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September 14th, 2014
12:45 PM ET

Should media air ISIS propaganda? Dan Rather, Jeff Greenfield weigh in

As the Islamic terror group ISIS releases video showing the beheading of another Western hostage, Dan Rather and Jeff Greenfield discuss whether news organizations should be giving airtime to these videos. Does it serve a public interest or is it giving the terror group the publicity that they want - or both?

"This is the first social media war," Rather said. "In the way the Vietnam War was the first television war, this is the first social media war. ISIS has proved to be very adept, very talented, if you will - you always hope evil won't be - in ratcheting up the hysteria, ratcheting up the image of their influence far beyond what their actual military capabilities are."

Greenfield said the existence of the videos "tends to force, I think, our policymakers into taking decisions they might not take absent the emotional punch of those pictures. They tend to maybe say more than what reality lets them say."

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September 14th, 2014
12:43 PM ET

Web Exclusive: Former diplomat Daniel Benjamin says media outlets are "hyperventilating" over ISIS

In the above video, Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's most senior counterterrorism adviser during President Obama's first term, tells Brian Stelter that media outlets have been overstating the threat that ISIS poses to the U.S. homeland.

Benjamin was quoted in The New York Times this week saying that public discussion of the threat has been a "farce."

"I do think ISIS is a very serious challenge," Benjamin told Stelter. "But the public debate has really lost touch with reality."

"We've had a lot of people from Congress suggesting that there were plots in the offing that are completely unrealistic. We've had senators talking about bombs that will destroy whole cities, cities in flames. We’ve had governors talking about ISIS operatives streaming across the southern border. And we've had an awful lot in the media about simply preposterous plots about spraying Ebola all over transit systems, about cities being honeycombed with sleeper cells. And yet, at the same time, those senior-most officials in the government who deal with counterterrorism have said time and again there is no imminent threat."

With regards to media outlets, Benjamin said that "the argument that it’s not that titanic a threat is not really a great sell on the airwaves, so we've had competing talking heads who have been trying to top each other with outrageous scenarios. And I'm afraid that this is the way the market goes in reporting on terrorism all too often."

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September 14th, 2014
12:40 PM ET

Tim Arango on the risks of reporting on ISIS

New York Times Baghdad bureau chief Tim Arango tells Brian Stelter about his experience reporting from Iraq and the perils journalists face when trying to cover ISIS.

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September 14th, 2014
12:25 PM ET

Where are the anti-war voices on TV?

Rep. Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against the use of force authorization in Afghanistan in 2001, talks to Brian Stelter about why we hear so few anti-war voices on cable news.

Lee said that in her experience, voices of dissent are rarely "called to be on the media and in the press to have these kinds of discussions."

"I think it is, in many ways, derelict, because we are here to make sure that people know what is going on, that they understand the issues, that they know what the crises are about, so they can really understand what the solutions could be. But if they the only have one point of view, that's the point of view they take and embrace."

Asked about polls that show Americans are "increasingly concerned that ISIS represents a direct terror threat," Lee suggested news organizations are partly responsible: "The media has really focused on a lot of the very terrible things that are going on."

"I think it is important... that we not allow fear to settle in."

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September 7th, 2014
12:42 PM ET

Red News/Blue News: Press panic over ISIS?

In the above video, Brian Stelter assesses media coverage of ISIS and asks whether the press is provoking panic about the terror group's intentions and abilities.

Stelter also spoke with Ron Fournier of National Journal and Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation magazine.

In a column earlier this week, Fournier quoted one of his readers who remarked, A decade ago, we all hopped on the bus so the White House could take us to war. Now it seems like maybe we're driving the bus."

Stelter shared some overheated comments from news anchors and commentators and said he can't help but wonder whether some "are letting their fears get the best of them."

"Bottom line," he said, "we journalists cannot let fear-mongering get in the way of facts."

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September 7th, 2014
12:40 PM ET

Two former press secretaries on Obama's response to ISIS crisis

Ari Fleischer, who was President George W. Bush's first press secretary, and Bill Burton, who was a deputy press secretary for President Obama until 2011, join Brian Stelter to discuss President Obama's handling of the threat posed by ISIS.

"The press has a tendency to push the White House and the President to act faster than they might, and you see it in the questions that get asked in the briefing room, you see it in the conversations that happen on the talk shows," Burton said. "But one of the defining characteristics of this president is that he is not - he does not let his policies get dictated by those sorts of things."

Fleischer and Burton seemed to be on the same page about the media's saturation coverage of certain stories.

"The press is always interested in the next biggest story, and they do try to push in the direction of controversy and bigger news for them to cover. There is a bit of self-interest in what the press asks," Fleischer said.

"I do think that in the modern media - and this has been the case for maybe a decade - news spikes up with so much drama, so much more than it used to," Fleischer continued. "And then it comes right back down again and the press goes on to the next spike. It's as if everything has to be a driver of the news, and everything has to be a lead story, as opposed [to] there are multiple stories going on at one time and they can go up and down in relevance, but they all remain important."

"The press just hypes whatever is hottest," he added.

Burton said Fleischer made an important point. Earlier this summer, it was immigration. Now, it's ISIS. There's an "ebb and flow of big issues all the time," he said.

"They seem like they're the biggest issues on Earth and then they just go away," Burton said - in the media, that is, not in real life.

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August 31st, 2014
01:24 PM ET

Red News/Blue News: is the threat posed by ISIS to America being overblown?

In the above video, Josh Rogin and Naomi Wolf discuss whether politicians and TV talking heads are exaggerating the danger ISIS poses to the United States.

"Let's go ahead and stipulate, right at the start, that the extremist group known as ISIS is a force to be reckoned with, and its actions are atrocious and its beliefs are backwards," host Brian Stelter said in his Red News/Blue News introduction. "But let's consider whether there is a direct threat to America that is being overstated, and whether the press is doing what it should be doing - which is challenging people in power and demanding evidence for their assertions."

Stelter added, "I think the tone of a lot of the news coverage about ISIS has been reflecting the government position."

He played some examples of politicians and TV talking heads warning about the threat of terrorist infiltrations from Mexico and Canada.

"The evidence is not there," Stelter said. "And yet the people who say this stuff don't seem to be held accountable."

The government said Friday that "the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are unaware of any specific, credible threat to the U.S. homeland from ISIL."

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August 24th, 2014
02:00 PM ET

Web Exclusive: Should beheading video be seen on TV and allowed on Twitter?

CNNMoney technology correspondent Laurie Segall, BuzzFeed deputy editor-in-chief Shani Hilton and Quinnipiac University journalism department chair Kevin Convey discuss how social networking sites and news outlets should handle the gory video of American journalist Jim Foley's murder.

A few of the highlights:

  · Segall: "This is the first time Twitter's really taken a stance" against a specific piece of graphic propaganda.

  · Convey: "I think it depends entirely in your audience... Obviously, The New York Post thought that its audience would tolerate what it put on page one. And it's no surprise, for example, that The New York Times, knowing its audience, did not."

  · Hilton: BuzzFeed initially decided to link to the beheading video on YouTube, but then the video was taken down. "We don't want to sanitize the Internet," she said. "It's there on the Internet, our audience is on the Internet, so to pretend like there's some artificial wall between our audience and the raw content, it seems a little silly to me."

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August 24th, 2014
01:12 PM ET

Jim Foley's boss: "It's suicide for a journalist to go into Syria now"

Jim Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded in a video published by the Islamic extremist group ISIS on Tuesday, was working for the web site GlobalPost when he was abducted in Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

On Sunday's "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter spoke with GlobalPost CEO Phil Balboni and Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt about the dangers that journalists face in war zones around the world.

Balboni said it is not safe for other journalists to attempt to travel to Syria now. FULL POST

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August 24th, 2014
12:55 PM ET

Dan Rather: I'd pay a ransom

In the above video, Dan Rather, the former anchor of the "CBS Evening News," discusses the dangers that reporters face while working in war zones.

In a conversation with Brian Stelter, Rather also voiced concern about the American media's coverage of conflicts overseas:

RATHER: Look, the war drums have been beating along the Potomac for some little while, accentuated in recent weeks and now in recent days. As a citizen - let me take my journalist hat off for a moment. But, as a citizen, this worries me a great deal...

All of these people on television - some of whom I have enormous respect for - it unsettles me to hear them say, listen, we, the United States, we have to - quote - "do something" in Ukraine, we have to do something in Syria, we have to do something in the waters around China, we have to do something about what is happening in Yemen, we have to do something in Iraq, we have to do something about ISIS, what they are talking about are combat operations.

My first question to anyone who is on television saying, "We have to get tough, we need to put boots on the ground and we need to go to war in one of these places" is, I will hear you out if you tell me you are prepared to send your son, your daughter, your grandson, your granddaughter to that war of which you are beating the drums. If you aren't, I have no patience with you, and don't even talk to me.

STELTER: It worries me, too, Dan, to be completely honest.

It worries me that I hear so many more voices on television that are advocating for action - than I do hear voices of people who are trying to push on the brakes, push on the brakes. And it is somewhat reminiscent of 2002 and 2003 in the run-up to what was a, of course, much, much bigger U.S. military action in Iraq than anything that is being contemplated now.

RATHER: Well, there are echoes of what we went through. And those of us in journalism - and I can include myself in this - we have a lot to answer for about what we didn't do and what we did do in the run-up to the war in Iraq, which I think history will judge to be a strategic disaster of historic proportions.

We journalists, including this one, we didn't ask the right questions. We didn't ask enough questions. We didn't ask the follow-up questions. We did not challenge power. And I am concerned that, once again, as the war drums begin to beat and get louder and louder, that there will be a herd mentality of saying, well, we have to go to war in Syria, we have to go to war in Ukraine.

I don't think it is an overstatement to say that we need to be thinking very, very carefully and seriously about this and journalists have the special responsibility to at least ask the right questions.

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