I spent two days and nights doing search and rescue with the Greek coastguard, mainly pulling Syrian refugees out of the Aegean Sea. Here's my story http://online.wsj.com/articles/a-syrian-exodus-refugees-cross-narrow-sea-passage-with-europe-on-horizon-1415950113 and my WSJ profile http://topics.wsj.com/person/S/matina-stevis/7225


Gotta run! Thanks so much for your questions, hope we can do this again!

Comments: 84 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

posteriormumble13 karma

Have you ever been told to publish something that was not 100% true? Or a story where some of the facts have been omitted? if so, explain.

MatinaStevis11 karma


RabzD8 karma

What are your favorite types of stories to read?

MatinaStevis8 karma

I love longish stories with a solid narrative that are about pretty much anything. That's the toughest bit of my job, too, finding a great narrative vehicle to tell a bigger story.

sastanak8 karma

Do you think European Union will change its policies regarding refugees in the near future?
Thanks for doing this AMA, been following your Twitter for a while now and I appreciate your tweets a lot.

MatinaStevis4 karma

EU countries haven't been keen on Brussels shaping refugee policies -they have wanted to keep national control. I doubt that will change, unless there's a game-changing event.

robelsolomon7 karma

Kudos for your great reporting on the Syrian refugee crisis, Matina. The EU has received a lot of just criticism for its unwillingness to help the Syrian people. What do you think the EU should do to deal with this issue?

MatinaStevis5 karma

Thanks for kind words. Without getting into personal views about what's morally "right," I think this is the sort of crisis EU countries would manage better if they coordinated action and used pooled funding. In my opinion, more Syrians would be helped and the stress on individual EU countries would be smaller if it was more evenly distributed.

robinsky16 karma

What was the most demanding thing of doing the search and rescue (well done on a great achievement!)?

MatinaStevis6 karma

Thanks! The coast guards say they are overworked, understaffed and underfunded. And they said the toughest thing is that refugees are told by smugglers to tear up their boats to ensure rescue. This often means they end up in water, can't swim, and risk drowning. It's the most intense thing I've witnessed.

VladimirGridneff6 karma

How does EU handling of immigration policy compare to say the US or Australia?

MatinaStevis10 karma

I think the EU would like to believe it's the polar opposite of Australia in migration/refugee policy. The attitude toward keeping people out is similar (known as Fortress Europe) --but I doubt the very hardline Australian rhetoric would survive in the EU. The US comparison is closer --the EU too is unable to figure out where it stands on the humanitarian/moral obligation versus economic reality thing. The debate continues.

rboymtj6 karma

If you were provided damning information from a whistleblower about Rupert Murdoch or NEWS Corp in general, would you be allowed to publish a story about it?

MatinaStevis7 karma

Nothing in my experience so far suggests that I wouldn't be able to publish that story.

pointarb5 karma

Did you know that Greeks invented pulling Syrian refugees out of the Aegean Sea?

MatinaStevis7 karma

Well-known fact. Up there with democracy. And Windex to fight pimples.

dkpl5 karma


MatinaStevis7 karma

Cheers! I was stunned by how quickly the refugees can end up being in the water and drowning. A seemingly controlled situation can turn nasty and lethal within seconds. Also, the 12-hour shifts at sea are exhausting.

Jhankout5 karma

How do you go about minimizing author subjectivity in a story, while finding and maintaining a compelling narrative? Is it just about choosing the correct story to report?

MatinaStevis6 karma

I think as a reporter you'll find a story compelling because of your natural bias. At WSJ, reporters (also human beings believe it or not!) are challenged by editors. I find the process of discussing and editing stories critical to keeping subjectivity in check. And as a writer you also learn from it.

123choji5 karma

What's your favorite book?

Your comfort food?

Any tips for anyone aspiring to be in your position?

MatinaStevis5 karma

No favourite book, they keep changing. Comfort food, just had, ramen soup. Yum. Advice: be relentless, thorough, and kind.

ZebulonCarlander5 karma

Hey Matina!

How high are the chances do you believe for Staffan de Misturas plan to create truces in specific areas, such as Aleppo, to succeed?

Also want to add I value your articles very much!


MatinaStevis7 karma

Thanks so much Zeb. I fear I'm not qualified to speak to internal dynamics in Syria. Sadly I deal with Syrians once they've fled their homeland. But my colleague Sam Dagher (@SamDagher on Twitter) who's in Syria is great --follow him!

charlie_say3 karma

Hi Matina. Really enjoyed the search and rescue story. As we approach four years since the start of the Syria conflict, I wonder what you think is the best way to keep the story in the public eye in Europe with so many other issues competing for media attention?

MatinaStevis4 karma

Thanks for the nice words on the story and the great question. I think a few things are key: strong narratives about individuals; showing readers that the refugees are normal people like you and me; and showing how their troubles are directly related to readers in Europe. I think for example the Syrian-Palestinian couple in my story, where the husband was a Standard Chartered banker and the wife a food engineer, spoke directly to that.

Brock_Vond3 karma

Hello! Thanks for doing this AMA. So, if you had the choice, would you rather be interviewed on your experiences by Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert?

MatinaStevis4 karma

Jon Stewart swoons

robelsolomon3 karma

On a lighter note, would you interview Kostas Mitroglou?

MatinaStevis6 karma

Definitely. And I'd ask two things: why does he build us up and seldom score; and whether he has his eyebrows done or he was born this way.

desertdungarees3 karma

Okay, here the real question that's on everyone's mind. What is up with Syria? Is this going to be another 30 year war? Is this struggle winding down or intensifying? Do you see a clear end in the next 5 years? 2 years? Who is "winning" this conflict? And, what do you see for Syria, based on attitudes and perceptions there now, after this conflict is over? Secular? Democratic? More Western (a la Turkey)? More Arabic (a la Kuwait)?

MatinaStevis10 karma

You ask the right questions, but I have no answers. No one does, I don't think. I'd recommend checking in with my Syria colleague @SamDagher. I have the good/ill fortune of dealing with Syria from the refugee perspective... Sorry I can't offer insight on your question.

redditguy0013 karma

Is journalism dead, asleep, or alive?

MatinaStevis13 karma

Generally alive and kicking but perhaps suffering from occasional bouts of narcolepsy? Cure being developed as we speak.

ccox933 karma

What does the western world need to do to ensure the safety of refuges in turkey and other surrounding countries?

MatinaStevis3 karma

There is an urgent need for aid and funding. Europeans and Americans can offer financial assistance but crucially expertise, for example doctors, etc. But, ultimately, the war needs to stop so people can go back and rebuild their country. Sadly that's not looking likely any time soon.

RawMuscleLab3 karma

Wanna go on a date with me?

MatinaStevis3 karma

I'm afraid I'm spoken for.

guna_clan3 karma

What is the saddest story a refugee told you?

MatinaStevis5 karma

Wow, that's a question. It's an awful thing, to compare human miseries. I've heard and seen horrid tales. Last November in Oslo, Norway, I met two siblings, a boy and a girl, from Yarmuk, the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus. The boy, 17, had been abducted and tortured by jihadis. Their parents and other siblings had fled to Lebanon. The sister stayed behind and paid ransom, got her brother out. They hid in a truck and drove out of Syria through Turkey and the Balkans to the Nordics. They'd been born refugees, and were refugees again. Split from their family, maybe forever. The boy was so traumatised, he looked at his hands when he described the torture, but he showed me deep, permanent scars on his legs and back. They broke my heart.

jokekiller943 karma

Hey there. What's your opinion on outlets using bots to type up stories?

MatinaStevis2 karma

Do not like.

MatinaStevis2 karma

Thanks for all your questions, time for me to run. It's been a pleasure --let's do this again, shall we?

ringdabell2 karma

I am in my last full year as an undergrad studying journalism. Any advice regarding your early days trying to break into reporting?

MatinaStevis7 karma

Shamelessly bug people. Editors, other reporters etc. Use Twitter to your advantage. Be on top of the news but be really good in one area.

PatShoney2 karma

Hi Matina, thanks for doing this AMA and for your work highlighting the refugee situation. I have a couple random questions:

1) what other news outlets do you frequent for your own information gathering? Any print newspapers or mostly online? 2) I have noticed that basic writing is in a steep decline in the US. Do you see the same thing at the WSJ? I don't mean the actual journalists necessarily, but support staff, interns, etc? 3) when you're on assignment overseas, what do you miss the most?

MatinaStevis2 karma

Thanks! 1) I regularly read the NY Times, Guardian, The Economist, the Financial Times. I sometimes check out Quartz too, they're a clever bunch. And I get my news from Twitter, esp. following the newswires, whose contribution can't be overstated. 2) What do you mean by "basic writing?" 3) Wherever I am, I miss my parents the most, it's the kind of thing you don't really get used to. They live on Chios, where the refugee story was reported from on my latest visit.

ares4432 karma

Is there any chance we can expect a follow up story on the Syrian refugees? The ins and outs of how they're processed, housed, and how this is funded and where exactly the money goes have always been a little murky. Anything I've seen or heard has been based on rumor rather than fact.

MatinaStevis4 karma

My WSJ colleagues and I have have done lots on this and will continue to. But check out for example this story: http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303482504579180021524585990

goodstuff101 karma

I'm looking to take a trip to Greece, but I don't want to be somewhere too busy as I just want to chill for a few days. I'd be traveling within Europe. What's a lesser-known place (on or near a coast) that I could head to? Thanks!

MatinaStevis3 karma

I'd look into Paxos