By Brian Stelter & the CNNMoney Media team
Donna Brazile and CNN: What we learned from Wikileaks
The headline seemed to confirm some of the worst suspicions about media: "Donna Brazile Shared Additional Debate Questions With Clinton Campaign." The story is more complicated than the headline, but it is still very troubling. 

Dylan Byers summed up Monday's developments this way: Acting DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile resigned from her role as a CNN commentator earlier this month amid revelations that she sent questions to Hillary Clinton's campaign in advance of CNN-sponsored candidate events. On Monday the network announced the split. Why? Because of another Wikileaks disclosure, showing Brazile telling two Clinton staffers about a question in advance of CNN's Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan last March.

In a statement, CNN said it was "completely uncomfortable with what we have learned about her interactions with the Clinton campaign while she was a CNN contributor." CNN reiterated that no one from the network ever gave Brazile "access to any questions, prep material, attendee list, background information or meetings in advance of a town hall or debate."
What happened in Flint
HuffPost's Sam Stein, echoing the views of many, tweeted Monday afternoon: "What Donna Brazille did at CNN was awful. And damages the reputation of the media at large. Good to cut the cord."

He's right about the damage. Now, it turns out that Brazile resigned from CNN on October 14, three days after Wikileaks published the FIRST stolen email showing Brazile claiming she knew a March town hall question ahead of time. (In that case, CNN indicated that co-moderator Roland Martin of TVOne was the source of the leak.) Brazile's deal with CNN was already frozen -- that happened back in July when she became interim DNC chair. But now there's no deal at all. (CNN decided not to immediately announce her resignation on October 14, presumably to avoid generating even more press.)

Okay, now back to the timeline. An email published on Monday showed Brazile telling two Clinton aides about a Flint resident's planned question. My impression is that Brazile met the resident during a day of community service in Flint that CNN held one day before the debate. I was with Brazile while a group of us provided water bottles to residents. Brazile also visited homes in the neighborhood. If that's how Brazile heard about the potential question -- through a spontaneous conversation with a Flint resident -- then this controversy isn't about CNN's "cone of silence" debate prep sessions being breached. In fact, there is ample reason to believe that the "cone" works, and there's no evidence that implicates any CNN staffers.

But even if that is the case, there is still a big issue here -- about conflicts of interest at the intersection of television and politics.
The political strategist problem 
Jack Shafer tweets: "Topic for @BrianStelter's show: Is it time to clean the broadcast houses of the 'political strategists' who moonlight as pundits?"

National Review's Jay Nordlinger, too: "Maybe CNN & other news outlets shouldn't hire political operatives. Maybe there should be clearer separation. To mull."

WashPost's Erik Wemple agrees: CNN "needs to account for its addiction to political types crowding its payroll and crowding out honesty and journalism on its unwieldy panel discussions in its campaign 2016 coverage. The problem is bipartisan."

Commentators like Brazile add a lot to TV newscasts and talk shows. But here's the problem as I see it: When Brazile met a debate attendee, and learned about a possible debate question, was her loyalty to CNN? To the DNC? To her friends on the Clinton campaign? 
In defense of Brazile
Liberal CNN commentator Hilary Rosen tweeted: "Our party chair @donnabrazile has devoted her life to fighting for the good guys. Her integrity is beyond reproach." Separately, Brazile wrote, "Thank you @CNN. Honored to be a Democratic Strategist and commentator on the network. Godspeed to all my former colleagues."
Trump's take
WashPost's Aaron Blake writes: "Donald Trump has been arguing for weeks that Hillary Clinton was unfairly provided debate questions in advance during the Democratic primary, even as the evidence was somewhat limited. It's no longer so limited." On Monday afternoon, Trump told a crowd that Brazile had been "fired" and questioned why Clinton didn't admit to the advance knowledge...
Happy Halloween! 
These CNN DC interns wore the ultimate CNN countdown clock around the bureau today... Scroll down for many more media-themed costumes...
Happy Media Literacy Week
Several groups are promoting United States Media Literacy Week all week long. Coincidentally, President Obama mentions this topic in an interview with Snapchat's Peter Hamby -- coming online Tuesday morning -- Hamby says POTUS has a riff about getting and staying informed. The NYT has a preview of the Snapchat interview here...
"A culture that seeks victory at the expense of truth"
My Sunday essay about the scourge of "fake news" on Facebook and Twitter was widely shared on both sites. (Thanks!) But I'm left thinking about and worrying about the people who don't want to know what's true -- who only want to engage in perpetual social media warfare.

Talkers mag publisher Michael Harrison said it really well in an email to me: "We are evolving into a culture that seeks victory at the expense of truth as opposed to it being the other way around."
$20+ million on the table for Megyn Kelly
Dylan Byers emails: Fox News has offered Megyn Kelly more than $20 million a year to stay with the network, sources familiar with the matter told me. The offer, first reported by Vanity Fair's Sarah Ellison, would make her one of the highest-paid talents in cable news, on par with or above Bill O'Reilly.

But it's only one of several offers that Kelly has received from major TV networks, the sources told me, and Kelly is still considering her options.

Read Dylan's full story here...
Who's working with Megyn
Variety's Brian Steinberg reports on the CAA team: "Among the people working on her behalf is Matt DelPiano, who has typically worked on behalf of actors including Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey and Alec Baldwin. Alan Berger, a veteran of TV-news deals, is also involved, according to people familiar with the matter, but it’s DelPiano with whom Kelly is close..."
For the record, part one
 -- As expected, Bob Bakish is the next interim CEO of Viacom... (Variety)
 -- Ben Thompson makes the case that Apple should buy Netflix... (Stratechery)
 -- As the defamation case against Rolling Stone continues in Virginia, the magazine won a victory in court on Monday... Eriq Gardner has the details here... (THR)
 -- NYT Co. vice chairman Michael Golden "will retire from his executive management role on December 31, 2016." He will remain a director... (NYT)
 -- NYT's Richard Sandomir talks with John Ourand about his decision to leave the sports media beat and join the obits desk... (SBJ)

 -- News Corp. CTO Paul Cheesbrough is moving to the same role over at 21st Century Fox...
 -- DeRay McKesson on the cover of this week's AdWeek, the social issue... (AdWeek)
Peter Thiel says Gawker staffers "were not journalists"
Tom Kludt emails: It was a rare public appearance for Peter Thiel at the National Press Club on Monday, but the sentiment has become familiar. He called Gawker "a singularly sociopathic bully," and dismissed the notion that his legal crusade sets a dangerous precedent and represents a threat to the First Amendment.

Thiel said he hasn’t underwritten any lawsuits against other news outlets. "I strongly believe in the First Amendment. I believe that journalists are a privileged group in our society…But these were not journalists," he said at the press club.

The most memorable moment came when Thiel detailed why he backed Hulk Hogan's invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker, claiming that the American legal system is cost-prohibitive -- even for a world famous professional wrestler. "One of the striking things is if you’re middle class, if you’re upper middle class, if you’re a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system," Thiel said. "It costs too much."

Over at the other press club, Twitter, the claim prompted a digital eye-roll from many journalists. "But Peter Thiel, who will look out for needs of the single-digit thousand-dollar-aires, sir?" cracked humor columnist Rex Huppke. "Who?"
Baseball tops football on Sunday night
Frank Pallotta emails: If you told me last year that a Cowboys/Eagles "Sunday Night Football" game would lose to the World Series in ratings, I would have said you’re nuts. Yet, here we are. Game 5 of the World Series brought in a huge 23.6 million viewers for Fox. That’s nearly 6 million (!) more than “SNF” did for NBC. Now, BOTH games were great on Sunday night, but it helps that MLB has the Cubs and Indians battling for their first title in decades, if not centuries. As for the NFL, 18 million viewers is nothing to be upset over, but it will undoubtedly continue the talk of what’s ailing the league’s audience this season. Read Frank's full story here...
7 days til Election Day
Brianna Keilar's must-watch tribute to her mom
"Reliable" producer Lee Alexander emails: It's easy to lose sight of this when the election stakes are so high. But Brianna Keilar's deeply personal video and essay reminds us that our own personal narratives matter most -- everything else is just a backdrop. Read "overcoming loss in the middle of a historic campaign..."
Senator Burr's campaign blacklists Raleigh paper 
Politico's Kelsey Sutton calls this an example of Donald Trump's media blacklist heading "down-ballot:" "North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican running for reelection, is refusing to provide the Raleigh News & Observer with details of his public campaign events and campaign schedule in retaliation for the paper’s coverage of Burr's campaign." Read more...
For the record, part two
-- Paul Krugman says "the news media keep falling for fake scandals" and wonders if it's due to "the desire to get right-wing critics off one’s back..." (NYT)
 -- Marty Baron joins Dean Baquet in a critique of cable news: Wall to wall coverage of Trump's rallies during the primaries was not a "wise decision on their part," he says (Politico)
 -- Joe Lapointe's Sunday show recap for the Observer: "Jake Tapper's 'State of the Union' is state of the art when it comes to Sunday shows... The most energy and edge..." (Observer)
 -- KFile found a cache of Trump on the "Imus in the Morning" show... (CNN)
This crew at CNN Center in Atlanta created a "NEWS ZOO" -- note the sign, "DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS:"
CNN's Stephanie Elam and Sara Sidner showed up for work dressed like L.A. colleague Michaela Pereira. Amazing: 
Now: it's time for media-themed Halloween costumes!
I'm filing this newsletter from the Village Halloween Parade... my better half Jamie Stelter is co-hosting NY1's television coverage along with Pat Kiernan from a riser along Sixth Avenue... and we're hoping to see these two New Yorkers who are dressing up as... them! Impressive costumes:
Cincinnati Enquirer engagement editor Katie Vogel read our call for media-themed costumes in yesterday's letter, and sent along her "comments section" attire. She calls the costume "Keeping it classy: The state of our civil discourse."

"I picked a week's worth of some of the least civil comments on The Cincinnati Enquirer's website, @mentions, Facebook page and affiliated Facebook groups. I wrote them out by hand, cited their source and author, then pinned them to my favorite vintage cocktail dress. 'You look amazing. Wait. Oh my G-d. Did someone really write Bring back lynch mobs?' Yes. Yes they did. 'Where did you get that dress? Holy fuck. Is this really what you deal with at work.' Yes. Yes it is." Katie, we sympathize! 
And here's one I spotted on Twitter -- NY1's Matt McClure dressed up as Rachel Maddow this weekend: 
"Unlike its physical world ancestor, online publishing fails to reward investments in production and content quality. We urgently need to reconsider the error."

--Frederic Filloux's latest must-read...
Catch up on Sunday's "Reliable Sources"
Listen to Sunday's show as a podcast here... Watch the video clips... Or read the transcript...

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