Talk It Out
A conversation with Brian Stelter, on "Uncovered" and the state of the media
The Wall Street Journal reported exclusively today that the U.S. Energy Department has determined a lab leak is the most likely cause of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on “new intelligence.” It’s not a smoking gun, and it certainly could have been a different cause than the Wuhan lab. But it’s a significant development. And let’s step back — just a couple years ago, this sort of reporting could get you banned on social media, and dubbed a conspiracy theorist by the consensus-pushers in the press.
The “lab leak theory” is a case study in chapter 5 of my new book, “Uncovered: How the Media Got Cozy With Power, Abandoned Its Principles, and Lost the People,” and features a never-before-told story of The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin getting censored over just this very implication — about the Chinese lab and COVID.
This news is a great precursor to what this special edition of Fourth Watch is going to focus on, which is a conversation I had this week with Brian Stelter, former CNN host and media correspondent. I’ve known Brian for 15 years — back when he started at the New York Times and I started at TVNewser, the blog he founded while in college. Brian makes several appearances in “Uncovered,” and regular readers of Fourth Watch will know I’ve been critical of his work on CNN over the past several years.
But it’s business, not personal. And so I was very glad Brian agreed to turn the tables on me for the latest edition of The Fourth Watch Podcast, to interview me about the book, and the state of the media (although I turned the tables back on him at the end).
You can listen to the full podcast on Substack (it says there’s a paid version, but for this special edition, the paid and the free versions are the same). You can also download the podcast on Apple, on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
We agreed on some things, and disagreed on a lot — sometimes quite fundamentally. But I hope this conversation can serve as a model for the sort of discourse we need in our media, our culture, our country. I think we need to have discussions like this out in the open, between people who disagree but can do so respectfully. Shutting down conversation is how we got the terrible “lab leak theory” coverage. It’s the basis for the “anti-speech activism” in the press I rail against. More speech, not less. I’m glad he was game to play along. It was fun.
So what did we talk about? "What did me and my colleagues at CNN screw up the most in your view?" was one question, which led to a discussion about the Hunter Biden laptop story, "disinformation," hypocrisy of the press, Russiagate and Mueller reporting, and more. Watch that clip here:
We also talked about January 6 coverage and Tucker Carlson getting the tapes exclusively, why he thought CNN doing a pilot with Bari Weiss would have been “exactly what the CNN’s of the world should be doing,” and more, including, covering the Trump phenomenon, media coverage of John Fetterman, who has real power in D.C., Twitter's impact on the media, Stelter's CNN show and what he will do next, Fox News' place in the media ecosystem, comparing how Trump and Obama treated the media, and the process of writing and promoting a book.
Let me know what you think — email me at FourthWatchMedia@gmail.com, or, if you buy “Uncovered,” you can email me at a special address that’s in the last sentence of the book.
As far as the book tour, I got to talk with Megyn Kelly, spent some time on the couch with the Fox & Friends crew, got deep with my friend Will Cain, and more, and an excerpt from chapter 10 of the book, about what happened internally at the New York Times during the Tom Cotton op-ed fiasco and what the entire ordeal represented for the media, was published in the New York Post.
This week coming up I’ll be back on Fox News, talking to the guys from the Ruthless Podcast, going on Glenn Greenwald’s new Rumble show, and more. Follow me on Twitter for more details. And if you want to do an interview (or want to tell me a show I should reach out to), I’m game. You know how to reach me.
The state of our media, our culture, our discourse — it’s a mess right now. But let’s talk it out. It’s the only way it’ll improve.