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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Navy Yard Shooting: Naming the Wrong Guy; A Look Into Chen's Eyes; Interview with 'The Guardian's' Editor in Chief
Aired September 22, 2013 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, HOST: Thanks, Candy. And welcome to RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm David Folkenflik of NPR News.
The week started with live television coverage of the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Much information of news organizations provided on air and social media platforms proved wrong.
Perhaps, the most haunting mistake involved the former Navy Yard employee, Rollie Chance, whose identification card was found at the scene and he was promptly identified as a suspect by CBS and NBC citing unnamed authorities.
It's important to note the reports were quickly retracted but they spread elsewhere. Earlier, I spoke with Mr. Chance about the effect of being wrongly accused.
FOLKENFLIK: Rollie Chance, you worked for the United States Navy for 24 years. And after that, you worked in civilian role for several years. You went on administrative leave last October as I understand it.
When you got that call from a producer from ABC News asking you that question, what was that like?
ROLLIE CHANCE, FORMER NAVY YARD EMPLOYEE: Surreal. I thought initially, somebody must -- it was a hoax. I thought somebody was joking with me. And before I know it, it was -- I realized it was real. It was real when the FBI showed up at my door.
The emotion I felt, I was watching the story unfold with the Washington Navy Yard because a lot of those guys I knew, were friends and co-workers, to be accused as shooter when I'm an hour away in Virginia watching the whole thing unfold. It was frustrating.
A lot of my immediate family, siblings, mother, mother-in-law thought I was dead and to find out that no, he's not dead. He's alive again. Okay. Now he's someone of interest of being involved that.
So, oh, man, I can't begin to tell you the amount of people impacted besides myself. One of the biggest things that bothered me is when you are go in there and I put my name in and image of my name in, the picture that comes up is of Aaron Alexis and that's linking my name with the incident.
FOLKENFLIK: What would you tell reporters about the consequences of getting something like this so very wrong?
CHANCE: Well, I would tell a reporter is the human factor, you know? If you get this wrong, how will it impact their lives of the individual who was identified wrongly or unjustly?
FOLKENFLIK: Identified wrongly and unjustly.
On Monday, often relying on officials, news organizations reported other elements wrong about the number of shooters and the weapons involved. Several news outlets reported that the shooter committed the mass murders with various guns, including an AR-15, a type of semiautomatic rifle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BOB ORR, CBS NEWS: Sources tell us that Alexis was armed with three weapons -- an assault rifle, a shotgun and also a pistol.
JOHN KING, CNN: They do believe most of the gunshots were fired from the AR-15.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: He was able to get an AR-15 and other weapons on location.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
FOLKENFLIK: The AR-15 rifle was, for the record, used in the 2012 Newton, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado, mass murders. Linking the rifle to the shooting could shape the coverage and subsequent debate. Some gun owners complained that reporters don't know what they're talking about when it comes to guns.
One "Washington Post" reporter David Fallis has specialized on reporting on guns on recent years, and he's even helped to lead seminars to educate other journalists what to avoid on the topic. He joins us here in Washington.
David, thanks so much.
DAVID FALLIS, WASHINGTON POST: Thank you for having me.
FOLKENFLIK: As we now know, Aaron Alexis did not use the AR-15. Why does that matter?
FALLIS: Well, I think that when you were talking about writing about guns because it's such a highly, potentially inflammatory issue, the more outrageous or the more potentially explosive the claim, the higher the burden is on the reporter to verify that stuff. When you have a 24-hour news cycle opposed to old news cycles of once or twice a day, you are put under incredible pressure to verify that stuff instantaneously. I don't think that that abdicates. I think that makes it any less important to that.
It just -- if anything, it just ratchets it up that much higher because like he said, his name is out there and, you know, inexplicably linked to this for the rest of time.
FOLKENFLIK: A terrible mistake even quickly corrected. When you talk to reporters in your newsroom and other newsroom, about stories that involved guns, whether -- gun trafficking as you've reported on, or about specific incidents. What pit falls do you tell them to avoid?
FALLIS: Well, I think is the -- a lot relies on the technicalities of funds. You have your major classifications, but within those classifications, you have thousands of makers and models of guns. And so, reporters make mistakes like confusing fully automatic with semiautomatic.
And the problem with that, why it's not a libelous mistake or mistake as catastrophic as linking this guy's name to a mass shooting, is that undermines the overall credibility of reporting. A huge amount of viewership or readerships are gun owners and gun enthusiasts.
And so, they read and they say, well, if you don't understand the difference between a fully automatic and semiautomatic weapon, why should I believe the rest of your reporting?
FOLKENFLIK: So, when you think about it, is there a gap as has been claimed by some gun owners and some conservative critics of the media between the reportorial class and between the people they cover who are law abiding gun owners?
FALLIS: Gap might be a little bit of a strong word, but I do -- I do think that you probably have more gun knowledge in newsrooms generally when you were talking about perhaps in the heartland. I'm originally from Oklahoma, grew up there, a lot of people I knew hunted.
FOLKENFLIK: Worked at "The Tulsa World".
FALLIS: "Tulsa World", "Tulsa Tribune". Now defunct. Rest in peace.
You know, I grew up with guns in the house. We weren't big shooters, but my dad was a district attorney there for 18, 16 years. So, we always had a .38 special sitting on his dresser.
So, you know, it was sort of always there. I think that when you get into densely urbanized sort of areas, you know, you have less reporter experience with firearms in the newsrooms. I mean, the Poynter Institute seminars that you talk about, that's abundantly clear, there's a thirst for sort of knowledge and understanding, and it's easy to get, it's just that reporters don't find themselves in sort of a position of informing themselves ahead of time because they are reacting to these events. So, you know, it's sort of a classic example on Monday you have massive shooting and you have this instant sort of response and a lot of reporters are writing about this and maybe they don't even really know what an AR-15 is or why implications of reporting something erroneously --
FALLIS: -- is like throwing a rock into a pond.
FOLKENFLIK: But if you think about it, a lot of events, particularly catastrophic ones, are complex and detailed. You know, why is it, you know, I can imagine somebody who is roughly half of Americans who have concerns about gun ownership and they might say, look, that's terrible but still, guns were used to kill someone.
Why this? Why is it so important to get this right?
FALLIS: I think it's critical to get this right because this is -- this is -- in many ways, it's an issue unlike many others. It's a constitutional issue. It resonates with people.
There's a huge amount of cynicism about the press. I get it. I understand it. I hear those concerns from people all the time.
So, everything we do, like we make little mistakes, those things, they undermine our credibility overall, because it just calls into question why should I believe anything you're telling if you're getting this kind of stuff wrong?
FOLKENFLIK: So, what would you advise news executives and reporters who are doing things instantaneously online in terms of reporting on guns in the moment, when things are breaking to try to get things right?
FALLIS: Look, there but for the grace of God go I, right? I mean , we have all been sort of in that moment where you are is this right? Is this wrong? Is this right? Is this wrong? You are going back and forth and you're torquing in the wind.
I think -- I think the biggest that you can do is you have to sort of in your mind measure it against how controversial is this claim? The AR-15 claim, for example, that some news organizations went with, we fortunately held back. We didn't have enough information. I was not involved in daily coverage of this. But my colleagues did an excellent job of holding back.
You recognize that if you're linking suddenly in everyone's mind this new shooting -- with the shooting in Newtown, I mean, that has -- here we go, another discussion about AR-15s. So, it was not the case at all.
So, I think when you have those kind of claims, you have to step back and sort of say, how do we really know this? We've seen the information can be wrong. Richard (INAUDIBLE). We have seen --
FALLIS: -- this gets out and takes on life of its own. It's incumbent on us to basically push back and sort of -- you just have to put the brakes on. You can't -- you can't just go, you know, you can't go with something unless you have enough evidence.
FOLKENFLIK: An important journalistic principle, but perhaps one especially important here.
David Fallis of "The Washington Post," thank you so much for joining us today.
FOLKENFLIK: Up next on RELIABLE SOURCES -- an Asian American talk show host broaches a touchy racism and sexism in the TV news business. We'll look at what a young Julie Chen did years ago and what it might mean today.
FOLKENFLIK: Julie Chen, co-host of CBS' "The Talk", earlier this month talked about her experience as a young reporter in the '90s. Chen said she was told by an Ohio TV news director and a, quote, "big time" anchor agent, that she would never make it with her, quote, "Asian eyes." By her account, the agent urged Chen to get eye surgery and said he would, could not represent her if she didn't.
Chen eventually did undergo the procedure. Chen's story has prompted a backlash. Some critics accused her of selling out. Others claim she had other surgery too.
This week, Chen addressed the question again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIE CHEN, CO-HOST, "THE TALK": I do not have cheek implants. I did not take out fat over here to make my cheeks look more. I did not have chin surgery. I did not have a nose job.
These are not veneered. I have not done my teeth. Nothing. Nothing else has been done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOLKENFLIK: In an effort to quiet Chen's critics, "The Talk" showed a sequence of Chen's 25 to 45-minute makeup application process and how shading techniques transformed her face.
At a time when women are not just anchors but news division chiefs many television journalists are under a double standard, and that it goes triple for non-whites.
Joining me now for Tampa Bay, Florida, Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, who has written extensively on gender. And Wendy Chioji, a former anchor for WESH TV in Orlando. Wendy, tell me -- how much pressure did one face back then? I mean, what do you make of Julie Chen's story?
WENDY CHIOJI, FORMER TV ANCHOR: If you talk about pressure specifically as an Asian American woman, I didn't really feel anything particular, anything stronger than I would have as a young reporter or a young anchor in large market like Orlando. So, I didn't really feel any pressure ever to not be -- not appear Asian, not look Asian of Japanese descent.
But I will say in my very first job, I was asked to change my name which I did shorten because my given birth name is difficult and longer.
FOLKENFLIK: So, are these subtle clues in which you are being asked to seem -- in some ways, if not more Western or more white, at least a little bit more approachable to a non-Asian, non-Japanese audience?
CHIOJI: Or maybe so my last name would be pronounceable in West Texas where I started television. It could be a little bit of that too.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, who are you talking to here, you know?
I wonder, Kelly, you talked to a lot of professionals in the business, women in particular about how their careers progress and you talk to television journalists about this. What do you find -- do you find issues of ethnicity still matter to the extent that Julie Chen articulated? Do you find issues of gender to be more paramount?
KELLY MCBRIDE, POYNTER INSTITUTE: Absolutely. And I think many people would be surprised at the effort and the energy that television stations and television networks put into discovering how the audience will respond to a certain person.
So they do screen tests. They do focus groups. And then, they allow that information to inform who they put on the air.
So, our standard of beauty has always been one that's based on the white ideal, thin nose. Certain shape of eyes. A certain shape of mouth. And to the extent that we have become more diverse in television, it really has been initially to have people of color who look more white be the first ones to plow that pathway.
And to a certain extent, it ends up being a chicken and egg question, because if I'm going to put someone who looks very different on television and then run it by a focus group and the people in the focus group react negatively because they've never seen anyone like that on television, who is going to go first?
FOLKENFLIK: You know, you also wrote this piece, Kelly McBride, this week about what happened with Miss America when she was crowned the first Miss America of Indian American descent, Nina Davuluri. And the response that she got online turned into a piece that went viral on "BuzzFeed". Why did that piece strike as so noteworthy?
MCBRIDE: Yes. So, an hour after she was named Miss America, "BuzzFeed" puts up a piece that describes a dozen or so racist tweets that people have, asking if she's really an American, implying that she's a terrorist.
By morning, the next morning, more than a million people had shared that with each other on Facebook and on Twitter, in the social media environment and the reason they were sharing it was because they didn't agree with the sentiment that was part of -- that was the reason for that original "BuzzFeed" piece.
So, for the most part people were appalled that there was a conversation about whether she was really American. However, in the conversation that we had in journalism subsequently, we really narrowed it down to, are we racist or not? And are we ready for a woman of color, an Indian American woman to be Miss America?
We missed a really good opportunity because we framed -- we allowed that "BuzzFeed" piece to frame the question when that was meant to go viral and it's very easy to share things that are negative that you're outraged by.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, and, obviously, that's an incident in popular culture, although not strictly speaking what we think of as TV news. But there is this entertainment show business at least for formative element to what happens in television news.
Wendy Chioji, when you think about that, you know, in your experience as a woman television news professional, to what extent did people look at women journalists, women anchors, women colleagues, women friends differently than their male counterparts?
CHIOJI: Yes, you have to believe there's for sure a double standard. Women are looked at more critically. They are --
FOLKENFLIK: Even now?
CHIOJI: -- to be someone -- yes, I believe so. Trendy. Clothes. Hairstyles have to be cutting edge. They can't just go with the suit and tie. Men's appearance on television over the last 20 years hasn't changed that much. Women's definitely has.
But I'll also say that what has changed in the last few years, I did get out of regular television a couple years ago is how -- when the Internet started rising and social media started rising, how critical your rank and file viewer has been able to get and how vicious some of the tweets and the e-mails and the communication has come from regular viewers.
CHIOJI: They hold a lot more power anymore and they can get directly to you. You know, you're popping up your phone, you're reading what Joe Blow down the street has to say about what you've done with your hair that day.
FOLKENFLIK: So, people who once screened at their television sets things that are incendiary now can just do it online and share it with their friends and followers.
Wendy Chioji, Kelly McBride, thank you so much for joining us on this topic.
Coming up on RELIABLE SOURCES --
CHIOJI: You're welcome.
FOLKENFLIK: We'll let the latest news from Kenya.
And later, reporting in government censorship on state secrets. I'll ask the editor in chief of "The Guardian" newspaper about how they used American traditions to get along restrictive laws they face at home.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CROWLEY: Good morning from Washington, D.C. I'm Candy Crowley.
We will go back to RELIABLE SOURCES after a brief update on this hour's breaking news. The hostage crisis in Nairobi, Kenya. About 30 people are being held in a five-story shopping mall, 10 to 15 terrorists attacked the building on Saturday. Officials say 59 people are dead, 175 injured.
CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is with me and our Zain Verjee is in Nairobi where helicopters have been swooping low over the buildings.
Zain, tell me the latest that you have.
VERJEE: And the scene here is getting more tense and intense. The helicopters are flying lower and lower. Well, it's not clear whether this is some kind of strategic move as part of the operations but they are flying low. Their windows are open and they have what appears to be according to people I've talked to some guns out.
They are going around where I am which is the Oshwal Center.
Now, Candy, this is like a walking track for grannies and other people that want to be healthy. It's a religious and cultural center across for the Shah community, and it's just Westgate Mall, which is where the scene is happening. I've never seen it like this.
It's like special forces play. The Red Cross is here. The paramilitary is here.
The Kenyan defense forces are here. Israeli special forces are working together with their counterparts. The Kenyan defense forces, as well as the general service unit, a paramilitary courses and company which are out elite unit.
And they are inside Westgate Mall right now trying to free hostages.
SCIUTTO: One reason this is worrisome is I think you can look at this terrorist group, and new error threats international debut, right? Up until this point, they've been largely domestic threats and smaller attacks outside of the country, and even a dispute within the leadership about where they should focus their resources. Should they focus it on trying to gain power in Somalia or on making an international stand, an international impact and here it looks like that latter group is in ascendancy of very worrisome attack, even drawing on some of the experience of, say, the Mumbai attack, high profile, international gunmen going into a major target and attracting tremendous attention abroad.
CROWLEY: Right. Tremendous TV and newspaper, not to mention anything on the Internet.
Zain, let me ask you, is there contact with any of those in the building? Do we know that terrorists are still in there because some people who haven't come out? How are they -- are any negotiations at all?
How are they -- any negotiations at all?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is contact from West Gate Mall to the outside world from people that are there that may not be hostages. There is contact also from Al-Shabaab to their Al-Shabaab senior guys or media guys from the mall, because we're seeing a communication between the two.
And Shabaab media guys are putting it out on Twitter and making their points and responding to things that the Kenyan government is saying. So there is.
Just to the points that you were both making, this is a major statement by Al-Shabaab. They are making the point loud and clear that we're here and we're doing something that is out of Somalia and that is really powerful.
There are gunshots that are going on right around me. The operation is under way. And many people are saying that this is a Mumbai style attack -- high profile, take hostages, try not to get Muslims. Let the Muslims go as far as possible.
This is Al-Zawahiri's Al Qaeda handbook and they said that the Holy Grail was a Mumbai style attack and they've chosen west gate mall in my neighborhood to do that.
CROWLEY: Wow, Zain Verjee, please be careful. Horrible situation there. Thank you for covering it. We'll be back to you.
And we'll have more updates at noon and throughout the day. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. RELIABLE SOURCES will continue after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
FOLKENFLIK: I'm David Folkenflik of NPR News. In recent months, the British newspaper, "The Guardian," and its U.S. website have documented the reach of the NSA into the digital activities of American and British citizens and institutions.
High-stakes national security reports that initially stirred some outrage against the paper but led government officials from President Obama on down to call for a debate over balancing national security and civil liberties.
Earlier, speaking from New York, "The Guardian's" editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger told me his paper's experience has proved how important American press freedoms are.
FOLKENFLIK: Alan Rusbridger, thank you so much for joining us.
You had such a head start on this NSA story. Yet you collaborated with "The New York Times" and the investigative outlet ProPublica to help produce a number of stories of late that not only revealed what was happening with the NSA but with also its British counterpart, the GCHQ.
Why embark on that collaboration?
ALAN RUSBRIDGER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, there came a point we thought this was going to be a difficult story to report from London alone. So there were two reasons.
One was that it was good to have a separate set of eyes on these documents and the reporters from ProPublica and "The New York Times" brought real expertise and depth to our own reporting.
The other was that it was becoming impossible to report from London. There are a different set of media laws in London. There is a concept of prior restraint, i.e. the government can interfere to try and stop you from publishing, which just simply doesn't exist in the U.S.
So there came a point where it made more sense to move the reporting to America and to do it collaboratively.
FOLKENFLIK: I saw a picture that was tweeted recently, an event that you held in New York to celebrate "The Guardian," and to talk about some of these issues, where you held up a piece of a hard drive, the computer hard drive that you dismantled and destroyed at the direction of the government; they said they might take it over.
What does it mean about high stakes reporting on national security in your country as opposed to ours that such directives are issued and such actions need to be taken? FOLKENFLIK: Yes. This is the hard drive with the holes in it, destroyed to the satisfaction of the British state. It was a curious thing, this destruction of the material in London, because in the world that we live in now, you could destroy one copy in London but Glenn Greenwald, one of the reporters on this story, has a copy in Rio, and "The New York Times" has another copy in New York.
So it meant -- it was a piece of symbolic theater, you could say, to destroy a copy in London.
I think what it reflects is that this is a story which, on one level, is being governed by the old rules to do with spying, and on another level is about the mass surveillance of entire populations using the Internet, which is a civilian network.
And these two things have collided and the state is playing it by the old rules, trying to use the criminalization of this kind of reporting and using injunctions or threatening to use injunctions. And it's simply not going to work in this new world in which information is universal.
FOLKENFLIK: In this country it sparked quite a bit of competition. You partnered with "The New York Times." "The Washington Post," which has much of the same material from Mr. Snowden, has also done very distinguished reporting on this matter. The Associated Press and "Bloomberg News," too, have been chasing it, as have others.
And yet in your own country it seems as though you are almost doing this single-handedly.
Why do you think that is?
RUSBRIDGER: I think there may be a cultural element here, that this is an enormous in Germany for reasons -- you don't have to go very far back into German history to understand why the Germans would be anxious.
FOLKENFLIK: (Inaudible) of others, right?
RUSBRIDGER: -- the state -- precisely.
And I think in America, McCarthy, Nixon, Hoover, and so on, there is a real suspicion of the state and the potential of the state to do harm.
Maybe in Britain we're a little bit complacent. We believe an Englishman's home is his castle but we don't appreciate the police through the front door of the castle, and they're inside everybody's home, potentially, through the uses of this technology.
And I think the penny is beginning to drop amongst ordinary citizens, business people, journalists, that you can't weaken the structure of the Internet itself just on behalf of the NSA. This is going to let criminals, the Chinese, the Russians and other people in as well.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, a remarkable and often twisty path to a remarkable and often twisty story. Alan Rusbridger of "The Guardian," thank you so much for joining us.
RUSBRIDGER: It's good to be here.
FOLKENFLIK: There's more of that interview available online. Just go to CNN.com/reliable.
Up next on RELIABLE SOURCES, "Pardon the Interruption," but ESPN's long running sports gab show may have found the secret formula for accountability in television reporting.
FOLKENFLIK: ESPN's lively sports debate show, "Pardon the Interruption," will celebrate 12 years on the air next month. And in that period, their two hosts, Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, have made all kinds of errors and omissions.
I would like to introduce you to Tony Reali, their very own fact checker, who calls them out at the end of every show. We went over to the "PTI" offices in Washington to see just how it works.
TONY REALI, ESPN "PTI" FACT CHECKER: I got hired to be the research department. It was a week before air that I first heard the idea that Tony and Mike wanted a sidekick. They wanted somebody there to correct errors. This made perfect sense that Tony and Mike. coming from a place in newspaper where they were -- you know, always had a corrections page.
They are 32 and 35. So that's since '08, they are under .500.
What our show tries to do is we try to have the barroom discussion on air. The conversation they're having in the newsroom is the same that they're going to have on TV.
So first off, the show is on autopilot. And secondly, we want to make sure they can feel that comfortable when they are doing the show. And one way to do that was to have some accountability at the end, should they make any mistakes.
He's not as big as Rock (ph). Oh, he's not 6'3". He's not as small as Ingram (ph), but he's not big.
REALI: I want to make sure our lead-in sentences, our leads are correct before we even get to air. Just so we're starting from a place of complete accuracy. At that point, once the conversation goes on for next two minutes, they can make any mistakes they want. God willing, I'll catch them at that point.
Tony keeps his own research note pad that he looks at. But as we have on the show now, it's called "Going to the Glasses". It's a big, you know, matador's flourish when he has to read something. He's got to put glasses on and take them out of his pocket and put them on his head, look down at the pad.
So there was a trade last night in the NFL, which is rare to begin with.
TONY KORNHEISER, ESPN HOST: We begin today the Cleveland Browns at 0-2 seeming to tank their 2013 season already by trading their number one running back and the number three overall pick in the 2012 draft, Trent Richardson (ph).
REALI: The number three pick in the draft being traded is a big deal, 22-year-old running back, he's played 17 games in the NFL.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He apparently is really good in pass protection. I mean --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he can catch it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he can catch it; he caught more than 50 balls last year. But he also scored, I think, 11 touchdowns.
REALI: I remember the first error I corrected for the show was a soccer mistake. I think Tony said that they were playing on a court.
KORNHEISER: Trying to find out where we messed up, Reali.
REALI: Trent Richardson (ph) had 12 touchdowns last year, one receiving.
Chuck Pagano called him a rolling ball of butcher knives. Thought you would like to hear that.
KORNHEISER: Like that.
REALI: Tony, you brought up Herb Washington, the designating pinch runner. You never mentioned his 1974 World Series appearance, picked off in game two.
It's been a fun element for our show. I think our guys have enjoyed the ability to get called out and that says something about the guys. And I think not everybody is like that. But Tony and Mike certainly are.
FOLKENFLIK: Not only errors but omissions. You don't see that too often.
I spoke with Tony Kornheiser earlier from the "Pardon the Interruption" studio.
FOLKENFLIK: Tony Kornheiser, thanks so much for joining us. Tell me, why does "Pardon the Interruption" need an ombudsman, a fact checker to come on the air?
KORNHEISER: Yes. When we first started the show, Wilbon and I were newspaper guys. And we were used to the notion of corrections all the time. In the newspaper, of course, they came out the next day, and we figured we couldn't wait until the next day.
And it was our idea to get somebody to correct us, because we knew that we were just going to be spouting off fact after fact after fact after fact, and we were bound to get a few wrong.
We had no research in front of us. It was television. So we knew we would get something wrong and we thought it would be good for the audience that we acknowledged that we got something wrong, because there are guys out there, watching us, saying, hold it. Wait a second. That's wrong. That's crazy. So we thought a self-correcting mechanism would work.
FOLKENFLIK: But it sounds like it's kind of crazy to think you would need one. I mean, think of all of the guys who cover all of the Sunday football shows and the number of things that they say, based on statistics or on gut instinct, a lot of which turns out not to be well-founded. You're playing in an area -- you guys came from a very serious news organization.
But you're playing in an area where people don't necessarily expect that degree of precision. It's sports talk.
Why did you think you needed the immediate self-correction?
KORNHEISER: They may not need precision in sports talk, but when you put yourself out there as an expert, and the people you're trying to attract are people who want to do the very show you're doing, guys standing around, sitting around arguing with each other over sports, if you make a mistake, that lights up like a flare in the middle of the night.
You've just got to correct that. Or else they're going to say, well, why do these dopes have that show? I can go out there and I can be just as good as them.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, it's almost as though you're anticipating, Twitter or I guess Wikipedia in some way. You know that your audience knows and cares about this much stuff as much or in some instances more than you do.
KORNHEISER: Well, Mike and I have the built-in advantage that we have been sports writers at -- when we first started -- for almost 30 years. And now it would be a million years and we've got all these things imprinted on our brains. But at some point, it becomes like the fruit in the yogurt. And you just aren't sure of every fact that you've got. You're never sure about dates, you're not quite sure about names or context or circumstance.
So having Tony Reali here, knowing that he's always going to correct us when we're wrong -- and we love him to death -- I think that really -- it adds to the camaraderie of the show. And I think people who watch it think, OK, they're not so big and hidebound that they won't (inaudible).
FOLKENFLIK: Well, look, as though this is fact-based, it's as though he's become an incredibly popular character on a sitcom.
Tell me, what are some of the -- in some ways, most wince- inducing things that Tony Reali has called you guys on?
KORNHEISER: Virtually every time we make a mistake, we feel stupid, but virtually every time we're on or off the air, we feel stupid.
I can't give you any specifics although Wilbon once had a guy dead who wasn't dead. And Reali had to call him out on that. That was -- that was bad.
I have had the wrong cities, the wrong -- I mean, I'll try to re- create an event and I will get every single part of it wrong, except maybe the main character. And it's possible I'll even get that --
FOLKENFLIK: Well, is it better for Tony to call you out on the same day than for the dead guy to call you up and say, hey, I'm still breathing?
KORNHEISER: Well, he would have called Wilbon. I wasn't taking that call.
But yes. It's always better -- it's always better to correct it. It really is.
FOLKENFLIK: What lessons do you think there are from what you guys do?
I mean after all, you're not seeing a real-time fact checker appear on some of the most august or almost any of the most known television shows in the country.
What lessons do you think the mainstream news programs and mainstream news outlets can take from what you guys are doing in sports talk?
KORNHEISER: If you look at the "PTI" show and the genius producers that we have who put the show together, and they way they put all that stuff on the screen, you will see that everybody network has borrowed significant amounts of elements from us visually and maybe even going back and forth. And they ought to borrow now -- or steal, as I like to call it -- Tony Reali or somebody like Tony Reali on a news show, particularly on a live news show. If you get something wrong, you owe it to your viewers to correct it right on the spot.
And if it's taped, you shouldn't ever get it wrong, basically, because you have time to edit --
FOLKENFLIK: Look, I feel as though there are a number of elements that people have taken from you and your team, Eric Reitholm (ph), there at "Pardon the Interruption." You think of the clock, you think of the roster of subjects that you're going to address in rapid- fire pace.
And yet this really isn't one of them. Jake Tapper now here at CNN did a version of this when he was a substitute hosting over on ABC's "This Week." You'd have folks from PolitiFact come in behind the show each week and a few days later post corrections or analyses of various factual assertions.
But you really aren't seeing this happen in the news media. This element hasn't been lifted, as you say, by others here.
Why do you think that is?
KORNHEISER: Well, it occurs to me that sports has always been called the toy department of newspapers and maybe now the toy department of television, that people don't take it so seriously, so they don't mind if you have a self-correcting mechanism; the talent wouldn't mind.
Maybe the anchors on news shows would get terribly embarrassed by somebody coming out right then and there and attacking their lack of facts right on the same show.
But, I mean, weather men for example, they keep their jobs and they're wrong 70 percent of the time. So I don't think that it would be that terrible for an anchor to look around and say, oh, you know what? Thank you. Thanks, we got that one wrong. Nobody's going to take their jobs away. Obviously Wilbon and I've been doing this for 12 years. Nobody came in and said, you got 1,200 things wrong in the last two years, get out.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, I guess a slightly less defensive posture on behalf of mainstream media might be, welcome. You're certainly seeing people call them out on Twitter; I guess if you feel there's anything wrong with this segment, you're welcome to tweet at me, @DavidFolkenflik or @CNNReliable, the Twitter handle for this show.
Tony Kornheiser, thank you so much for joining us.
KORNHEISER: You're very welcome. And you got to get off Twitter. Everybody on Twitter is going to lose their jobs.
FOLKENFLIK: Another correction. Thank you so much, Tony.
FOLKENFLIK: Up next, a much more serious topic, a terror attack in Kenya and the reporters who run toward the danger.
FOLKENFLIK: One final note: sometimes like first responders, journalists are faced with a situation where they run toward a crisis instead of away. The distinguish photojournalist Tyler Hicks of "The New York Times" was shopping in Nairobi, Kenya, when gunmen started to kill people at a neighboring upscale mall.
His wife, Nichole Sobecki, is also a photojournalist, and she grabbed cameras and Kevlar vests. They darted into the mall with a team of security agents. Hicks spoke to CNN's "NEW DAY" earlier this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TYLER HICKS, PHOTOJOURNALIST: It's really amazing to see, you know, even after being there an hour, an hour and a half, two hours, people continued to suddenly come out of shops; they had barricaded themselves inside, either by locking the doors or by pulling the metal gates down in front of the storefront windows.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOLKENFLIK: Some might call them reckless. Yet the pair remind us that journalists at times must demonstrate bravery to bear witness around the world.
I'm David Folkenflik of NPR News. This has been RELIABLE SOURCES. Up next, Candy Crowley with "STATE OF THE UNION."