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Info Overload Is Crushing Media And Audiences Alike; Women Take The Helm At Major American Newsrooms; One Man's Journey From Kandahar To Kabul To Atlanta; What's Funny About The News Today The Onion Knows; Common Misconceptions About How The News Gets Made; Aired 11a- 12p ET

Aired December 26, 2021 - 11:00   ET



BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter and this is RELIABLE SOURCES, where we examine the story behind the story. And we figure out what's reliable.

This hour, we're going to answer your questions about media slipups and screw-ups.

Then we're going to go from the worst of journalism to the best and introduce you to a CNN translator who fled the Taliban in Afghanistan and now has a new life in America.

And from the heaviest news to the lightest, what is it like to run a satirical news website that's constantly fooling gullible users? I'm going to ask the editor of "The Onion" in just a little bit.

But, first, news overload. Do you feel it? I know many of you do, I hear it every day.

We are inundated with information. We are saturated by stories and not just any stories but the craziest kind. We're overwhelmed by over- statements, submerged by sensationalism, buried by bad news.

And so, we are left wondering where to go and what to believe and who to trust. Thinking about this in the long view of history, this is a very, very new experience. For our grandparents, news was scarce. Information was tightly controlled, really restrictive.

In just a short period of time, the sources available to kings and presidents are now available to all of us any time, anywhere, in the palms of our hands. So, if you ever find yourself feeling like it's hard to keep up, that's because it is hard. Our brains, just like our bellies, were wired for scarcity and now we're surrounded by overabundance.

I think that explains this fascinating finding from Google at the end of this year. This insight is from Google's top searches of 2021. The company says the word search for answers about how to maintain mental health more than ever before this year. And the word doomscrolling was searched more than ever before. Now, come one, these two things are related. Doomscrolling is the

pandemic era phenomenon of scrolling and scrolling through negative news even though the stuff is upsetting and depressing. I know I've done it. You probably have, too.

But one solution to the other hot search result about maintaining mental health is to change the way you scroll. Contemplate the way you get and consume information.

Make sure you're in control, and that the news is not in control of you. Make sure you're in control and not the app that's lighting up your screen.

There's a farmer in California who's been on my mind lately. He inspired me to talk about this. His name is David Mas Masumoto. His family grows nectarines, grapes, peaches. They're really big into peaches.

Dave is also the author of ten books. And a few months ago, he wrote this for "The Fresno Bee". He said: Bad has taken over my life. Every day, I hear bad news. These stories describe bad actions, bad people, bad outcomes. They dominate the news cycle. They overwhelm my senses.

This is the power of bad. Masumoto wrote this at an op-ed for "The Fresno Bee". He said the modern news world is full of badness. He said the pace of bad increases with new media and technology. Phones buzz and beep with the latest bad news.

He wrote, quote: The truth can be lost in this print. Facts are twisted by the world in pace of the race. Journalists struggle in a world that doesn't seem to want voracity, verification and evidence.

He's right. And this problem is not unique to journalists. Everyone else struggles with it too.

What's the antidote, what's the cure for news overload? Well, a big part of the answer is old-fashioned editors, curators, newfangled newsletter writers, producers, managers, people who are skilled at separating news from noise. We need them more than ever before.

Now with me here in New York are two of those leaders who do it every day, Alessandra Galloni is the editor in chief of "Reuters", and Julie Pace is editor in chief of "The Associated Press". These are two of the biggest news publishers in the world and both of you are rivals.

So, thank you for coming together for your first joint TV interview.


ALESSANDRA GALLONI, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REUTERS: You just called us saviors! I mean, I'm walking out of here feeling really good.

PACE: We're good rivals.

STELTER: We have a lot to talk about, but I want to start with news overload. Both of you, you know, were promoted to these new jobs this year. How do you personally keep up with the torrent of news?

Julie, you first, how do you keep up with the flood?

PACE: Well, it is a flood. I think that we're living in an unprecedented moment not just in terms of technology but just in terms of the scale of the news stories that are in front the of us, pandemic certainly.

And so, I do think it's important for us in these leadership positions to think about our mission as being both broad and deep. We want to make sure that we are covering stories from around the world. We want to make sure that we're varied in our content. But also want to make sure that we're identifying those stories that are the most important stories to a global audience and going really deep on them.


So, that's things like threats to democracy, climate change, certainly the pandemic. Both the virus and how we live coming out of the pandemic.


PACE: And signaling to the audience this is a topic that is global, that links people around the world and we're going to be multilayered in our approach to that coverage.

STELTER: Well, the pandemic is a great example. Alessandra, how do you -- there's -- I feel like every day, I read ten stories about COVID and five of them contradict the other five. You know, we get so many different signals every day about the pandemic. How do you try to separate news from noise?

GALLONI: We always try to cover what matters and what is consequential. Just because something is out there does not mean that it's newsworthy, does not mean it adds to what we already know.


GALLONI: And, you know, we believe that news done well, that trusted news, helps people make decisions, helps people, you know, lead their lives better. But to do that, you need to give them information that is important to them.

And this is true at sort of a cosmic level, a national level, but it's true at an individual level. So wearing a mask, not wearing a mask, getting vaccinated or not, these are individual decisions that trusted information can help you make.

STELTER: Beyond the pandemic, if that's possible, what were the other biggest stories of your year, Julie?

PACE: Well, I think it's kind of remarkable to think about it, but the January 6th insurrection was still in this time of year.

STELTER: Was this year, yeah. PACE: And it was both that event itself, but I think what it also symbolized about threats to democracy and that is happening in the United States, but it's also happening around the world. I think as the story line for 2021 but also as we push into 2022 and beyond, I think that's something you're going to see us really focus on.

We want to be really clear with people about the threats that we are seeing in the two Democratic institutions. We want to try to amplify who is behind them, expose the money and the powerful forces that are behind these efforts because I think this is one of the great kind of challenges of our time right now.

STELTER: But can you be full-throated about the reality? Can you call out GOP extremism for what it is?

PACE: I think we have been extremely clear when we talk about, for example, the realities of the 2020 election. That was a free and fair election. There was ample evidence to back that up and we are consistent in making that clear.

Every time we wrote a story, we put that evidence forward. And I think it is to your point, there's so much information out there for people to consume, that we have to recognize they're not reading everything they're putting out. So it does make putting the facts forward very important so to engage on one story for this topic, they're going to get facts from us.


Alessandra, do you have a democracy beat? You have lots of political reporters, but we need democracy reporters?

GALLONI: Well, we cover democracy and less democracies in many countries around the world.

STELTER: Yeah, the climate.

GALLONI: And what we do is try to discover it in the same way. And so, we don't -- trying to not have our own -- you know, any political bent or our own views but this holds for all of the countries that we report on.

You mentioned what other issues are really important.


GALLONI: The global economy as we come out pivoting from the pandemic, the global economy as we come out of the emergency cache that was pushed into the global economy, how countries are going to wiped that down without having a slowdown of global economic growth, and then inflation, of course. I mean, there are many countries with young people who are now voting for the first time who have never seen the levels of inflation we have now. I think Germany, for example.

And that -- how that plays out. By the way, aggravated by the supply chain bottlenecks we've seen as a result of the pandemic and not only, I think this is going to be a huge team for everybody, which, again, is a very international issue but hits people on the ground in many countries where we are.

STELTER: And all roads lead back to COVID still, yeah.

PACE: They do. I think the COVID story evolves next year as we look ahead. I think that yes, there's still the question of the virus itself, the variants that we see, the ways in which countries deal with the spikes in cases. But there's an impact on how we live and that's an economic story because the pandemic is linked to the economy. It's return to offices. How does that actually look in practice. What happens with the way we're interacting with each other.

So, there's this cultural element to it as well. It is global and I think that's a real opportunity of global news organizations to think about how we're connecting policy to people. And explaining, you know, what people are seeing in front of them.


Alessandra, are your -- are your staff back in the office?

GALLONI: We're trying.

STELTER: Same here.

GALLONI: We're trying. The thing is it's different because we have to abide by the local regulations of the countries we operate in. So, that's first and foremost, local laws.

We're trying to roll back. We have said that are going back in a hybrid fashion, you know, for the foreseeable future but, obviously, with omicron and with new variants, that's proving hard to do.


But I don't know if you're going to keep on COVID, but it's interesting because I think COVID really showed us the importance of what you started with, which is in this deluge of news, trusted information when it is a matter of life-and-death decisions and sometimes it is life-and-death decisions, where the difference between the partition between what is trusted and what is not trusted.

STELTER: Well, look, vaccine disinformation is actively prolonging the pandemic, you know? This has been a problem all year long. And it's harder to get back to offices, harder to get back to normal with all of this disinformation.

How do you approach that in the newsroom?

PACE: Look, we've been very clear in our coverage that vaccines are safe and we try to make sure that we are providing that scientific evidence repeatedly in different forms, in narrative stories, in explainers, in Q&As. We try to make sure we're giving people that information. Now, look, we're not going to make -- we're not going to take a stand

on mandates, for example. We're not going to take a stand on decisions that politicians want to take to try to deal with vaccines and the cases, but we're going to give people information to make their own decisions. I think that's very important.

STELTER: Well, on screen right now, this is on screen, your not news feature. You all purposely go through and say, hey, you're the stories that are not news that are distractions and misinformation.

PACE: I will tell you, we have no shortage of items to pick from to fill that feature and it's been one of our most popular, because I think people are craving this kind of clarity. They are in kind of a wind tunnel of information. It's coming at them from all sides. It's hard to separate what is real and what is not. So, when we talk about just ways we can deal with it, this was a real simple one.

Hey, this is not news, and here's why.


Alessandra, the idea here is all about trust ultimately. Can you trust accurate, reliable information? Do you end up following for fake news?

How do we bridge the trust gap? We know every leader knows the problem. What are the active steps users can take?

GALLONI: Well, there are a number of ways I think that can you do it internally and externally. So, internally, news organizations such as ours, you know, we take -- we go to great lengths, you know, to fact check our own information. And, by the way, that is true about the reporting we do ourselves and increasingly it is true of information, user-generated content that we get from elsewhere.

We put it through the same verification that we do from our own stories. So, that is a big part of it. We use numbers, data. The data is out there. That was very important during COVID, especially sort of in the first year when governments were not coming clean around the world as to what the real numbers were of infection rates, of death rates.

So that's what we can do. Another thing we internally can do, and this is very important for trusted information, when you make a mistake, correct it. And all of the studies have journalism show that those news organizations that are fast at correcting when they realize they made a mistake have higher trust from the public at large.

So, there are many things that we can do. And then the one last thing that was added is education, right, because you want to raise a new generation of consumers, of viewers, of users of news to be discerning, to know -- to understand themselves to go look for the facts and to go look for the data.

PACE: And I think this is important we would love to see us as news organizations pull back the curtain a little bit more. I think when people get a glimpse how seriously we take the facts, how seriously we take getting it right and how much effort goes into what you end up seeing on screen, whether it's on your phone or on television, you know, we want to get it right. And when we get it wrong -- you know, that hits hard when you get it wrong.


PACE: And I think that people would -- I would hope what if they saw more of the process that goes into this, they would be more confident this is not the personal opinion of journalists. This is not journalists who are r pushing a political agenda.

These are journalists who care deeply about accurate information and making sure they're informing the public. So, I'd like to see us do a little more about explaining what happens behind the scenes. I think that would help build trust.

STELTER: There's a lot more to talk about. Let's fit in a quick break.

More with Julie and Alessandra in just a moment. We're going to talk about a monumental shift in America's newsrooms, really global newsrooms, that happened in 2021.

Also on deck, the head of the Committee to Protect Journalists with a wake-up call, but what's going on from Hong Kong to Mexico City?



STELTER: A long overdue change is under way in many newsrooms in the United States and around the world, newsrooms that have been long dominated by men, mostly white men, are finally seeing more and more diversity and more women in leadership positions.

Let me show you ten examples from 2021, women taking charge of newsrooms like "Vox" and "HuffPost" and "Reuters" and the "AP" and others.

So, back with me, two of those editors, Julie Pace of "The Associated Press" and Alessandra Galloni of "Reuters".

You are both now the top editors of two of the biggest, most important outlets in the world.

Alessandra, you're the first woman to hold that title. What was that like for you and for "Reuters"?

GALLONI: Utterly cool.


GALLONI: No, I mean, look, it's a huge honor for me, especially as I started as a baby, as a cub reporter at "Reuters", and then left and then came back. So it was a huge honor.

But it's also a responsibility, right, because I think that no news organization is really credible anymore unless we inside look like our -- the world that we cover and our viewers and our readers and our consumers. And so it's a huge responsibility for me to say, our newsroom now has to change and has to follow that, has to be like the world that is outside. And I feel it more because I am the first woman. So, a huge honor and a huge responsibility.

STELTER: And it's been milestones in many newsroom, you know, first African-American leading ABC News, many examples.

Julie, at the "AP", you followed in the steps of Kathleen Carroll and Sally Buzbee. The "AP" was ahead of this curve. So, what has it been like for you?

PACE: Yeah. No, I'm really proud to have been the third straight woman to hold this position and the "AP" has been ahead of the curve when it comes to promoting women. I'm very proud of the steps we made through diversity while acknowledging we like every other organization I think has a lot of room to grow in this regard. I think it's really important we think about that in every hire that we make, in every story or conversation.

Do we have the right voices at the table? You know, it's one thing to have your stats on diversity, and it's another thing to make sure you're actually putting the right voices in the room when you're having those story discussions, when you're having those discussions about growth opportunity in the newsroom.


We're hiring at "The AP" a director of talent to help us do exactly that, to make sure that for our external recruitment and for our staff internally, that we're constantly thinking about growth, we're constantly thinking about inclusion and belonging. I think that's really important.

But to Alessandra's point, those of us in the leadership roles and I love the photo of the ten women, that we're thinking about who we're bringing up behind us too. It's great we had this progress over the last year. It's more important to make sure that progress is maintained.

STELTER: So, that's clearly a priority in 2022. What are your other priorities for the coming year?

PACE: So, we have a few priorities when it comes to our coverage. One, climate change. I think this is one of the existential crises facing the planet now. We're facing more resources and hiring reporters around the globe to make sure that we are devoting the proper attention to this -- to this coverage area.

I do think that democracy continues to be one of our major coverage areas and then just the question where the world goes coming out of the pandemic. I think we need to be open-minded about what the world looks like and really responsive to the questions our audiences are going to have about this very uncertain future.

STELTER: Right, right.

All right. Without giving too much away to the "AP", what about "Reuters"?

GALLONI: State secrets. Look, I would add ESG, you know, related to climate issues to a certain extent but investing is going through major overhauls. You know, companies, governments are being really careful to how investors, industries, you know, spend their money. Central bankers are pushing for sustainable investment instead of carrot-and-stick approach. I would add that. And then add around the world there are still hot spots that often go uncovered.

You know, Ethiopia this year has been a big story and it continues to be one and it's important that the world look at it. We've devoted a lot of time in Ethiopia this past year. And we need to be there because if we're not, then these -- the world doesn't know and policymakers can't act.

STELTER: Is it getting harder and harder to be in this repressive parts of the world?

PACE: Yes, it's hard.

GALLONI: Yes, it's hard and the threats are different. There's the physical threats, obviously, on the ground in particular in conflict zones. There's also the threat, the online threat, increasingly, especially, against women. This is something that we pay particular attention to now, the trolling that happens, you know, when you're in a place covering a story is pretty horrific.

PACE: One thing that's important to note in a place like Ethiopia, the government has taken steps to restrict independent news coverage. It's not stopping the reporting, it's making it harder but I think it's really important to know it's not stopping the reporter. Journalists are doing incredible work, getting incredibly creative and sources risk their lives to continue to provide information.

So, what we continue to see governments try to restrict the access of free and independent journalists, that does not stop us from doing our important work.

GALLONI: You know, it's interesting, bringing you back to the very beginning when you talked about the deluge of information, we get a deluge of information but there are many countries that do not get the deluge of information. So, for example, in Myanmar, we had two of our reporters now quite a few years ago spent a long time in jail --

PACE: And one of ours earlier this year, earlier this year.

GALLONI: Exactly. When you hear them talk, you know, now alone, one of the reporters I spoke to him recently, and he was speaking to some students, and he said, I wanted to do this work, to tell what was happening against the Rohingya minority, because we did not have this information. And I became a journalist because I felt my government was not allowing us to disseminate information.

So, while we're inundated , in other places, there's a drip-drip. And so, that makes our job even more important.

STELTER: Julie and Alessandra, thank you both for the preview of the coming year.

PACE: Thank you.

GALLONI: Thank you.

STELTER: Thanks.

Coming up here when it comes to press freedom, 2021 was a record- breaking year in the worst possible way. The head of the committee to protect journalists joins us with details right after this.



STELTER: We must hold the line. That's what Maria Ressa said as she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month. She said she accepted this for every journalist around the world forced to sacrifice to bring you the truth.

Ressa is holding the line along with so many others. The Committee to Protect Journalists is always keeping track of press to threats of freedom. And in a new report, there's quite a disturbing finding from some of the most dangerous countries from members of the media. The report shows the number of journalists behind bars hit an awful new record high this year, nearing 300 from China to Belarus, really all around the world, the state of press freedom is perilous.

One person who's been at the helm of this CPJ mission since 2006, that's executive director Joel Simon. He's stepping down from his post at the end of this week, but first, he's joining me here for a report card, of sorts, about global press freedom.

Joel, good to see you as always.


STELTER: I hate to start with bad news, but you all say that this is a very perilous time. What's been changing in recent years? Why is the landscape getting darker?

SIMON: Well, the bad news is unavoidable. I think that governments realize they're in an existential battle over who controls the information, who controls the narrative, and they are waging a frontal assault against independent journalism around the world.

So, we're seeing that in record numbers of journalists imprisoned around the world and set records year after year, Brian. Every year, we see a new record.

STELTER: Hmm. SIMON: And we're seeing violence perpetrated against journalists with impunity. So, the landscape in which journalists operate around the world has never been more perilous, more dangerous. We're at a crossroads.

STELTER: So, on the subject of journalists behind bars, let's look at five of the worst jailers of journalists. What's the number one country on top of that bad list?

SIMON: Well, China is the number one jailer of journalists and that China is perennially tops this list. But what's alarming, Brian, is that that crackdowns all over the world, so many -- new countries are on this.


Myanmar, a place where we saw some progress, of course, it's become now one of the most repressive -- one -- among the world's leading jailers of journalists.

STELTER: Because of the military coup there, isn't this?

SIMON: Because of the military coup d'etat.

STELTER: But also, Belarus is on the list.

SIMON: Belarus where the -- where the ongoing crackdown on independent media and civil society as Lukashenko clings to power in that country.

Journalists are being caught up. They're sweeping crackdowns in Ethiopia.

So many countries around the world are cracking down on press freedom.

Governments are deploying the full power of the state against independent journalism.

And that's why we're seeing these record numbers year after year.

STELTER: And on the topic of violence, I mentioned Mexico City earlier.


STELTER: Mexico, we are continuing to see awful numbers of journalists killed in Mexico.

SIMON: Yes. Mexico has the highest death toll of any country in the hemisphere.

It's another country which year after year, the forces of violence, it's drug traffickers, largely in collusion and protected by a government that are -- that are responsible for this violence.

And this is true around the world, Brian corruption.

You know that is the most dangerous story.

And not just the corrupt individuals, but the networks of government that protect organized crime and corruption in so many countries around the world.

That's become an incredibly important and an incredibly dangerous story to cover.

STELTER: So I have to ask, does this mean the committee's failing? That it's getting worse out there?

SIMON: I think, Brian, it would be so much worse without our efforts.

We have made a huge impact.

Every year, dozens of journalists are freed from prison as a result of our efforts.

Every year, we fight for justice.

And we've seen more convictions in the killers of journalists.

I think what we have to recognize, and this is something that I have perspective on because I've been doing this for a long time, we are up against tremendously powerful forces.

This is the information age, and we are in a kind of millennial battle over who controls information.


SIMON: Who controls it, that's what -- that's the power struggle.

And so governments recognize -- repressive governments, but even democratic governments that this is an essential tool that they need to maintain power.

And journalists are their adversaries. So it's not a failure of CPJ and our colleagues in the press freedom community, I could not be more proud of the work we've done.

But I recognize that we are in a battle for the soul of democracy, a battle over who controls information.

It's a battle, we have to win and it's a struggle, it's going to go on for a long time.

STELTER: Well, even in the U.S.

Look at the number of reporters that are arrested each year, you know, intolerable numbers of reporters who get swept up during protests and other events and end up behind bars, even in the United States.

So we asked you, Joel, what were your top accomplishments that you were most proud of? Let's put that on screen.

Number one, you said, creating the CPJ Emergencies Response Team. So what does that team do?

SIMON: Well, that team makes sure that journalists around the world are able to work safely so we provide life-saving safety information, and we respond.

When journalists face direct threats, we evacuate them from countries around the world, we help support families when they're in jail, we worked in Afghanistan, we worked in Syria, this is life-saving work, essential work I could not be more proud of our emergencies team.

STELTER: And certainly you're busy with regards to Afghanistan, this fall -- this summer and fall getting folks out.

Are those evacuations still going on? Are there still journalists or members of the media who helped with news outlets that are still stuck in Afghanistan?

SIMON: Yes. There are --

STELTER: There are.

SIMON: -- And the situation for them is grim.

It's become -- the Taliban recently announced that they're not letting anyone leave without a visa for another country.

Those are virtually impossible to get.

Some journalists are able to kind of smuggle themselves across the border into Pakistan.

But the situation on the ground is bleak and there are very few prospects for the journalists who have been left behind.

STELTER: It's very worrisome to hear.

SIMON: It's terrible. It's a terrible situation.

STELTER: So you are now leaving your posts after so many years, do you have a view of what you want to do next? How do you want to keep being back?

SIMON: Yes. I want to stay on this fight, Brian.

It's been so important to me and so essential. And I have a new role -- but I see myself in a new role and that's more as a -- as a researcher, and writer.

And so I'm going to be at the Tow Center at Columbia Journalism School, I'm also going to be working with a Knight Institute at Columbia, and I'm going to be doing research on long term threats to press freedom because I -- the CPJ role is in an emergency room.

STELTER: Yes, every day. Yes.

SIMON: Every day, we have to respond to these crises. I think we need to step back and we need to take a look at what are the structural challenges, and I'm looking to create a new academic center that would be focused on these kinds of issues and bring those academic resources to the struggle.

That's how I think I can contribute.

STELTER: Fantastic. Joel, thank you very much for your service.

SIMON: Thank you, Brian, always a pleasure to be with you.

STELTER: Thanks.

After the break, a related story about one member of the media has escaped from Afghanistan earlier this year.

He has started a new life now in the U.S. and he joins me next.



STELTER: His name is Mohammad, and for his family's safety, we're not going to be using his last name.

Working as a translator for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan made Mohammad a marked man, a target of Taliban threats.

He says he was always in danger, even just walking on the street or going to the market.

As the United States was pulling out of Afghanistan earlier this year, Mohammad started working as a translator for CNN, joining Clarissa Ward's team.

With the help of this network, Mohammad was able to leave Kabul during the evacuations.

And now he has resettled in Atlanta, where he's working with the international desk as a researcher.

And Muhammad is here with me now.

So I have so many questions, but first, I'm glad to see you're here.

Tell me what the last couple of months have been like in the U.S.

MOHAMMAD, AFGHAN TRANSLATOR: Yes. I'm glad to thank you. I really appreciate it.

Yes, I'm quite excited for my life and just -- it's just a brand new life.

And I was -- I just want to say Alhamdulillah that God gave to me a life.

And it's just a second life that we started and I'm so excited.

STELTER: So, going back in time with you working for the U.S. Army then working with CNN, why did you want to work with CNN in Afghanistan this year?

MOHAMMAD: Obviously, I will say I will love to work with the media.

I mean, everyone will love to work with the media and especially at the international media.


MOHAMMAD: The media always has an impact on our lives and we must raise our voices against the wild lives, against the threat that they're being faced, and against the difficulty.

So that's why, Yes, absolutely the CNN when I start work with CNN, so it was an honor.

And I really don't have any more to thank the way they get me out to -- from the Kabul to Qatar, and then from Qatar to Germany, from Germany to Washington State, from Washington State to Wisconsin, and then finally to Atlanta.

So yes, I'm quite sure it be.

STELTER: What would have happened if you had not been evacuated if you had not been able to be on that plane?


STELTER: And you were still in Afghanistan today?

MOHAMMAD: Yes, this is the only thing that sometimes even at the midnight makes me up.

And I can't imagine that where I will be, what will be happening to my life, will I be alive or dead?

So in total, I would just say, I can't imagine if I didn't make it -- if I wouldn't have made to the U.S.

I can't imagine that what will happen to me, to my life or -- I mean, you can see the situation in Afghanistan bigger is, it's just not only for the security reason, there's a lot of people who are dying from hunger.

There's a lot of people -- there's a lot of parents who selling their kids.

There's a lot of -- I mean, the situation is just totally disaster, horrible.

And I can't imagine that what will happen to me if I didn't make it to the U.S. STELTER: And now you're working with CNN and you know, this is an example of what can be possible you know that you're able to now start a new life. I wish you all the best.

And look, we're all here to help now that we're colleagues.

MOHAMMAD: Yes. I just really want to appreciate it the way CNN helped me and I just want to thank you.

Yes, thank you. I really appreciate it.

And it's my honor to be here and working with International Desk like -- I mean, CNN. It's not easy. It's always tough. It's always hard.

But yes, it's all up to you guys and I just really want to appreciate your help, your support. And thank you for that.

STELTER: Thank you, Mohammad.

MOHAMMAD: Thank you.

STELTER: Great talking with you.

MOHAMMAD: Thank you.

STELTER: Coming up here on RELIABLE SOURCES. From global to local news, what you need to know about how newsrooms really work.

Plus what happens when a humor website scoops it really close to home, like the President's home to be specific.

The Editor in Chief of The Onion is going to tell us.



STELTER: The Onion spares no one. President Biden, Donald Trump, Republicans, Democrats, CNN, all have been subjects of the satirical website's snarky takes.

The humor outfit relies on a certain level of media literacy because after all, to understand what's funny about the news, you must also understand the news.

The jokes land because they contain germs of truth.

Take this Onion parody from October, alluding to the Vice President being sidelined and constrained by President Biden's team.

The title of the article is "White House Urges Kamala Harris To Sit At Computer All Day In Case E-mails Come Through."

The story channeled the Harris camp's real deep frustration so well that according to CNN's reporting some of her defenders and allies passed around the article. The Onion has been in business for 25 years now and it's celebrating the anniversary bay a -- by getting serious for a minute. Well, maybe.

Chad Nackers has been the Editor in Chief of The Onion since 2017 and he is joining me now.

Chad, thanks for coming on.

CHAD NACKERS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE ONION: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

STELTER: What was it like when you read that one of your articles about the Vice President was being passed around by aides, not being taken seriously, but really accurately, and how they actually feel and what's actually going on?

NACKERS: It's great that to know that people in the White House are actually reading you know decent journalism for a change, I think that's something to feel good about.

STELTER: I figured you might say that. So you take the position that The Onion is the only source of real news?

NACKERS: Yes, we are -- you know, in this time of misinformation, and people spreading lies, The Onion is the really one of the few publications that shining a light on the -- on the real truth.

STELTER: You probably never expected a Trump presidency, so how did you all approach the Trump years?

NACKERS: I -- you know, we just kind of had to go with the flow with that because you -- he's so unpredictable and you just, you know, you try to cover it the best you can but you know it's pretty -- it was pretty insane for the most part.

STELTER: One of the recurring stories The Onion publishes again and again and again, is a headline, I'll put it on screen, it says.

'No Way To Prevent This,' Says the Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.

And this is something you publish after mass shootings.

And I wondered how this started because it hass now become a phenomenon where folks look for this, and they know to expect it and it's a very sharp criticism of America's gun problem.

But how did it start?

NACKERS: I mean, it originally started, as you know, one article, and then we had a meeting and decided that like, this is kind of the comment that works. And repeating it is very effective when you change the slight details, and it keeps running.

I mean, at one point, I think we had to run it twice in a day, which is incredibly sad. And part of it is, two is that that aspect of -- no one really loved having to come up with new takes on mass shootings like every single week. It's incredibly depressing.

STELTER: Hmm. Right. So rerunning it is both a solution, but also a statement about America's crisis.


STELTER: Yes. And it's very effective in especially the old CMS of our website, it would often come up back to back so you could scroll and see multiple articles and you could just see how many times this was happening.

STELTER: Yes. Yes, absolutely.

NACKERS: And just to show that, like, nothing is being done.

STELTER: Right. So I have to wonder how often do you get messages from people who believe your articles are real, who takes them seriously?

NACKERS: I mean, it has been going on. I've been at The Onion since 1997. And there's always someone who believes our articles.

STELTER: Are people getting more gullible over time?

NACKERS: I mean, I would say this is the fault of social media. Is that your -- people are seeing things out of context?

And you know that's like a huge reason like fake news kind of spreads.

You're not getting the full context if you don't know whether something is a joke or made up, it's hard to know what's going on.


STELTER: So on a happy note, what are you looking forward to for 2022? What will The Onion be covering next year?

NACKERS: I am hoping that we are covering that the pandemic is winding its way down for good.

You know, I would like to see a return to normalcy because like, that is where we function the best is when you have a baseline of things are normal and you can work off of that.

STELTER: Hmm, right. I think we'd all like that. And then you can make even more jokes.

Chad, thanks so much.

NACKERS: Thank you.

STELTER: All right, now back to real news.

You have questions about the media, and we have answers. We're going to dig into our inbox and answer media misconceptions in a moment.


STELTER: All right, media mailbag time. Every week I hear from viewers who want to know more about how the media really works. Why are some stories covered so much more than others? Why are there so many screw- ups and slip-ups? So let's get those questions answered.

With me now, journalist Mara Schiavocampo, host of the podcast Run Tell This. Mara, you've been at NBC, ABC, I heart MSNBC, you've been everywhere. You know how it really works.


STELTER: You know how the sausage is made.


STELTER: What questions do you get? I've got a few. But what questions do you get from your audience? What do you think are the most common media misconceptions?

SCHIAVOCAMPO: So the single biggest misconception is that we are lying. There is a lot of media mistrust. I hear this all the time.


SCHIAVOCAMPO: And here's what I would love to correct about that misperception. We are human. We make mistakes.

So most often when someone says to me the media is lying and they point to an example, what they're pointing to is an example of a mistake, not an intentional lie.

We do not have malicious intent.

Most journalists, by and large, take great pride in getting things right.

And it's tremendously shameful to make a mistake --


SCHIAVOCAMPO: -- And own up to it very quickly.

So if you do see a mistake, it's generally the result of human error.

You're moving too fast, bad sources, too many cooks in the kitchen, you know, you're playing a game with telephone --

STELTER: What do you mean too many cooks in the kitchen?

SCHIAVOCAMPO: If you're working with a larger team, so you have a producer on the ground, or multiple producers at different places in the field, especially with breaking news, someone's calling this government official, someone's doing this, then you get into a game of telephone and gathering information and you're working against deadlines, mistakes can be made, we're all human.

So our intent is to get it right and to get it first. And when mistakes are made, that's actually very embarrassing.

STELTER: Yes, but it's almost always innocent, right?

So especially these days, with a pandemic, and people working in different places, you know, you might have four editors in four different places, and then a typo ends up in a story. And just because of the crazy workflow, you know.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Absolutely. And then people will then tweet you, what an idiot you are.

A little bit of kindness also could go a long way.


SCHIAVOCAMPO: You know if we don't mean to make those kinds of mistakes.

STELTER: Well, at least relates to one of the questions I get so often, you know. Why isn't the media covering this story, you know.

There's breaking news that happened half an hour ago, I see it all over Twitter, why aren't you covering it?

And I find often the answer is, we are -- we are trying like we're getting ready, we're getting our act together.

You know, it takes time to get crews to the scene, it takes time to get live shots established, and it takes time to verify the information and find out if the story is actually a big deal.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Well, that's the--

STELTER: That's something viewers should want. But it can be confusing when you're on social media and it looks like something crazy is happening and we haven't confirmed it yet.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Well, that's the key is verification takes time.

And it's also what builds trust because you know, if you see it on X outlet, you can take it to the bank, because they always get it right.

That's what every news outlet wants to be known for.

And it takes time to verify facts and information before you go public with it. And that's often what the delay is about.

STELTER: What's the next question you think you get most off?

SCHIAVOCAMPO: So another big one is political bias, right. So people will say this group is all liberal, or they'll say the media is too conservative to right-wing. Here's kind of the beauty of the space that we're in today is that we really know the political biases of most of the outlets that we're looking at and we know the ones that are straight down the middle.

So for example, the public knows that Fox is right-leaning. And they know for example, that Joy Reid at MSNBC is a proud progressive, and they also know the outlets that consider themselves to be in the middle.

What's really ironic about that is that journalists are aware of our own political bias. We're not robots.

And so often will overcompensate.

When we know we're covering something where we might have a little bit of skin in the game, a little bit of emotional attachment, we'll overcompensate to make sure the other side really gets a fair amount of coverage and really gets explained properly.

So in my view, when we do have a political bias, it's the other view that actually benefits from that because we're trying to counter our own human impulses.

STELTER: Right. That's very interesting.

I get questions about bias a lot about, you know. Fox News, for example, people say why isn't the government intervening?

Why isn't the FCC taking action?

Well, the answer is the FCC does not oversee cable, they have no oversight of cable at all, there's no action that can be taken.

And frankly, given the proud you know, history of a free press in the United States, the less government involvement, the better. I think it's safe to say.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Yes, I would agree with that 100 percent.

And people have to keep in mind, the founders of this country put freedom of the press in the First Amendment.

Not the Second, not the Third, not the 10th, the First.

That's how important it is to the democracy.

STELTER: Right. I think a question both you and I get is, why are journalists withholding? You know, it seems like you're holding back the real stories --


STELTER: Do you find that's true sometimes?

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Well, this is what -- this is the one I get when I'm out. You know, when I'm at a cocktail party or with my family, and someone will pull me to the side and they'll say, hey, what's the real story behind x?

The truth is, we report every single piece of reportable information. We want to include as much detail as possible.

We don't withhold anything that is verified and reportable.

If we're not reporting something is because it's not reliable.

STELTER: Right. We just don't know.

And that's like -- I think increasingly, that's, you know, we need to be honest about we don't know, especially in breaking news situations.

Here's what we know, yes but here's what we don't know.

I mean, the pandemic has been full of unknowns. And we just have to keep being honest about the unknowns.

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Yes. And that transparency is key. We are really in the age of transparency, thanks in part, or thanks in large to social media.

And the public expects the same thing from the mainstream press.

And we actually can do a much better job at that about being more transparent and kind of opening up that lens a little bit because that's what people expect.

They expect to peek behind the curtain today, not to have the powers that be only show them what they want to see.

STELTER: Right. Mara, thank you for being here. Thanks for the peak --

SCHIAVOCAMPO: Thanks, Brian, happy to be there.

STELTER: Speaking of transparency, look me up on social media, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail me, bstelter@gmail, that's where I get your viewer feedback every week.

We're out of time here on TV but join us next week, David Frum, Kara Swisher, and many more. We'll see you right back here next --