Jill Abramson on her book 'Merchants of Truth: Inside the News Revolution'

The former executive editor of The New York Times discusses president's harsh criticism of the media.
7:07 | 02/06/19

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Transcript for Jill Abramson on her book 'Merchants of Truth: Inside the News Revolution'
Between trump calling the press the enemy of the people to so much news hitting your social media feed, you don't know what to believe. There's never been more chaos, confusion and mistrust of American media. So here to help make sense of all this is former executive editor of the "New York Times" and ahor of the new book, "Merchants of truth," Jill Abramson. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm thrilled to be here. Thank you. Just mentioned, Donald Trump has waged an all out war onhe media. He calls the media fake news, enemy -- Right. Enemies of the people. Enemies of the people. What is your take on that? Has that really damaged the American trust in the news? Americans'rust in the news was pretty low before trump was elected. I think he's playing to his base by attacking the press most of all. I think it's outrageous and anti-democratic in a fntal way because the press was made free by the founders of this country because they trusted it is news media to hold power accountable and bring the public and voters reliable information that they needed. So it just seems -- Undemocratic? Yes, and even unpatriotic. I mean, the first amendmentings first for a reason. You yourself have made news because yousaid, quote, "The New York Times" is unmistakably anti-Trump. Do you think that "The New York Times" is guilty of the liberal bias that many people have accused them of? I mean, I'm one of the people that have called "The New York Times" the New York slimes before because I thought the bias was so intense. Is there any culpability on the journalists' part as well? I don't know that I'd use the word bias but there's no question that "The New York Times" is a liberal paper. It's headquartered in New York. It reflects the interests of people who live on the blue coasts of this country. Sometimes I think it's a matter of just there are too many trump stories all at once that he would call those are the bad stories, you know, that are probing, that are looking at things like did he evade gift taxes, you know, the essence of the Mueller probe. That's news that everyone needs to know but maybe not like five at once. Are the stories themselves inaccurate? No, they're not inaccurate. What should they do instead? Just do two stories instead of five? Well, I worked at the "Wall Street journal" for years and there we would try to combine certain things so that there weren't multiple stories. The thing most of all, rather than political bias that worries me, is the news media is so reactive to president trump and all of his tweets. Does that help him? Does that help him in a way? Well, it helps him because after 20 seans of "The apprentice," he knows how to manipulate the news media. He is the master. So why are they playing into that? Because, a, he's the president and the norms of journalism are that you cover what the president says. He gives you news every ten seconds. It's hard to avoid it. Sometimes it's fake news. Yeah but "The New York Times" has to figure that out. Yeah. My criticism would be -- sorry to interrupt you. My criticism would be the cultural reporting because trump's win was a huge shock to the majority of journalists who were orne the road with him. There are people like Salina Zito who lives in rural Pennsylvania and it doesn't come as a surprise to her. If you're not understanding the people you're reporting on, if you can't understand where a gun owner in ruralylvania comes from, you're not going to get the story right. Would you hire journalists who were living in the field? Would you send journalists out in a different way? The cultural criticism I think is the strongest. It's true because you are reflecting a point of view and maybe yours too as a journalist there of the blue two coasts. When I was an editor at "The times" we actually did open bureaus in Kansas City and in Phoenix because we wanted reporters at least in the middle of the country. You're not saying that "The New York Times" blurs the front page with the opinion page, are you? No. But I think -- blurs, no, but I find in a certain kind of story that's usually labeled news analysis that some of the conclusions that are written border on opinion. We talk about this on the show a lot, blurred lines between opinion and real news. Do you think there is more of an effort for reporters today from them to want to be in the headlines, to be part of that story? And is that part of the distrust that the American people feel today? They don't really know where to get the truth oftentimes. There's definitely a lot of confusion, and I think it's stoked. I think a villain in this is Twitter because if you look at what a "Washington post" reporter writes in their stories and compare it to their tweets, like there's nothing measured about the tweets. If someone in middle America, in red America is seeing those tweets and following reporters, they'd have reason to think that they're very opinionated and harsh in their view. You went after trump pretty hard. Huh? You went after them pretty hard, did you not? Yes. You were also the first woman to serve as the executive director -- Editor. Editederf the "New York Times." Yes. In 2014 I believe they fired you, right? Yes. I'm not saying this is true. I'm just asking for a friend, are do you have an axe to grind? No. Ew up here in New York and my parents had two subscriptions to "The New York Times." So I have idolized the paper and I have no axe T grind and at the end of "Merchants of truth" I say that Arthur sals burger Jr. Who is the publisher who canned me, that he is kind of the hero of the story because he never slashed the newsroom. He never took down the number of journalists the way so many other papers did and kept quality journalism alive. He fired you? He called me up to his office and said I am making a change and you're out. Our thanks to Jill Abramson. Her new book, "Merchants of truth," is available now, and you're all going home with a copy.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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