Is the media scaring us to death over Ebola? Former CNN president Jon Klein on Nielsen's TV ratings glitch; James Risen on how the crackdown on whistleblowers affects reporting.
CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks with Brian Stelter about sensationalist news coverage of Ebola and why some people seemingly want to believe conspiracy theories about the disease. Some key quotes:
>> There have been "a lot of confusing messages that have come from higher-ups, you know, people who say one thing and then a couple weeks later modify those statements. I think it leads to a challenging of your faith in some of the systems, and that breeds some of this fear."
>> After "irrational fear," "the next step is then baseless speculation to make those irrational fears even worse." Stelter abbreviated "baseless speculation" to "B.S."
>> Stelter asked, "What's the theory you're finding yourself having to shoot down the most?" Gupta said, "The airborne one is big. You know, the idea that this is airborne somehow, that's not true. Also, this idea that people who are not sick could somehow be transmitting this."
Dr. Seema Yasmin, a CDC disease detective turned medical writer for the Dallas Morning News, describes how cases of Ebola are being covered locally.
The "ground zero" of Ebola is not Dallas, she emphasized, it's West Africa. "And we have to remember that," Yasmin said. "That has to stay the focus because as long as the epidemic continues there, we will continue to see imported cases to Dallas, to Texas, and to other parts of the world."
Yasmin joined the newspaper earlier this year. Yasmin said people in positions like hers "have a collective responsibility to reassure the public, but reassure them responsibly. Give them accurate information so they can make up their own mind."
Brian Stelter examines how some partisan news outlets have advanced wild political theories about the government's response to Ebola.
Jonathan Klein, a former president of CNN/U.S., speaks with Brian Stelter about the television industry's uncomfortable dependence on Nielsen.
"Ratings rule television. So, really, it's Nielsen that rules television," Stelter said.
Nielsen ratings are what's called the "currency" for the whole TV industry to buy and sell ads and determine what's popular and what's not.
"Nielsen recently admitted to a glitch, a software bug that affected broadcast ratings for months," Stelter said. While the bug was minor, "the incident just deepened the TV industry's mistrust of the company." FULL POST
Brian Stelter interviews James Risen, the investigative reporter for The New York Times who is ensnared in the government prosecution of a former CIA officer. The government wants Risen to reveal that the officer was one of his sources for a damning 2006 report about a botched CIA operation to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Risen refuses to testify, so he faces the prospect of jail time if he is found to be in contempt of court.
Does he think it will come to that? "I don't know," he said. "I mean, I really don't know what the government is thinking now. And it's really kind of up to them at this point."
The prosecution has, in some cases, helped Risen in his reporting: "Some people have come to me and said, you know, I recognize the fact that you're willing to protect sources, so I'm willing to talk to you."
Risen's latest book is "Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War." Here's part of Stelter's exchange with him:
STELTER: You write in your book that crazy is the new normal when it comes to the war on terror. And the politicians and the press both dramatically overstate the risks to America from terrorists. If that's the case, why do we not hear that more on television? Why do we not read that more in newspapers and online?
RISEN: Oh, I think fear sells. And I think, unfortunately, it's easy to do a lot of fear-mongering and get ahead politically in the United States. You know, terrorism is a real threat, but we shouldn't be overstating it.
People worry about these groups, but they're not 10 feet tall. They're not marching down Broadway. They are, you know, we could deal with them without transforming our society.
That's what bothers me the most is we've allowed ourselves to become terrorized. And we've done that to ourselves. We've transformed American society in ways that were not necessary to deal with this threat.
This week CNN laid off about 150 employees. And HBO, which like CNN is owned by Time Warner, announced a plan to sell subscriptions via the Internet.
Brian Stelter explains how the two media stories are connected in this end-of-the-show essay.
Here's the text:
Finally this morning, I want to tell you about two seemingly unrelated stories and what they tell us about the future of media.
Turner includes channels like TNT, TBS and this one, CNN. And this week was a very painful week here. There were about 150 layoffs, spread across CNN and our sister channel HLN and CNN.com. FULL POST
What's the truth about Islam? Does the media concentrate too much on radicals and not enough on reformers? Sam Harris and Irshad Manji react to a fiery debate on "Real Time with Bill Maher."
Actor Jeremy Renner and director Michael Cuesta tell Brian Stelter about the lessons from their new film "Kill The Messenger."
In the film, Renner plays Gary Webb, who wrote a flawed but substantively true story back in 1996 about connections between the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s and the CIA's support for Nicaraguan rebels known as Contras. Webb and his story were attacked by other major media outlets.
Stelter said in his introduction: "Next time there's a big story that breaks - a big political or legal scandal - pay attention to what people say about the reporter or the source who broke the news. Are they trying to discredit the reporter? Turn people against the reporter? Distract from the actual allegations? Are they trying to... kill the messenger?"