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Good evening and welcome to today's meeting of the Commonwealth Club of California, I am Jim Bettinger Director of the Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University and I will be your chair and moderator for this program. We also welcome our listeners on the radio and want to remind everyone that you can find us on the internet at commonwealthclub.org. Now it's my pleasure to introduce our distinguish speakers Lowell Bergman and Steven Talbot both of our speakers today are veteran journalists who who will examine the legal and monetary challenges facing the news media today. Their comments are based on their work as producer and correspondent for the upcoming PBS Frontline Four Part Series entitled News War. Lowell Bergman's career in journalism spans more than 35 years. He is a producer and correspondent for the PBS Series Frontline and a professor at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He has also been an investigator reporter for the New York Times where shared a surprise for public service reporting in 2004. But more than 14 years Mr. Bergman was a producer at the CBS new magazine 60 minutes where he did more than 50 stories ranging from organized crime to the Port Persian Gulf War. The story of his investigation of the tobacco was chronicled in the academy award winning film "The Insider" where he was portrayed by Al Pacino. Mr. Bergman has received numerous MD's, five DuPont Colombia University awards and three Peabody's. Steven Talbot has been a producer and writer for PBS Frontline since 1992, his documentaries include "The Best Campaign Money Can Buy," "Rush Limbaugh's America," "Spine on Saddam" and "Why American Hates the Press." Mr. Talobot began his television journalism career at KQED in San Francisco and his articles on politics and culture have appeared in Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post among others. He also edits Frontline's International new magazine Frontline World where he and his colleagues won the Edward R Murrow award from the Overseas Press Club for coverage of international affairs in 2005. Tonight Lowell Bergman will speak first on the current challenges facing journalist and then Steven Talbot will address economic issues confronting the media. Please welcome Lowell Bergman. Thank you and as you can see I am not Al Pacino. This series that Frontline will air starting on February 13th was funded by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund here in San Francisco in a grant of the graduate school of journalism Berkeley and in many ways it was fitting that it start in San Francisco with funding and work here at the University in Berkeley because many of the things that are now confronting the journalism community in general particularly on a legal basis for some reason the sort of perfect storm that's been created over the last number of years on these issues is winding up, starting out and winding up here in San Francisco. As we stand here tonight there is a journalist the first video blogger in the history of United Stated doing time in a federal penitentiary just east of here. There are two reporters in San Francisco who are facing jail time if the Ninth Circuit here in San Francisco doesn't change the situation and sometime in February, there is a Federal Court case currently down the street in front of the Federal District Court which involves the consolidation of 14 cases from around the United States where the Bush administration is claiming that state secrets require that all these cases be dismissed, these were cases that resulted from reporting on national security administration domestic eavesdropping program. So San Francisco in many ways has become the first if you will search of this perfect storm it's been developing around these issues. The case that is determined in many of these confidential stories and issues that you heard about is the case called Branzburg that goes back to the US Supreme Court in 1972. That again was the case that originated here in the San Francisco area and I thought I will give a little bit of background about that because the first hour as I should explain of this documentary series will focus on the issue of confidential sources the use of it by the press and its future. The second hour by the way will be about national security reporting the kind of reporting that you can in the United States is one of the only countries in the world where you can actually do that kind of reporting and not go immediately to jail and the third hour which Steve will talk about is really about what's happening to the news and the economic situation in the new gathering industry and I use to term perfect storm because when you think about these issues very often we go back to the Nixon administration and we think about the confrontation between the press and the Nixon administration and one of the things to keep in mind when you think about those comparisons is that there is a number of very major differences, one the most fundamental difference which Steve will talk about is that at that time 35 years ago the news gathering industry was a profitable industry, it was an oligopoly in television and it was a monopoly in local areas in metropolitan areas. In those days the news industry that stood up to the Nixon administration had a pretty sound economic base, today that base is dissolved, the news industries economic model is foundering and its desperately looking for a way out. So in some ways the storm that's developing around us is different and potentially much more dangerous, but to take us back to its origins at least legally back to the Branzburg case. You have to understand that before 1970 it really wasn't much in the way of protection for journalism in this country on the issue of confidential sources and the ability to talk to people and not have to give up your information if you were subpoenaed and as it developed and actually the in an interview we did the other day with the member __ who was also locally in the bay area, he reminded me that in the good old days and in the early 1960's the cops and the reporters were cooperating all the time, it was no such thing as a confidential source or reporters actually not being cooperative with law enforcement, the development of that separation of reporters as watchdogs took place in the late 60's and early 70's and Branzburg brought a lot of that to ahead because what was happening was that the federal government was very interested in the Black Panther Party, and there was a reporter for the New York Times name Earl Caldwell who had managed to get inside the Black Panther Party and was writing about and as when you see the documentary you will see Mr. Caldwell talk about how he was approached by the FBI and asked to cooperate, he refused they subpoenaed him and that along with another Black Panther Case out of New Haven Connecticut and a case involving drug dealers all went up to the Supreme Court. In 1972 the Supreme Court decided that while in certain limited case reporters do have a privilege, they do not have a privilege when it comes to not giving information to a federal grand jury. Now what was interesting in that period and I was telling about the story that I learned is that soon after the press lost that decision the Government decided not to ask the reporters to testify nor did it want their notes and that because of what followed in its wake because of Watergate and various things that took place afterwards, the justice department issued guidelines, those guidelines are still in place which make it very difficult for a federal prosecutor to subpoena a reporter, there was a truce declared and I certainly think we learned in the course of doing this documentary that truce is now over. There is a war, new war between the media and the government an unsettled period that is going on right now and that's why the reporters here in San Francisco are facing jail that's why Mr. Wolf is facing jail and that's why in a couple of weeks you are going to see an unprecedented line of reporters walking into federal court in Washington DC to testify. Thirty five years ago when these issues seemed to be resolved reporters were seen as watchdogs we were in a sense had a very good image there was another movie done "All the President's Men" and we were stars, we were somehow the protectors of the people. Today in the light of what happened around the Valerie Plame case and what we call the "Plame Gate reporters" are no longer the watchdogs reporters are witnesses and the government of United States seems to now we are involved into do that into the future. It doesn't seem to be anyway legally to stop unless there is in fact in congress or in amongst the public some rising up against it. But I wanted you know there was an issue that came up in the course of doing the reporting for this documentary which is one that we have spent sometime with which is our things different than they were 35 years ago. And as one person we interviewed said what's going on today in many ways is Richard Nixon's revenge that he didn't last long enough to do what is happening now at the press and just to give you an idea if you go online to the frontline website tomorrow it's pbs.orgforward/frontline. You will find something that we came across in the course of our research. Back in 1991, a professor named Karen Homestead at University Of California Davis doing her dissertation came across a pile of papers at the Gerald Ford Library and the papers were in the file marked Dick Cheney, at the time he was the assistant to the chief of staff the Gerald Ford, Donald Rumsfeld. And in the file she found something that we are going to post on the web, which is the handwritten note of Dick Cheney. Okay, and the handwritten notes of Dick Cheney and the related that you will see talk about 52975 problem: unauthorized disclosure of classified national security information by Seymour Hersh and the New York Times" and then it precedes to give the minutes of a meeting between Mr. Cheney and the Attorney General of United States and the Representative of the CIA in which they discussed whether or not to prosecute the New York times for espionage - heard that recently whether or not get search warrants for Mr. Hersh's house, whether or not notify the news media in general and in person about why they should be published matters like this. And in the end something that we discovered in the course of this research. Before they can start an investigation for a national security leak, the procedure in the US government is that they have to get a complaining agency. So as a result of this meeting the Attorney general sent a letter to the director of the CIA. And what he does in these letters as he started 1969 is he asks the complaining agency and that's in the file that you see online tomorrow 11 questions, these were 11 questions apparently written and approved by (Jay Grover). And amongst the questions in this version its question number three is was the classified leak true, As if an FBI official explain to us in the documentary, if it's not true there is no violation of the law. So the follow-up question to him was, so if we hear that there is a national security leak investigation that means that the story is true. And he said, we are in fact he agreed the fact checkers of the American public. You will see this process going on in this file of what goes on. But there is a fundamental question at the end of the process an in the memos. Mr. Hersh wrote a story about how the United States was eavesdropping on the Soviet Union using submarines to go within Soviet territory waters and tap into undersea cables. So the question becomes in the documents, do we go public and announced leak investigation and if we do that will that bring more attention to the stories. So they query the department of defense and the navy to find out is there any indications since the publication of the stories that the soviets have stopped talking that they realized we're eavesdropping on and the answer they get back is it doesn't seem to think it doesn't look like they read his story or that they believed it. So they decided not to prosecute. So it's a good inside look at how what we now see going on today. There is a national security leak investigation of the New York Times and its reporters for doing this NSA eavesdropping story. There are people who called for the prosecution of the New York Times, Congressman Peter King has been resolution through congress calling for an espionage investigation of the news media and these kinds of actions are not intimidating but may represent a new unprecedented war on the media especially at a time when we don't have the same robust economic model that we had in the past and with that I will introduce my colleague Steve and by the way you should understand Steve is producing the third hour, this first two hours I should credit (Reine Harrinson) who is the producer of the first two hours, which will be out of New York and there is a large large group of people here involved both students from the university of California former students and people around the country and one of the difficulties of doing this you should understand is that doing a series about the news media by those of us in the news media is not only presented certain great difficulties but a reaffirmation in my mind, one of the things that I learned about my colleagues before, its not that we don't that we have thin skins, we have no skins. Thank you. So my role in all this is Lowell mentioned is to produce this third episode, again the series that will be broadcast in February national and frontline here on KQED. This episode that I am about to talk about will be February 27. Ten years ago I did this before for frontline, I was roped into it by Sharon Taylor who is an executive at Frontline and who happens to be Lowell's wife and that show was called "Why America Hates the Press" and no one would be the correspondent for that show. Everyone at Frontline said terrific idea Steve, go get them. Press especially that celebrity press core in Washington, it really need to be taken down a notch. But you know I like to do lunch in Washington and in New York and we really don't want to rile Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson and Bob Woodward. So one of the great pleasures of working on this series and it's not always a pleasure, is working with the Lowell because Lowell doesn't care about who he does lunch with. Incidentally the big expose in that series which seems extraordinarily quaint now given the problems that were in these days with the government and the media as Lowell has talked about. Our expose was that the Mclaughlin Report was staged. I know that comes as a great shock to many of you. But at the time the Mclaughlin Report which was really one of the first reports to have the shout fests that we've come to know way too much about. Mclaughlin always introduced every show saying this is an absolutely spontaneous unrehearsed show. They made a big point of that. And it turned out it was completely the opposite, it was the most staged thing on TV except for professional wrestling and we found this out because one of the guest who was sort of a third tier guest on the show was called-in in summer and he tape-recorded the message he got from the producer of the show who outlined what everyone would say on the show, who would ask the questions, what their answers would be roughly and in what order all this would happen. So we recorded this, he listen to the message on the phone then we got the tape of that episode of the show and inter-cut, he is getting the instructions on the phone with the show which played out exactly as he was told to do it. And then we inter cut it with pro-wrestling just to drive the -. So this episode which is called "What's Happening to the News" is about the pressures both corporate pressures, economic pressures on the media and the most phenomenal change of all really the impact of the web which is a truly disruptive media, new media that has just shaken traditional media, news paper, TV, even radio to it's foundation and has profoundly changing the business model of these traditional news media. So as best we can in this hour we are trying to look at those two forces the corporate pressures on newspapers and television and the disruptive force of the web and to look at what opportunities there are but also the real track challenges that disposes for us. And we start where else these days with The Daily Show. There was an announcement today that a rumor I should say that The Daily Show is been courted by the Washington Post, washingtonpost.com which is very developed website to cover the '98 presidential election. So this comedy show which mocks what we do is now being drawn more and more of course into main stream coverage partly because they do such a good job at deconstructing what a bad job so many of my colleagues do. One of the funniest things that happen I think a couple of years ago was the TV critics who Lowell is going to go talk to on Pasadena on Saturday about this series the TV critics voted The Daily Show, the best news show in America and I hate to say but we were up against them Frontline that year we have won that in the past as it was 60 minutes. So that was a great provocative award on their behalf and more substantively recently there has been a university professor in the Mid West who studied network news and found that substantively there was as much coverage of the news as much hard news in the daily show as there wasn't network news broadcasts, that when you took the 22 minutes of the network news broadcast minus the commercials and you threw out the fluff, you threw out Katie Couric talking about home recipes and so forth and got down to what was actually news and then he looked through the daily show when you took out the obvious jokes it's a comedy show after all, so you got the obvious jokes but then they have guests President Musharraf of Pakistan was on Bill Clinton you name it, actually they sometimes even make news and they deconstruct the news in the way that we might do in a journalism class at the Graduate School of Journalism in Berkeley. The night we were there filming with them CNN had launched a whole week of programming they are called Fear not Facts and it was about, it was at the time when there was the incident with liquids being brought on perhaps as bombs in planes and all the airports in an up roar and this was the most out of control anxiety provoking coverage you could possibly get with booming voice of Fear Not Facts you know and then they would go in to this horribly fear inducing reporting which Jon Stewart and his producers took apart in a very systematic way and he says they are using the fear voice music and the fear font which was all true. So it cant be not always but it can be a very engaging lesson and when we were there we interviewed David Javerbaum who is the he was the head writer, he is now the executive producer of the show and he said look we are a comedy show, he is very depressed by watching the news he says Jon Stewart is a lot tougher man than he and can actually watch cable news all day, he cant take it anymore but he told us I personally threw this job through working this job I have come to feel that the news media is even more depressing than the news that attempts and fails miserably to report. I think its horrible news broadcast horribly that's a fairly blanket statement but I have been doing this job for a long time delving into it everyday it's a thoroughly depressing business. But to the extent that people looked to us as a source of news that is a 100 percent indicative of other people's failures and not our success. So that's a long introduction to how we begin this show and as I had mentioned at the start what we look at are the pressures that the traditional news media are facing which we feel are diminishing or degrading the quality of the news that we watch we listen to what we read. To take the corporate ownership issue the demands for profits we focus on the Los Angeles Times now I know a lot of you are in the media, I see a lot of friends and the audience I am not going to blabber this and we will take your question. But the essence of their story as many of you know is that in 2000 the Tribune Company of Chicago big media corporation purchased the Times Mirror Corporation Los Angeles owner of the LA Times. So for the first time in 120 years the Chandler family which had founded and built the LA Times sold it, kind of in a moment of panic, they sold it and since then the Times news room has gone from 1200 people perhaps loaded, perhaps too many by 1200 people down to close to 900 down. So there have been a steady series of cuts that the Tribune Corporation has imposed on the LA Times staff and they are continuing to demand more mainly because the deal went south. They have spent $8.3 billion to acquire Times Mirror, they had a lot of ideas for synergy and convergent's buying News Day in Long Island combining with the TV station in New York, having a TV station KTLA and their Times in Los Angeles thinking they could national advertising it didn't work out. So they have been pushing for cuts ever since. John Carroll the editor they brought in to the LA Times did very good journalism while he was there but ended up agreeing to many of the cuts finally couldn't stomach at any more left in the summer of 2005. He passed the baton to his protege, Dean Baquet, the only African American editor of a major news paper in the United States, he had come from the New York Times, very qualified guy, he also continued making cuts but trying to fight the good fight hold the line, what was interesting about the case is that his publisher a man Jeffery Johnson who was a 22 year veteran of the Tribune Corporation came out to Los Angeles he had been there for a while but got this job as publisher and eventually he and Baquet teamed up. He began to look at the world the way Baquet did and John Carroll before him had and he on the front page of his own paper in Los Angeles announced that newspapers can't cut their way into the future and two weeks later he was fired. Incidentally interesting development in Los Angles is that many people in the community, many civic leaders who worry about how you govern a city looks like Los Angeles huge population, so many different racial and ethnic groups, so many languages, sprawling city always had a problem holding itself together with a center, they worry about having an institution like LA Times not be locally owned. So former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and others 20 community leaders representing Urban League AFL-CIO, Chamber of Commerce signed a a public statement to the Tribune Company don't lay off more people at the paper we need the LA Times. Tribune Company has not taken that advice. The surprising thing in all this is that the Los Angeles Times like many newspapers while its loosing circulation is making a lot of money, the Los Angeles Times returns out makes a 20 percent profit a year, they have taken a billion dollars in revenues at sales and so forth and they make $200 million a year. So that's double the average of a Fortune 500 Company and many major newspapers in the United States make that kind of money. John Carroll was saying that if a paper like the LA Times would be allowed to make say 10 percent, still quite a healthy profit, he felt that the paper could be very prosperous, would not have to lay of staff, would be able to invest money in its future which is the web, which isn't going online more and more and in continuing to promote the paper but they obviously didn't listen to John Carroll he's at Harvard now, The Shorenstein Center writing a book on the future of the news. Several billionaires have stepped forward in Los Angeles saying they would be willing to buy the LA Times, David Geffen is one of them, Ron Burkle another Eli Broad who are all interviewed for this show and interestingly enough Broad said when Lowell pressed him that he would be perfectly willing to accept five, six, seven percent profit. now obviously local owners, billionaires you hope they're benevolent, like families that own papers, the Salzburgers and the New York Grams, The Washington Post, law pressed him and said would you change interfere with the editorial policy for instance of the LA Times and he sat back in front of one of his paintings he owns, he is the big museum guy and owner and modern art and he said I might and when we pushed him on that basically what he said he would like to see the LA Times have more coverage of museums and high art. He also said he would sign a statement that he would stay away from pushing the editorial direction of the times and he said he would continue to employ Dean Baquet who he admired tremendously and when we told that to Dean Baquet he pointed out that he thought Eli Broad was the handsomest billionaire he had ever met. Why does this matter with the LA Times, it matters because it's a paper that under Carroll and Baquet won 13 Pulitzer Prizes in five years, more than any other newspaper in the United States during that period. there were stories that ranged from detailed coverage of Russia, Post-Soviet Russia, Homelessness in Los Angeles, they are one of the few papers to have a continue, maintain continuous bureau in Iraq and bring us important news from Iraq, they have done local, they should more local coverage with the LA Times, its always been a knock about the paper and its true but they have also done tremendous reporting got a Pulitzer for a public hospital drew in South Central Los Angeles, really the exact kind of reporting we ought to be doing the sort of reporting Lowell was doing with the Times and Frontline and dangerous business about companies that were jeopardizing workers life's, the kind of things that don't necessarily immediately they are not sexy stories and not stories that immediately sell your paper but they are with the public interest, public service kinds of stories that news papers ought to be doing. So it matters what happens to paper like the LA Times and I am going to quickly just mention the web here so we can get to questions but there is a lot of promise on the web, I love a lot of web journalism, bloggers have broken some stories very interesting story in the San Francisco Chronicle today page two about a local blogger who is calling KSFO to task for what he regards as hate speech on the radio, so bloggers have called attention to our failings in the media, they have broken some stories themselves which were covering in the documentary. But my brother full disclosure started Salon Magazines, Salon has broken some stories so I am a believer in a lot of the web journalism that can be done, but it's no where near at the level of what newspapers have done in this country and newspapers are one of the few institutions that employ large numbers of news gatherers. So when you go to a guy like John Carroll and he says I have been looking into this, he has to meet 85 percent of the original reporting in the United States is done by newspapers. And the online revenue that is being generated and everyone is going online even 60 minutes old employer Jeff Fager, The Executive Producer he has cut deal with Yahoo so that they now post 60 minutes stories chunked up so you can info snack as they say it, 60 minute story is on the Yahoo news website and that audience that looks at 60 minutes on the website is 20 years younger than the audience that looks that 60 minutes on TV so they are very excited about that and everyone is trying to make their deals but the revenue that that's breaking, bringing in right now is very, very small. So we are in this dangerous period economically for the news media where the traditional gatherers who are still doing the line share of the war that our democracy depends that our social discourse depends on are losing revenue, they're losing circulation and yet the web has not yet been able to generate the kind of revenue that it would take to support large numbers of professional news gatherers out in the field bringing us the real reporting that we need. So that's the moment that we are in that's where we are zeroing in on this, in this episode "What's Happening in the News" and hope you watch, thank you.