, really, by factors no one could have anticipated.

And today, a movie being released by Universal might hope to make 300 or 400 million, and not only that, but universals even spent the past decade building a theme park outside Beijing. So the corporate holdings have grown only more and more entrenched in just those 14 years. And I think you're right, it's made a lot of media companies, very cautious about what topics they wade into what scripts they approve, even down to, you know, certain frames or casting decisions they make in every movie they produce.

STELTER: You make the point in your book that China is no longer ever portrayed as the villain in any major studio film. Now, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, it is the truth. That's the deal. You don't see films where China's the villain. Is that directly because of investment by China, what does that be? Or is that because of the importance of the Chinese box office, meaning the ability to release movies in China?

SCHWARTZEL: It's both. I mean, I -- think about it this way.


SCHWARTZEL: You know if you're making a movie these days, one of these Marvel superhero movies that cost upwards of $200 million to produce, you need China to turn a profit very often. And to get into Chinese movie theaters, you need to have approval from Chinese Communist Party censors. So that means that they're going to screen every movie.

And they're screening for things large and small, themes that they don't like, like Tibet or Taiwan, you know, geographic tensions like that. But even smaller cosmetic issues, you know, I detail in my book how a James Bond movie had to cut a scene in which 007 seven kills a Chinese security guard because it made the country look weak.

So in many ways, every Hollywood blockbuster produced in the past decade or so has become almost a de facto commercial for China. And I think you're right, that means obviously, any Chinese villain, completely off the table.

STELTER: Remarkable. What surprised you most in researching this book?

SCHWARTZEL: I think it was looking beyond the U.S. and China. I think right now, our conversation really focuses on these two countries and the ideological rivalry that's forming between them. But if you look beyond our borders, in other parts of the world, you see a lot of, you know, coverage and exploration of Chinese investment in certain parts of the world, like Africa or Latin America.

What I was struck by was just how much soft power there is complementing that. I traveled to Kenya in January of 2020 and there's -- obviously, there's a number of investment projects going up, Chinese train stations and roads and ports. I was in Nairobi, at one point, Brian, and I passed by an apartment complex called the Great Wall apartments. But then I went out into this rural village, and I walked into an apartment in the middle of the afternoon, and everyone was watching the Chinese soap opera.

And it feels like there's not necessarily a wholesale replacement. But there's more of coexistence with American entertainment. And China's effort is really to mount a sequel to what Hollywood has done for America for the past 100 years.

STELTER: Very interesting. Now, you're at the Wall Street Journal, which is owned by News Corp. And there were reports a couple of days ago of a hacking attack at News Corporation. Some people's e-mails are being tapped into and the report is that China is suspected that, China is, the suspected culprit. Has this affected you, Eric, is there anything you can tell us about it?

SCHWARTZEL: You know, I actually I don't know too much about this, I have to say, being someone who is associated with News Corp, and he who about China, I know depressingly little about what's happened, but it is an example I think of something hitting closer to home, that I have covered in my own reporting.

You know, I'm often talking to executives who will tell me things like, you know, we need to speak in code. And I'm often, the reporter, who has to be worried about broaching certain topics on certain phone conversations, or else seeing the phone call mysteriously drop. You know, and so I think this is another example of some of the perils and the tripwires that come with doing business in China.

And certainly when it comes to, you know, to the -- to your point at the top of the segment about free expression, and the need to defend that free expression when exploring these ugly truths and the nuances to this relationship.

STELTER: And hacking is a major threat to global news outlets, not just from China, not just the News, News Corp. It's a major threat to news outlets. Erich, thank you so much. I love the book. Again, Red Carpet is the book, best luck with the launch.

SCHWARTZEL: Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: I want to end the hour with a final thought, and I'm going to go a little bit rogue here, so bear with me, OK? Jeff Zucker's departure was shocking to the staff of CNN. But CNN was not built by just one man, not by only Ted Turner and it was not led only by Jeff Zucker. CNN is so much bigger than any single individual. It is about teams and teams of people thousands of individuals who make up CNN.

This place is not perfect, it will never be perfect. We will always have flaws, we will always screw up, we will always have to run corrections, we will always have to keep working to make it better and better and better every single day. That is the goal.

But the people who say we're lacking journalism, that we've become an all-talk channel that we've run-off, and we're all opinions all the time, that Jeff Zucker led us astray. Those people aren't watching CNN. They're not watching CNN. They're watching complaints about CNN on other channels that don't know what they're talking about. That's the truth. Let's put the map up on the screen of bureaus around the world. CNN has more bureaus around the world than almost any other news organization on the planet. That map covers the world, London and Moscow, Hong Kong and Beijing and Nairobi and all the rest. That's why one of the network's slogans is, go there. On the day Jeff Zucker resigned, CNN aired more than 135 reporter hits, 135 reporters in the U.S. and around the world.


STELTER: I'm talking about dozens of live shots from international correspondents in just one day. On the day Jeff Zucker resigned, CNN published more than 215 stories on the website, nearly 90 original videos. That's a hell of a lot of news. It's a hell of a lot of journalism. Do some of the anchors say provocative things? Yes. Do some of those clips get played over and over again on other channels, and mislead people about what CNN actually is?

Yes. CNN is the reporters and the producers and the production assistants, and the writers, and the editors and the technical directors. CNN is the executives and it's the interns and everybody in between who keeps this place running 24/7. So when something horrible happens in the world or when something wonderful happens in the world, you know where to turn. That's what CNN is. We lost our leader this week. We're not going anywhere. So we'll see you back here next week.