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Biggest Media Screw-Ups of the Year; Top 10 Media Stories of 2015; Politicians Vs. the Press; The Lone Survivor of On-Air Reporter Shooting Speaks Out; What Stories to Expect in 2016. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 27, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:08] BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST: Hey, good morning. I'm Brian Stelter and it's time for RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look of the story behind the story, of how news and pop culture get made.

And this morning, we are covering the biggest media screw-ups of the year. A credibility crisis made worse in cases like Brian Williams. It is no wonder that the easiest way to rally a crowd is to attack the messengers.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We all love the media. Do we love the media?


No, the level of dishonesty is incredible.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The time is overdue for the corporate media to start talking about the real issues impacting the American people.


STELTER: Yes, it almost feels like they are running against the media, campaigning against the press. But if they liked everything they read and they heard, we wouldn't be doing our job, would we?

This year, there will be triumphs for journalisms as reporters faced dangers in far flung regions of the world, and unfortunately, even here in the U.S.

Later this hour, I'll take you to Virginia, to the site of the shooting that killed two local TV reporters and I'll speak with the only survivor of that awful attack, a woman who is so thankful to be celebrating Christmas with her family this week.

Now, since this is our last show of the year, we'll also share some media New Year's resolutions.

But let's start by introducing a unique panel, three leaders of the three very different media organizations. Michael Oreskes is a veteran of "The New York Times" now the head of news at NPR, the public radio powerhouse. And Kathleen Carroll, the head of all news at "The Associated Press", the biggest news wire in the world. And Joanna Coles, the editor-in-chief of "Cosmopolitan" and the editorial director of "Seventeen Magazine".

Welcome to all of three. Thank you for being here.



STELTER: Let's talk first about the black eyes for the media this year.

Michael, your choice for the most embarrassing media story of 2015?

ORESKES: Sad and embarrassing, Brian Williams. Brian Williams self- aggrandizing stories, untrue stories about his alleged war experiences, that part was sad.

But what was I think truly embarrassing was Brian Williams, the managing editor of the "NBC Nightly News" announcing that Brian Williams, the anchor of the "NBC Nightly News" was taking a leave of absence.

There really wasn't anybody supervising. You know, journalism takes discipline. It takes organization.

STELTER: It takes editors like all three of you.

ORESKES: It takes editors. It takes people looking -- everybody needs an editor, even the biggest anchors. And when you look back at what happened at NBC, I think you can really say that nobody was watching over the shop at that time, and they let Brian Williams go too far.

STELTER: Let's take a look --

JOANNA COLES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, COSMOPOLITAN: And what is extraordinary at that story, too, it was playing out in plain sight, and lots of people at NBC apparently knew that was going on, and no one called it. And that's the sort of tragedy over it.

ORESKES: These times when the boss just has to go over and say, stop.

STELTER: Let's take a look back actually at that moment. It was several months ago, in February, is when he was actually suspended.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: I want to apologize. I said I was traveling in an aircraft that was hit by RPG fire. I was instead in a following aircraft. We all landed after the ground fire incident, and spent two harrowing nights in a sandstorm in the Iraq desert. This is a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran and by

extension, our brave military men and women, veterans everywhere, those who have served while I did not, I hope they know they have my greatest respect and also now my apology.


STELTER: Now, of course, Brian Williams back on MSNBC, anchoring breaking news coverage.

Kathleen, do you agree that was the most embarrassing moment for the media world this year?

KATHLEEN CARROLL, SENIOR VP AND EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, I think it was one of the most embarrassing. I think anytime --

STELTER: There's too many to choose from?


CARROLL: There are a lot to choose from. I mean, there's a lot of journalism going on there, a lot of mistakes being made. I think what's really important though is how you deal with those mistakes when they happen. You can't prevent all of them, but you try really hard to prevent them. But when you can't prevent all of them, you have to come clean. As clean as you can and be as transparent as you can about what happened, and there have to be consequences.

STELTER: Does this feel to you like more mistakes are being made that there were, say, five or ten years ago, because of the pace of the Internet age?

CARROLL: I think that's possible, but I also think that there is a greater rigor about calling out mistakes. I think we know more about mistakes, and I think news organizations as a whole are more open about the mistakes that they made.

When I started in this business in a year that we will not name, there were a lot of mistakes made, and they were kind of ugh, you know? And I think it's much -- I think the profession is much more rigorous now.

ORESKES: I agree with that and I think, in fact, one of the things now you are will see many of the digital-only organizations beginning to adopt standards to run corrections, to run editor's notes.

STELTER: Acting more like old-fashioned news organizations.

ORESKES: Acting more like the old fashioned organization, or at least trying to be transparent about what they get right and wrong, and that may make it seem like more is going wrong, but in any ways, it's because people are being more honest about it.

[11:05:02] COLES: But I also, I mean, I am slightly more cynical about it than you are, that I think we are all being called out on it much more by people who simply go to Twitter when we make a mistake, and so, we are forced to immediately respond to it, which is so important.

STELTER: And that is not a good thing?

COLES: No, it's fantastic, and a great thing, but that is why the discipline is hitting the media in the way, I still think that people make mistakes --

STELTER: Because the audience is holding us more accountable.

COLES: Well, and is it a mistake if nobody knows it's a mistake? That's really I supposed what's interesting. But the story that struck fear in my heart and every magazine editor's heart I think was the "Rolling Stone" story.

STELTER: The rape on campus story that they have to retract.

COLES: The rape story on the UVA that they have to retract.

STELTER: And it was in April that the Columbia report came out, and basically went line by line through all these errors. Now, the editor is no longer there, of course. They have replaced the editor at "Rolling Stone."

COLES: Well, but a very interesting way of dealing with a catastrophic story for the magazine, that undermined the magazine's complete credibility, and yet, a magazine that has done some fantastic investigative work over the years. But what a brilliant thing to do in terms of damage limitation, to bring in Steve Coll, the head of the Columbia Journalism School, and, you know, how terrifying when he reports back that the basic journalistic practices are being ignored, the fact-checker overruled at every stage along the story. It was clear how they could have prevented.

So, a tragedy for "Rolling Stone", a storied editor gone, and, of course, the real opportunity cost is that now people start having more doubts about women reporting sexual assaults on campus, which is the real victim --

ORESKES: And I'd be interested, Joanna, one other things that in my mind ties together, the NBC case and the "Rolling Stone" case, is that in both cases, it was a breakdown of editorial rigor.

STELTER: It was institutional.

ORESKES: It was institutional. And I worry in the time of the deep financial stress and cutbacks, that that kind of error becomes more common.

STELTER: And I have to find some positivity here. Let's talk about finest points of journalism for the year?

Joanna, do you have one that stands out to you?

COLES: Well, the outstanding image of the year if any of us doubt that journalism can move people is clearly the extraordinary, and very distressing image Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old washed up on the Turkish beach, which really I think was the tipping point in the -- in how we all responded to the terrible migration story around Syria.

Ands, you know, it's one of photos that stands along that photos that came out of the depression, you know, it stands alongside those black and white photos that defined the trenches of the First World War. I mean, it was a historic photo, and it changed the conversation.

CARROLL: Whether it's because of the terrible picture or not, history is changing in Europe. The face of Europe is changing because of migration. The food that we eat in the restaurants in Europe in the years to come is going to be a reflection of the migration, the stories that we tell, the people who are elected into office, all of that is changing.

And news organizations are really trying to wrestle with it. So, these are big huge stories that news organizations wouldn't necessarily try to wrestle with before. And I think it bespeaks a real sophistication on the part of news agencies that we didn't see before.

STELTER: I mention one more because I don't want to have you to brag for the "A.P." itself. How about the "A.P.'s" investigation into the fishing industry in Southeast Asia.

ORESKES: Amen to that.

STELTER: It was remarkable because you actually freed slaves, you freed people who are being held against their will working.

CARROLL: In all of the years I have been doing this, the impact of journalism was always very indirect. And this worked directly is responsible for the freedom of 2,000 slaves who are no longer kept on an island, being forced the fish.

We traced the fishing that was caught, the fish that was caught by those slaves all of the way back to supermarkets in the U.S.

I'm really proud of that work, and the women, the women journalists who are responsible for it.

COLES: Congratulations.

CARROLL: Thank you.

ORESKES: Yes, it was fantastic work.

STELTER: We don't always hear about those stories when they go right, and when there are not problems with them.

ORESKES: Sometimes the biggest stories in the world really are things that don't happen all at once. The stories that ooze as I sometimes say. And race, climate change, migration -- every once in a while, you will get a moment in time that captures it, like the horrifying photo of the child on the beach, but there is no one moment, and those are harder for us to cover. As journalists we are not as good at that as we are when something blows up, and we have to be. COLES: Well, and also, you get audience fatigue. I mea, there's only so many times that you can hear about it, because the news cycle itself ebb ebbs and flows according to the drama of what's going on.

ORESKES: Right, good point.

CARROLL: And also, history being made, and what we have discussed before and on things like the society's view toward LGBT or gay marriage or all kinds of personal shifts. We are trying to shove history in the making into a news cycle, and it doesn't fit, but we have to make it try.

STELTER: Well, and describing the opposite of breaking news, like you say, oozing news.


STELTER: But these are the stories that actually define our times.

ORESKES: One of the things that I think the digital revolution and the disruption is doing to journalism is that it's actually making it stronger in this respect.

[11:10:02] The breaking news, even the "A.P." can't keep up with Twitter.

CARROLL: Right, right.

ORESKES: And God knows we try. But you really can't. So, we have to get smarter, and deeper, because that is the way we remain valuable to our audiences. So, it pushes us in a good direction.

COLES: Well, and I also think you're seeing -- you know, the platform Snapchat emerging as the news source, because you there's something like the awful tragedy at the Hajj, that they have people there, and suddenly, everybody is a journalist, and it's more than citizen journalists. It means everybody has a camera, everybody has an eye on the world, and it is a 1,000 points of view, and that's incredibly value to people watching, but also to the news organizations.

I mean, suddenly, the "A.P." does not have 20 correspondents in a place, but you have 2,000, and then the problem is how to piece it together and make sense of it.

ORESKES: Right. And what's our real purpose. In fact, the "A.P." is a good example. The "A.P." did a good job in the days after that catastrophe trying to get honest answers from governments that aren't used to giving honest answers and counting bodies. Just literally, the death toll was a tough story to get.

COLES: And it turned out to be triple what we initially thought, right?


CARROLL: But that's exactly why news organizations have to pivot in the ways that most of us have, because there are eyes and cameras and ears out there for the things that happen. The events of God and man, right?

We have to be the ones that go farther, and we have to give the people something that they can't get by just the happenstance of being there with a smartphone. We have to ask the questions. We have to find out things that people don't want us to find out. That is one of our greatest responsibilities is to, if just bloodhound work.

STELTER: That is the mission, and it hasn't changed this year.

CARROLL: It hasn't changed.

STELTER: Kathleen, Michael, Joanna, please stay with me.

And coming up here, you can probably guess that this guy will make many top 10 list for 2015. But what other media and journalism stories were the most talked about, most viewed this year?

Stay tuned for my top ten list with some stories I bet you had forgotten this year, right after this.


[11:16:37] STELTER: Welcome back.

Debate, shootings, scandals, a relentless news cycle kept the media buzzing in 2015, but ten moments stood out in the crowded landscape. We went all of the way back to January, and here are our top 10 media stories of the year.


STEPHEN COLBERT, TV HOST: Hello, everybody. Thank you so much.

STELTER (voice-over): Number 10: late night's new look. Stephen Colbert taking over for David Letterman on CBS. Larry Wilmore taking Colbert's spot on Comedy Central, while Trevor Noah was taking over for Jon Stewart.

Former "Daily Show" correspondent Samantha B is also going to host a new late night show as well, starting early next year on CBS. Here Photoshopped version of a "Vanity Fair" picture showing the ten minute late night was a hit on the Internet.

Number nine, scandals brings down "19 Kids and Counting". TLC cancelled the show after Josh Duggar admitted he molested children including some of his sisters when he was a teenager. The family stood by Josh in the FOX interview. But things got worse, his name was among those released by hackers who broke into Ashley Madison database.

He admitted to cheating on his wife and doing pornography. In an online post, he called himself, quote, "the biggest hypocrite ever".

Number eight, Caitlyn Jenner's new name, new look, new live. Her "Vanity Fair" had everyone talking, spreading awareness about transgender issues.

Her PR rollout started with a Diane Sawyer interview, and then Jenner accepted an ESPY, giving the sports awards show a ratings boost. Her reality show debut on E! and was renewed for a second season.

Another cover marks number seven, but it couldn't be more different. July is "New York Magazine" featured then 35 women who had accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. The headline read, "Cosby, The Women: An Unwelcomed Sisterhood." The magazine's Web site crashed for 12 hours following his release. It was stunning statement of unity against the legendary comic. Cosby has not been charged with any crime and continues to deny any accusations.

And number six, "Washington Post" correspondent Jason Rezaian convicted in Iran. His trial for espionage and other charges started in May, ended in August, but was clothed in secrecy. "The Post" has called the whole thing a sham. The media has widely condemned his detention, saying he's a pawn in Iran's war geopolitical power struggle. December marked his 500th day in jail.

And number five: a reminder of the power of a photograph. A three- year-old Syrian refugee, Aylan Kurdi, drown off the coast of Turkey. The image of his body changed the coverage of the refugee crisis gripping Europe, waking up a world up, something that countless hours of news coverage and gallons of ink had failed to do. The heated debate about how to solve the problem is ongoing, but the picture remains a haunting look at its toll on humanity.

Number four now, a shooting on live TV. The execution style killings WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward shocked the country. Both victims' significant others also worked at the station. One was in the control room at the time.

The murderer a disgruntled former employee posted a point of view angle of the shooting on social media, and then shot himself later in the day as police closed in. Horrific event, but a strong response of broadcast journalists posting themselves out doing their jobs just like Alison and Adam were doing that day. Others pitched in to help WDBJ stay on the air in the awful days following the tragedy.

[11:20:04] Number three, "Charlie Hebdo". January 7th, in Paris, gunmen stormed the satirical magazine's offices, killing 12 people, including the magazine's editor and several cartoonists. The attackers were apparently seeking for revenge for cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

But the world pushed back. "I am Charlie" became a global rallying cry. Unfortunately, it would not be the on only time that Paris would mourn a terrorist attack in 2015.

Number two, here in the U.S., Brian Williams gets kicked off of the u air. The celebrated "NBC Nightly News" anchor was suspended without pay for six months in February after exaggerating a story about a helicopter mission during the Iraq war.

An NBC investigation found at least ten other embellishments in the anchor's past, and Lester Holt took over the "NBC Nightly News" permanently. Some critics thought Williams would never return at all, but he did in a new role, covering breaking news on MSNBC and he told Matt Lauer this about the exaggerations.

WILLIAMS: It had to be ego that made me think that I had to be sharper, funnier, quicker.

STELTER: And number one, the biggest media story of 2015 is Donald Trump taking over. It started with controversy.

TRUMP: They are bringing drugs. They are bringing crime. They are rapists, and some, I assume are good people.

STELTER: But it was followed by the rising poll numbers, record debate ratings, talking heads in disbelief, and frustrated fact- checkers. Even when the media calls him out, Trump never seems to back down. He is not afraid to pick a fight with the media, like making controversial comments about FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly or picking Univision's Jorge Ramos out of A.P. press conferences, or mocking "New York Times'" reporter Serge Kovaleski.

Thanks largely to Trump, the early GOP debate attracted more than 20 million viewers each, smashing all prior records.

It's the reality TV effect on the campaign trail. As primary season heats up on 2016, the media circus will continue. But voters will have the last word on Trump.


STELTER: Yes, we are just getting started with 2016.

Up next here on RELIABLE SOURCES, back to our panel of top editors. I'm going to ask them what was the toughest decision they had to make this year, and what stories deserved a lot more coverage? The answers are right after this.


[11:26:18] STELTER: Welcome back.

Without a doubt, 2015 has been all about the Donald Trump show. Trump's incendiary comments first about Mexican immigrants and about Muslims, even about some journalists kept him in the headlines. In fact, so much so that media said that Trump is over-covered, he's getting way too much attention.

So what has been undercovered then? What are the stories that aren't getting enough attention? What did we miss this year?

Who better to ask than my all star panel, they're back for more. Michael Oreskes is the senior VP of news at NPR, Kathleen Carroll, the executive editor at the "A.P.", and Joanna Coles, editor in chief at "Cosmopolitan".

Let's here from all of you -- have as the press as a whole just done too much on Trump? What do you think, Kathleen?

CARROLL: Well, as a news organization saying I won't do a Trump story. So, I think it is kind of a self-perpetuating thing, and audiences are tired of it, but because he is a frontrunner, you want to cover what he says, it's controversial, you owe the readers and viewers some fact-checking about that, and you owe them some background about him and who he is as a person. So, you have to cover more than just the side show.

STELTER: Michael, do you have these fights in the newsroom about how much is too much when it comes to a really once in a lifetime cancer story called Donald Trump.

ORESKES: We've had some great agreements which I'm sorry to say we didn't broadcast, we probably should have, but in some ways, I think that we have covered him too a little. Particularly in the beginning of the Trump phenomenon, we should have covered him more, and more particularly, we should have dug into the phenomenon of Trump.

So, this isn't a one-man-show.


ORESKES: This is about a corner of the country, a group of people who are angry and isolated and feel cut off and frankly they're angry and isolated and cutoff of what we think is mainstream media, too.

STELTER: Joanna, how does a leading women's magazine cover a topic like Trump?

COLES: Well, we have covered trump, but I also think the one gift that Trump has given us is that he has engaged a lot of people who otherwise would not be interested in this primary season.

ORESKES: That's true.

COLES: So, now you have suddenly record numbers off people watching the debates, you have young people watching the debates, and actually arguing in the playground and on the college campus, and this seems to me very exciting. I mean, have I had personally enough of watching about him? Abso-freaking-lutely.

But I do think that he has reignited people's enthusiasm about politics, and that can only be a good thing.

STELTER: So, about politics or other stories, what do you wish that you had done more of this year, or do you wish other athletes have done more of this year?

COLES: Well, I was very interested in the Cecil the Lion story actually. My husband grew up in Zimbabwe, Rhodesia (INAUDIBLE). And we have a lot of family from there.

And I was very curious that at the time as Black Lives Matter, the movement here was really erupting. You had this obsessive coverage of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, and yet the Black Lives there didn't get much coverage at all, and they're under, you know, an oppressive dictator who has routinely tortured and killed his population and it gets absolutely no coverage in the news at all.

Zimbabwe is a completely forgotten story, and then here, you have Cecil the Lion. I mean, it was just an extraordinary juxtaposition for our values, as --

STELTER: Yes, the lion went viral but this story did not.

Michael, what's undercover story of they year?

ORESKES: We need to pay more attention to the servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. A very small corner of the country really fought these two wars.

And we were shocked the other, just a few months ago when a colleague at Colorado public radio brought to us real evidence that psychiatrists at Fort Carson in Colorado were actually pushing the service members out of the military, even though they seemed to be suffering from post-traumatic stress and other military illnesses.


And there could be as many as 22,000 service members in that category, people who have been mustered out, in spite of problems they brought back with them. And I think it illustrates the bigger point, which is that we can't lose sight of them. Even though the country may want to move on from these wars, it really can't move on from the people who fought them.

COLES: And can I just add as a postscript to that, I absolutely agree, but women vets coming back get absolutely...


ORESKES: It's a particularly difficult problem.


COLES: They get no service. There is no mental health set up for them. There is no physical rehabilitation set up for them. They really are doubly forgotten.


CARROLL: That's right, and a time when the military is saying, we want to have women in more roles, and then how to the deal them, the system is not really equipped at all.

COLES: Well, I will say, you see that this year for the first time ever, the elite forces are allowing women to take part. So that is an incredible step forward.

But the -- how they deal with them when they come back is still very, very miserable.

CARROLL: Exactly.

STELTER: Kathleen, as the head of such a large news organization, was there a particularly tough decision you had to make this year, something that really stuck with you?

CARROLL: Well, the toughest decision I ever have make always has to do with deployment of people and treatment of people in danger zones. And we have many.

STELTER: And there are so many.

CARROLL: There are a lot. Last year was a really bad year for AP. This year, inshallah, we have not lost anybody.

But the toughest decisions are always about helping people decide go or not go, where we're going to be, where we're not going to be, and how to help people who have had those kinds of experiences recover from them and process them and put them in their proper places. Those are always, bar none, the hardest decisions.

ORESKES: And I agree with Kathleen.

And one thing to add there is that it's a tough decision either way. These journalists want to go. They want to go to see what is happening, and it is what their chemistry tells them they ought to do.


ORESKES: And you have to say no to them some of the time, but every time you say no, you are also cutting off the audience from information they really need.

I mean, these wars, these dangerous areas are also places where important things are happening.

CARROLL: And back to the conversation we were having earlier, at the top, Brian, it is about editors making decisions. And, sometimes, the decision has to be not this, not that.

Every day, everywhere in the world, somebody is doing something foul to somebody else, and we are not in most of those places, and you have to balance the things -- that you want to bring the story to the audiences. At what cost?

COLES: Is it rather trite to the say that I was very disappeared they stopped anymore episodes of "Newsroom," because I thought actually Aaron Sorkin played a lot of these issues out really effectively.

STELTER: And explained them to the audience as entertainment.

COLES: Absolutely, right? It was really enjoyable. I was very sorry they...


CARROLL: Although it's been a long time since I have worked in a newsroom where everyone was sleeping with everyone else.

COLES: And they were so good-looking.


ORESKES: I have to confess -- but you still are...


ORESKES: I will have to confess, I had trouble watching it because it was too much like work.

STELTER: Too much like work. That is funny.

Talking about the media as a business, Joanna, you said to me earlier you thought the toughest decision for the whole industry this year was click bait vs. high-quality content, trying to get lots of people to read your Web site, vs. trying to produce something you can be proud of.

COLES: I think what everybody is wrestling with is that the audience now has multiple -- real multiple choice. And so to what extent do you want to stay absolutely true to what you do, and remain narrow, and do you want to sort of broaden out those real issues that we have been wrestling with?

ORESKES: Here is one reason why I am actually very optimistic about our future.

In a world where there is basically an infinite supply of content, the only way to distinguish ourselves, "Cosmopolitan," the Associated Press, NPR, is to be interesting, to be good, to be better, to do something distinctive.

STELTER: There is.

ORESKES: And I think that is a real hopeful thing. The audiences come back to us because we give them something.

COLES: And I do think that good brands -- and this year has been a particularly good year for magazines -- are able to do things that certain social media channels aren't.

So you have something like the Caitlyn Jenner cover on "Vanity Fair," and you have 35 women who accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault on the cover of "New York Magazine." And you launch conversations in a way that you can't on social media. And that has felt like a really good year for magazines actually.

CARROLL: But there are two things about that.

Click bait, the reader is going to get that, oh, this is one more you never would believe what is going to happen next. And they're going to go away from that. But what we need to do is to avoid the idea that serious news is castor oil and it has to be taken with a spoon. There is a lot that we can do to make what we do more interesting, and

I think that is exactly the point that Mike is making, that it is important, and it doesn't have to be boring or distasteful or terrible. And you don't have to sit down like you are being punished to consume it.

And we need to do more to make the things that we feel are important engaging and interesting. And there is a lot happening on that front, I think, now, particularly visually with virtual reality and with pictures and slide shows and just more engaging ways of writing, and then none of them have kittens in them.

ORESKES: But you can even use lists. And number four is really amazing. Wait until you see it.



STELTER: And some of them can be substantive, actually.

ORESKES: Absolutely.

No, no, I think what Kathleen is saying is a lot of the things -- a lot of the tools and presentation means don't have anything to do with whether the journalism is good or bad. It is what you put in them, the containers.

STELTER: All three of you, please stick around.

Still ahead here, my interview the lone survivor of the shooting this summer that killed two local TV reporters. Hear what she is thankful for this holiday season right after a quick break.


STELTER: Welcome back.

I know I will never forget the morning that I saw this video, this horrifying video of a cold-blooded killing at Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke, Virginia. This was on August 26. The victims were journalists.

Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, they were broadcasting live on WDBJ-TV when a former employee approached them and fired at point-blank range.


I mentioned this earlier in the top 10 media stories of the year list, but let me just underscore how disturbing this was. At the time of the shooting, no journalist here in America had been killed on assignment in almost a decade. And after the shooting, I heard from TV reporters across the country who felt they were much more vulnerable now while out on live shots. One woman survived that day, the woman you see in the live shot with

Alison. Her name is Vicki Gardner. She's the head of the area's Chamber of Commerce. She was there that morning to promote the lake's upcoming 50th anniversary. And now, after multiple surgeries, she is ready to get back to work.

I recently visited her at her home near the lake. And I came away amazed by her resilience.


STELTER: On the day of the attack, you were standing with Alison, what was supposed to be her last live shot of the day. Did you see the attacker approaching, coming up to you and the cameraman's position?

VICKI GARDNER, SHOOTING VICTIM: I did. I did. Of course, who would have ever guessed in a million years what was about to happen?

STELTER: You didn't think he was threatening, necessarily.


STELTER: He just came out from in your peripheral vision?

GARDNER: It was definitely peripheral vision.

Again, we were speaking live. And as he approached, I could see it, and I was a little distracted, but I was not concerned. And when he opened fire, it was still very difficult to even understand, to comprehend what was happening.

It was something that one does not expect to happen. And your mind very quickly goes into a lot of scenarios. But it was very horrific.

STELTER: Initially, he did not shoot at you. He shot at the cameraman, Adam. He shot at the reporter, Alison. Alison fled, and he chased Alison. And did you think the threat for you was over?


I dropped to the ground, and I had not been hit. I just laid very still. And he did come back and he did shoot me. It is my mental thought that he had run out of bullets. I think that he would have continued to shoot. But he -- there was just one load of bullets. But I didn't hear him leave, and so there was much concern there.

STELTER: Maybe that is what people misunderstand when they hear about these stories, that it all happens so quickly, that you can't process or understand or do anything about it.

GARDNER: And that is exactly right.

As I relive this in my mind, was there anything that I could have done that would have made a difference? And absolutely not. I had to just lay very still. And I thought that perhaps I'm not going to be here by the time help does arrive, because the stores and everything did not open for another two hours.

But it was just a matter of minutes before law enforcement came. And they were the truly the heroes. They put their life on the line to protect mine and got me up and got me out of harm's way, not knowing where the shooter was.

STELTER: You said something in an interview after the attack that surprised me. You said you had watched the live broadcast to see what actually was televised. Why did you decide to watch it?

GARDNER: Your mind can play a lot of tricks.

And I want -- my memory, I want to make sure that my memory matches reality. And you can convince yourself of a lot of things. But seeing it, and just having a clearer understanding of exactly what transpired and, so, yes, it was horrific to watch, obviously, but it gave me great insight.

STELTER: Did you also watch the gunman's point of view, the sick video that he recorded on his own body and then uploaded to Twitter and Facebook?

GARDNER: Saw parts of it.

STELTER: Does a part of you almost resent the fact that this was so public, that he wanted everyone to see it?

GARDNER: I am still in disbelief that anyone could do that. It is hard to even accept that a human being could do that.

STELTER: You have been interacting with journalists for many, many year. I wonder if this makes you think differently at all about journalists, about the exposure sometimes they face when they are out doing a live shot or about the risks they might be taking without even knowing it.

GARDNER: Well, that is true. Who would have ever guessed that something like this would happen, but it did.

And I think that journalists, they are an amazing group of people. They have a job to do. And they do it well.

STELTER: There has been this disgusting phenomenon after shootings on the Internet, these people who say they're truthers. They say that all of the shootings that get covered by the press are fake, are made up.

GARDNER: I have read that.

STELTER: You have seen this?

GARDNER: I have.

STELTER: It is appalling to see it, but I wonder what it's like for you to see it.

GARDNER: Why would you give credibility to somebody that is just looking to create chaos?

We already have a horrible situation where people are impacted, where families have lost family members. How dare someone come in and second-guess?


Yes, I saw a few of them. I did not take the time to read them. I lived it. And I didn't think that I needed to prove that -- the families that have lost, go to the funeral. And just go to the funeral of those people. Or, for myself, I did have someone that wrote and said, if you could just show us pictures of your wounds.

STELTER: They wanted proof?

GARDNER: They wanted proof. And my proof was, delete.

STELTER: You know what happens after every shooting nowadays. There is media talk about gun regulations or about why there shouldn't be gun regulations.

GARDNER: I sat back and I thought about it. And we know that the gun regulation is taking place, but it does take time.

If you look back on some of these shootings, there are mental health issues that need to come into play that may serve to prevent something horrific like from happening in the future. But I also think that immediately, tomorrow, today, that we can take a look at what we allow in our house.

We have become desensitized. While I was in the hospital, I turned on the TV. And the three shows that I happened to click on, each and every one of them had a violence component to it, of which at that time, of course, I really didn't care to watch.

But it made me think, gee, is this -- have we become so desensitized to violence, that it is now part of our entertainment, our daily entertainment?

STELTER: The attack happened four months ago at this point, but you are living with it every day. You recently had a final surgery?

GARDNER: I did. I did, yes.

I have had three surgeries so far, and I think that it is over with now. It is the recovery, the physical, gaining the strength back, mental, all of the above.

STELTER: Have your doctors given you any sense of when you can maybe go back to work?

GARDNER: Well, we are still working through that. I'm still in somewhat the healing process.

STELTER: But you are determined to go back?

GARDNER: Oh, I will be back. Of course I will be back. I am so looking forward to it.

STELTER: You will be going back to the lake. You will be going back to the building where this shooting happened. Do you have any hesitation about returning to work there?

GARDNER: I don't, not at all.

It is such a joyous place. And, again, something horrible happened, but it is not defining where I work. And it was right outside my window that this tragedy happened. And there is this wonderful monument, so to speak, with a plaque on it in memory of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

And it is binoculars. That is exactly what was chosen. So rather than people coming in pointing to the site, that is where it happened, they are walking up and saying, I can see what they were looking at, what they were talking about. It has become a focal point now with a very positive nature to it, just the way that it was done.

I will be looking out my window and seeing that. When I'm back at work, I will be seeing it every single day, and seeing people taking a look at our lake as a result.

STELTER: At the end of this year, what are you most thankful for?

GARDNER: Oh, goodness. Broad range.

I am so thankful, first of all, to be here, to be surrounded by the community that we have. It has been an eye-opening experience. I have seen the worst that society can do, and I have seen the best that society can do. And 99.9 percent of the population out there is so positive, so helpful.

When I think about the cards, the letters, the gifts, the outpouring of support and prayers, it just is amazing. I would have never guessed that there was so much good in this world. And I have seen it up close and personal.


STELTER: Now, Gardner is raising money for a charity that her colleagues set up after the attack. It is called Vicki's Vision, a vision for a community center that the area sorely lacks.

On this holiday weekend, our thoughts are with her family and with the families of Alison and Adam.

Now, coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES, we have been talking all about the big news and media events of 2015, but 2016 is right around the corner, so what stories and what changes do our media experts hope to see in the new year? I will ask them right after this.




Now to the part of the hour I have been most looking forward to. It's a chance to look ahead to 2016 to what stories and trends will define the year ahead.

And I'm joined once again our panel of experts, Michael Oreskes, senior V.P. at NPR, Kathleen Carroll, senior V.P. at the Associated Press, Joanna Coles, editor in chief of "Cosmopolitan."

Let's talk about lessons learned from this year.

First to you, Kathleen. Is there a takeaway for you, for you and your journalists at the AP this year?

CARROLL: I think the most important thing for us is to continue the conversation with audiences. It's really important for us to keep talking with the people that we serve.

STELTER: To interact, have it be a two-way conversation.

CARROLL: It's a two-way conversation. They're yelling at us or they're engaging with us. We're showing more of what we do.

We were just talking about an example where we interviewed a killer recently as part of a series of stories that we're doing on people who are disappearing in Northern Mexico. We did a separate story that explained to the audience why we trusted that this man really was a killer, how we got to him, why we believed him.

And they could make their own choice about whether he was credible or not. That wouldn't have happened in years past. I think the omniscience media is continuing to go away. And the conversation that replaces it is a really good thing.

ORESKES: It's actually fascinating.

Journalism is all about process. It's all about process. That's what it is. It's a set of standards.

STELTER: Sure. Yes.

ORESKES: And journalists have always believed in process, but we never wanted to tell anyone about it. We never wanted to talk it over. We always were afraid to show the sausage-making. I don't think we have a choice anymore. I think that is what we do.

STELTER: Look at programs like "Serial" and "The Jinx" as well that are pioneering new forms of storytelling that way too.

ORESKES: That include that.

COLES: I think what one should be excited about, as an editor, is audience engagement.


We have the Kardashian family, six of them, on our November cover. And we said America's first family, which obviously we said with tongue in cheek, obviously no disrespect to the Obama first family. We got 17,000 comments on Instagram from people who were outraged by this.

But what it gives us the opportunity to do is really engage with these. And how fantastic that people felt so strongly that they could really come at us. And, as you say, frequently they hate you, frequently they love you, but you cannot ignore them. You have to engage. And actually that's the challenging bit of being an editor. But it's also the fun bit. It's a really fun bit.

STELTER: My lesson for the year actually came from David Carr, who passed away in February, my mentor at "The New York Times."

It was always report. Just keep reporting. His column was special not because it was his opinion, but because it was based on reporting. And for me, if I'm going to go on TV and be a talking head and say what I think, it should be based on reporting, it should be based on actual interviews and information that we gather.

That's what TV and the Web, what journalism really the most...


ORESKES: I think we have to repeat that lesson over and over.

STELTER: It is easy to forget sometimes.


ORESKES: This is a really important point this year, because, especially coming out of the campaign, but not only the campaign.

I think journalists are under an enormous amount of pressure to go further, to pass verdicts, to pass judgments on people, on stories, on situations. Ben Smith, the head of BuzzFeed, says that we should call Donald Trump a mendacious racist.

STELTER: He recently told his staff that's OK on social media.

ORESKES: That sounds like name-calling to me. That doesn't sound like assembling the facts so your audience can figure things out. And we're under a lot of pressure, though, to be like that now.

COLES: And I think there's also a sense in which many people can go direct to consumer almost. If you think of the way that Taylor Swift wrote her letter to Apple, released it...


STELTER: That was an important moment.


COLES: Extraordinary moment, right, saying, actually, it's not OK that you're going to give three months free and not pay the artist.

And, amazingly, for Apple, which is not a company that necessarily responds that fast, they super responded really quickly and said, we will absolutely pay the musicians.

STELTER: Within a day.

COLES: And she made her point. And, in fact, a lot of people found out about the music in a way that they wouldn't have known before. It was a new product they were releasing.

But I thought that was very exciting. She didn't traditionally -- she didn't take the traditional route of going to Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer or even Brian Stelter. She did it herself. And I think it behooves us to pay attention to that.

STELTER: The idea that every artist, every celebrity, every presidential campaign, every candidate is a media company nowadays is something we're going to continue to see next year.

I wonder if one of the other trends for next year is going to be this continuing move toward distributed journalism, that people are reading the news on Snapchat or on Facebook or through Apple News' app, and not necessarily through our own Web sites or our own networks.

Let's hear from each of you about a New Year's resolution. What is an expectation for you all for next year?

COLES: Well, I would like to increase the diversity in "Cosmopolitan." We do try, but I'm conscious that we need to do it more.

And to your earlier point, we need to reflect the reader base as accurately as we can. It's my sort of personal note to myself. But I'm excited about having these extra audiences. I know CNN, like "Cosmo," is on Snapchat. It's exciting. It's not necessarily the same person who reads the magazine or sees us on Facebook. So, it's great to have more people coming into the brand.

STELTER: How about a New Year's resolution, Michael?

ORESKES: Well, my New Year's resolution actually is to double down on the great content.

And in particular, I would like to work with colleagues at the AP and all over the public media world and other places to try to restore the kind of journalism we used to have in state capitals. The single most damaged area of journalism over the last 10 or 15 years has been the coverage of state and local government. And we need to rebuild it for the good of the country.

STELTER: I think we can all agree on that one.

Kathleen, how about you?

CARROLL: My New Year's resolution is to continue some work that we have had under way for some time, to focus more on investigative and really bloodhound work in every day across the report and make that part of our mission.

Every day, somebody is going to tell you something new in every piece of AP content that you encounter, show you something new, tell you something new, something that you didn't know before, that you couldn't find on social media.

COLES: I think the element of surprise is incredibly important in everything we do, that you never want to switch on the radio or watch the television news and it be predictable. You always want it to be a voyage of discovery.

ORESKES: Right. Exactly so.

STELTER: I love that notion, that we should surprise our audiences every day.

We will leave it there. Kathleen, Michael, and Joanna, thank you all for being here this morning.

CARROLL: Pleased to be here.

COLES: Thank you.

ORESKES: Thanks, Brian.

STELTER: And that's all for this special televised edition of RELIABLE SOURCES.

But our coverage does not stop here. You can resolve not to miss the biggest media stories of next year right now by logging onto Sign up there for our newsletter with all the day's media news delivered to your inbox every evening starting January 3.

Have a happy new year. And let's meet back here this time next week.